Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Study Identifies Chronic Health Risks in Commercial Harvesters

A newly released study on chronic health risks in commercial seafood harvesting in Cordova, Alaska, found a prevalence of hearing loss, upper extremity disorders and sleep apnea risk factors higher in the fishing industry workers than in the community’s general population.

Occupational factors including exposure to noise, upper extremity demands of gillnetting and long working hours while fishing exacerbate these chronic health issues.

Authors of the study said health promotion programs targeted toward these conditions may present opportunities for improving total worker health.

The research was conducted by Carly Eckert of the University of Washington School of Public Health, Torie Baker of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska, and Debra Cherry, an occupational health physician at the UW School of Medicine.

The study was carried out in the gillnetting fishery in the Copper River salmon fishery. Sixty-six fishermen participated in the pre-season survey and 38 in the mid-season one. Researchers said the overwhelming majority of participants were white males with an average age of 49, and that 70 percent of respondents were overweight or obese but considered their health to be good or better. They reported longer working hours, less sleep and less aerobic exercise during the fishing season.

Researchers said they characterized a small sample of gillnet fishermen in Alaska to better understand their chronic health risks. They noted that these harvesters are accustomed to episodic work in a cramped, pressured setting, which takes place on gillnetters that are 28 to 34 feet in length with little space for exercise.

Researchers also noted that compared to the general Alaskan population study participants reported less tobacco use, more frequent health maintenance visits to health professionals and higher rates of health insurance. They also said that the prevalence of overweight or obesity in their sample was consistent with that of the general adult population of Alaska.

Study results were published in the Journal of Agromedicine.

Too Early to Tell on Impact of Tariffs

While the US and China are in a war of words involving tariffs on billions of dollars in imports to each country, the seafood industry in the Pacific Northwest is still uncertain where the chips may fall.

“This is a huge deal,” says Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting services firm whose clients include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (AMSI). “China is our most important trading partner. A lot of seafood harvested in Alaska is reprocessed and distributed globally.”

Still, Evridge said, “There is a lot of diplomacy happening behind the scenes that we are not aware of … and in terms of actual economic impact, it is too early to say.”

ASMI’s Executive Director, Alexa Tonkovich, said that the institute is working with other US seafood industry trade groups and its own China office to evaluate the situation. ASMI has been active in the Chinese marketplace for more than 20 years.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) also spoke out, saying that it is reviewing China’s announcement to determine its impact on US seafood exports. NFI President John Connelly said “We are deeply disappointed in these retaliatory tariffs. There is no connection between the products targeted by the US and the tariffs Beijing plans to impose on exported American seafood. It is not clear where these trade actions will ultimately lead; what is clear is that they will negatively impact American seafood jobs.”

Products that are covered by the tariffs include frozen Alaska Pollock, Pacific cod, humpies and sockeye salmon and herring. It is uncertain whether the tariff would include reprocessed fish.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she is very concerned about the impact of the Chinese tariffs on Alaska’s economy.

“In 2017 alone, Alaskan seafood exports were worth $3.45 billion, and of that, nearly $1 billion was exported to China,” she explained. “It’s imperative that our seafood industry, one of the economic drivers of our state, has the ability to continue competitively exporting their products all over the world” Murkowski said she is urging Trump to work toward a trade policy with China “that protects these critical markets for our seafood industry.”

Commission Appoints Susewind to Head WDFW

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (WDFW), a citizen panel appointed by the governor, has chosen Kelly Susewind of Olympia as the new director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, effective August 1, at an annual salary of $165,000.

His appointment came after the commission interviewed seven candidates in May and narrowed the field to three finalists, who were interviewed in mid-June.

Susewind has been employed at the Washington Department of Ecology since 1990 in several jobs. He served most recently as director of administrative services and environmental policy. He also worked for several years in the 1980s as a private sector environmental consultant.

Susewind holds a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from Washington State University and an associate degree in engineering from Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Wash. He grew up in the Grays Harbor area.

The commission thanked Acting director Joe Stohr for his service in the wake of the resignation of former director Jim Unsworth in early February.

BBRSDA Selects Andy Wink as New Executive Director

Economist Andy Wink, who has analyzed Alaska’s seafood industry for nearly a decade, will come on board as executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) on July 23.

When announcing his appointment, the BBRSDA said Wink’s past work with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and many other industry groups would benefit its mission and membership. His work will focus mainly on improving the quality and appreciation of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon in the marketplace.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, where he majored in economics and finance, Wink worked for the state of Alaska for seven years as a labor economist, seafood development specialist and investment officer. In 2010 he began working for the McDowell Group, a Juneau, Alaska based research and consulting firm, where he was the primary industry research analyst from 2012 through 2017 for Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Wink left McDowell in January to start his own business as an independent research contractor but has now joined the BBRSDA.

In addition to his work in the seafood industry, Wink has written economic impact studies on oil and gas projects in Africa, done education/training program analysis, administered a large seafood marketing grant program in Alaska, conducted investment research for a $30 billion plus fund, and contributed to local economic planning projects.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Copper River Still Closed to Commercial Salmon Fishing

The Copper River District on Alaska’s Prince William Sound remained closed to commercial fishing again this week, although open for subsistence fishing.

The only bright spot was the strength of the chum salmon run in the Coghill district, where the preliminary harvest estimate from a 36-hour opener on June 7 yielded 1,700 sockeyes and 48,200 chums, with 631 deliveries reported, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). The chums being caught in the Coghill district were averaging nine pounds.

Meanwhile, in western Alaska, commercial fishing with dip nets and beach seines was scheduled for a 12-hour opener from noon today through midnight and a 24-hour opener from noon on June 14 through noon on June 15.

Dip nets were required to assure escapement of king salmon to the Canadian border to comply with treaty obligations. Any Chinooks caught are required to be released immediately and recorded on fish tickets.

A directed commercial fishery for lingcod in Prince William Sound will open July 1 and will run through December 31 or earlier by emergency order. State fisheries officials reminds everyone that directed fishing for all groundfish species, including lingcod, is closed in waters within three nautical miles of two Steller sea lion rookeries within Prince William Sound, at Seal Rocks and Wooded Island.

In Norton Sound, the summer red king crab commercial fishery gets under way on June 24, with a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 290,282 pounds. Last year’s GHL for the Norton Sound fishery was 419,000 pounds.

BBEDC Backs Salmon Ballot Initiative

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. (BBEDC) has added its support to an initiative on Alaska’s 2018 general election ballot to update a 60-year-old law aimed at protecting salmon habitat.

“Critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat in Alaska, particularly the Bristol Bay region, face many threats, and protecting it for future generations is a major priority,” BBEDC’s directors said in a statement issued in Dillingham, Alaska, June 7.

The board has concluded that the current law falls short of protecting Alaska salmon and believes that this ballot initiative is the right step toward strengthening systems that not only support traditional life ways of Bristol Bay, but also support tens of thousands of Alaska’s jobs.

With the unanimous vote of support from its board, BBEDC joined many Bristol Bay tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Association and hundreds of Alaska owned businesses, commercial fishermen and organizations statewide in support of the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative.

BBEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota entities organized under the CDQ program in 1992 to promote economic growth and opportunities within their region.

Backers of the initiative say the existing legal provision protecting salmon habitat is so ambiguous that it is vulnerable to political interference to allow pet projects to be permitted despite scientific research that shows such projects pose potential adverse impact to fish.

Meanwhile a coalition of other business and industry organization, Stand for Alaska, contends that the initiative poses a threat to Alaska jobs and communities and the Alaska way of life. Major contributors to Stand for Alaska include BP Alaska, Teck Alaska and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The Yes for Salmon ballot initiative would update Title 16 of Alaska Statutes to give the state’s Department of Fish and Game authority to enforce scientific standards during the permitting process for development round salmon streams and allow Alaskans to voice their perspectives during the process.

The initiative itself makes no reference to specific resource development projects but is aimed at protecting fish habitat from potential adverse environmental impact from development of oil and gas and mining projects, including the proposed Pebble mine within the Bristol Bay watershed region.

Small Amounts of Water Make a Big Difference for Endangered Salmon

A University of California San Diego study says even small amounts of running water could mean the difference between life and death for juvenile coho salmon in coastal California streams.

The study, published in early June in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, shows that during dry periods less than a gallon of water per second was enough to keep pools interconnected, allowing young salmon to survive through the hot, dry summer months.

“The good news is that if we can get just a little bit of water back in these streams, we can make a really big difference,” said Marika Obedzinski, a California Sea Grant extension specialist. Obedzinski is the lead in a monitoring program for endangered coho salmon and steelhead in small streams of Sonoma County that flow into the Russian River.

Russian River coho salmon were listed as threatened in 1996, but despite efforts to improve habitat, the species hit crisis levels by the early 2000’s and became endangered in 2005 when scientists noted fewer than 10 fish returning to the Russian River annually to spawn. Local, state and federal agencies teamed up to start a conservation hatchery program to breed and release the fish. The Sea Grant monitoring program was set up to track the success of the hatchery releases and to better understand factors that were preventing recovery of the species. Researchers found that low streamflow in summer is one of the biggest blockers to coho recovery.

“After the hatchery fish are released, we see them migrating out to the ocean and coming back as adults to spawn,” Obedzinski said. “We even see their offspring in creeks in the early summer, but by late summer the creeks dry out, the young salmon die, and the next generation is not surviving.”

Water is a limited resource in central California, an area impacted by population growth, development and climate change. While intermittent streams may overflow their banks in wet winter months, they may dwindle to a trickle or dry up in sections during the summer.

The new study offers a clearer link between salmon survival and water flow rates in Russian River tributaries, which could be useful for resource agencies and organizations working on salmon recovery, and land owners who want to help restore endangered salmon populations.

House Oceans Caucus Urges More Understanding of Ocean Stressors

Co-chairs Suzanne Bonamici, D- Oregon and Don Young, R-Alaska of the House Oceans Committee say environmental stressors impacting oceans threaten the economy and the livelihood of millions of people.

These stressors, they said, include harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, marine debris, warming and more acidic ocean waters, overfishing and rising sea levels.

The recent World Oceans Day served as a reminder that regardless of where people live or their political affiliation, they must remain committed to protect, conserve, maintain and rebuild ocean resources.

Research emerging in Alaska indicates that ocean acidification could have devastating effects on commercially valuable red king crab and Tanner crab populations, they said. Across the country consumers, groceries and the restaurant industry will be affected by changes in ocean chemistry when stable supplies of seafood and shellfish are threatened.

Bonamici and Young said they support funding for the Sea Grant program and are advocating for programs to help rebuild commercial and recreational fisheries and recovery of Pacific wild salmon and steelhead stocks. They are also working on legislation to expand scientific research and monitoring to improve understanding of ocean acidification.

These efforts, they said, will help vulnerable communities and industries to understand, prepare for and, where possible, adapt to changing ocean conditions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Second Annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo Kicks Off June 8

The second annual Bristol Bay Fish Expo begins June 8 in Naknek, Alaska, complete with a trade show, fashion show, auction, speed-hiring and an Alaska gubernatorial debate focused on rural issues, including the state’s fisheries.

The trade show, featuring 55 vendors, is designed for those offering products and services along the supply chain to be featured at a one-stop shop for the industry.

The vendor list includes Boats & Permits, Pacific Boat Brokers, Alaska General Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Leader Creek Seafoods, Alaska Marine Lines, PenAir, NOMAR, Grundens, Kodiak Fish Co., Cummins, ZF Marine, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) The BBEDC, the Wild Salmon Center, ASMI and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources are also scheduled for presentations.

The featured keynote speaker will be historian Katherine Ringsmuth, who teaches world, US and Alaska history at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her current work includes a project to capture the history and stories tied to the 128-year-old Cannery at Naknek. For more information on the project visit https://nncanneryproject.com

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) will be holding its member and board of directors meeting at Naknek during the fish expo, with a booth at the event on June 8. During its member meeting for Bristol Bay’s gillnet fleet, there will be presentations from Rising Tide Communications, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Andy Wink of Wink Research & Consulting, who will present the June 2018 Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report. The next day, there will be a BBRSDA sponsored buyers panel, where harvesters and others can hear directly from commercial seafood buyers who source, purchase, distribute and market Bristol Bay salmon in regional and national markets.

The two-day event is a fundraiser for Little Angels Childcare Academy, which offers early education and childcare to the economic and social benefit of this fisheries community.

More information is Bristol Bay Fish Expo is online at www.bristolbayfishexpo.com

Inshore Processing Contributes Millions to Economy

A new study by the McDowell Group concludes that the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) inshore processing sector packed a $1.56 billion punch into the Alaska economy in 2016.

Key findings of the study, prepared for Icicle Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, UniSea, Westward Seafoods and Alyeska Seafoods, include efforts of these processors that contributed millions of dollars to Alaska’s economy through several thousand jobs, the purchase of goods and services, payment of state and local taxes and investment in capital improvements.

Data sources for the study came from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Alaska Fisheries Information Network.

Researchers found that the BSAI inshore sector accounted for about 28 percent of Alaska’s total first wholesale volume of some 2.7 billion pounds and 26 percent of the total Alaska first wholesale value of nearly $4.2 billion.

Inshore processing accounted for a monthly average of 3,750 jobs in the BSAI region, with total annual wages of $194 million. The workforce included some 1,400 Alaskans who earned $48 million in wages and directly accounted for more than 40 percent of all local resident employment in the region. When including multiplier effects, BSAI inshore processing accounted for 2,627 Alaska resident jobs and $112 million in Alaska resident wages.

Shoreside processors in the BSAI spent $220 million in 2016, including shipping, fuel, construction, air transport and utilities. They also paid more than $32.7 million to state and local communities in the form of fisheries taxes, comprising 56 percent of all fish taxes paid in Alaska. Local fish taxes paid to BSAI communities represented 25 percent to 70 percent of operating revenue. Property and sales tax revenues are also important to these communities.

These inshore processors also made capital improvements from 2015 to 2017 totaling $175 million. Investments included expanding capacity to process and add value to Pacific cod, increased capacity for surimi production, dock improvements, increased freezer capacity, land purchases, and other projects.

Total first wholesale value of some 745 million pounds of seafood products processed by the BSAI inshore sector were valued at $1.1 billion, with Pollock products contributing 78 percent of the volume and 53 percent of the first wholesale value.

Pacific cod products and opilio/tanner crab products contributed 12 and five percent respectively in volume, with Pacific cod products bringing in 14 percent of first wholesale value. Low volume and high value opilio/tanner and king crab accounted for 16 and 11 percent respectively of total value.

The full report is available online at http://www.mcdowellgroup.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mcdowell-group-final-bsai-inshore-processing-economic-impact-study-5.21.2018.pdf

Cantwell Offers Input on Proposed Pebble Mine

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, is calling for expansion of the latest public comment period to the proposed Pebble mine to include Washington state fishermen, shipbuilders, sportsmen, small businesses and other stakeholders.

Cantwell noted in a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers on May 31 that in addition to the 90-day public comment period for the scoping process, the Corps had only nine public scoping meetings, all in Alaska. “This expedited process is grossly insufficient and does not allow my constituents the opportunity to participate in the permitting process in person,” she said. “Washington fishermen, suppliers and businesses have an enormous interest in ensuring that Bristol Bay salmon continue to thrive for generations.”

They have built an economy around this one-of-a-kind sustainable fishery and they “deserve a seat at the table as the Army Corps considers the proposed Pebble mine,” said Cantwell. “The stakes are too high to leave out these important voices,” for a fishery that includes thousands of jobs in Washington state.

“In addition to commercial fisheries, private anglers take an estimated 37,000 fishing trips every year to Bristol Bay, generating $60 million in economic activity and supporting another 850 full and part time jobs.”

Cantwell said the proposed mine threatens to irreparably harm the Bristol Bay watershed, the 40-60 million salmon that return there every year, and the fishermen and industries that rely on these salmon.

A three-year study by the US Environmental Protection Agency released in 2014 found that the mine as proposed would, even during normal, safe mine operations, destroy 24 to 94 miles of pristine waterways and salmon habitat and contaminate an additional 48-62 miles of streams with toxic mine waste.

Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report Offers Outlook on the 2018 Fishery

The spring edition of the Bristol Bay Sockeye Market Report predicts a commercial harvest of 27.6 million sockeye salmon, similar to harvests of each of the past three seasons. “Projected harvest in the Nushagak district are particularly large,” said Andy Wink of Wink Research & Consulting. The report was prepared for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

Wink noted that global sockeye supply is projected to increase by about seven percent this year, due to a larger run of Fraser River sockeyes in western Canada. Many Fraser River salmon who were subjected to the impact of the 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster will be returning this year as adults.

“The shift towards frozen and fresh products has intensified over the past two years,” Wink noted. “Despite a large harvest last season, canned sockeye production in the Bay was the lowest since 1998 and only three companies operated canning lines in 2017” he said.

Wink’s report also notes that currency fluctuations have been generally favorable for Bristol Bay salmon producers for the past year, with the US dollar index weakening by five percent.

Shortages in processing labor and a large run resulted in many fishermen being put on limits last year. With another large harvest expected, the number of processing workers will be key to determining seasonal performance for both fishermen and processors.

The report also mentions that Bristol Bay fishermen chilled 73 percent of their catch. Improved quality has brought increasing average prices and better sales performance.

The current market for Bristol Bay drifnet gillnet salmon permits is about $150,000 per permit. This is relatively high compared to the past 20 years. Average gross earnings per permit were outstanding last year and expected to be strong again this year.

The complete report is available online at https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4996590c5577f14c1b17862a1/files/4414dd9a-a535-45f5-8c4a-df54acc6deaa/2018_Spring_BBRSDA_Sockeye_Market_Report_Final_Color.pdf

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pebble Project Losing Financial Footing

Efforts to finance a highly controversial mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region have hit another stumbling block, with a potential substantial financial backer pulling out of the deal.

News that Northern Dynasty Minerals was unable to reach an agreement with First Quantum Minerals Ltd. was cheered by opponents of the copper, gold and molybdenum mines slated for construction near the world’s sockeye salmon producing fishery, even while a spokesman for the project said he was sure they would secure the funds necessary to continue the permitting process.

An announcement from Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., on May 25, confirmed that the two companies were unable to reach an agreement on a proposed deal that would have given First Quantum Minerals Ltd. an option to earn a 50 percent interest in the Pebble mine in return for First Quantum’s investment of $150 million to fund permitting. First Quantum is a leading producer of copper, gold, nickel and zinc. Northern Dynasty, whose whole focus is advancing the Pebble project, is a subsidiary of Hunter Dickenson Inc. (HDI), a diversified, global mining group. The companies are based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Our project is well defined and we are going to continue communicating with Alaskans about why we believe in the opportunity it represents,” said Tom Collier, chief executive officer for the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, Alaska, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty.

HDI declined any further comment.

Bloomberg News meanwhile reported that Northern Dynasty stock plummeted after the collapse of the deal that would have helped finance the project. Bloomberg also noted that earlier in May backlash against the mine disrupted First Quantum’s annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, with mine opponents taking out a full-page ad in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper vowing to continue fighting the project.

Opponents of the mine had plenty to say though, even as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage continued to work with a third-party firm to produce a draft environmental impact statement for the project.

“This news could not have come at a more opportune time,” said Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is again forecasting strong salmon runs for Bristol Bay this year.”

“This is the fourth major company that’s pulled out of Pebble because of the massive environmental risks, lack of economic feasibility and widespread local opposition,” said Robin Samuelsen, a lifelong Bristol Bay harvester and regional leader.

“The governor needs to call for a moratorium on mineral exploration in the watershed and just let people go fishing,” said Mark Niver of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We need a year where we don’t have this sword hanging over our head,” he said.

Copper River Openers Send Prices Soaring

By the third opener of the Copper River salmon fishery, the harvest was climbing, but nowhere near what the forecast anticipated, and market prices for those sockeyes and Chinooks remained high.

“We were expecting close to 100,000 sockeyes just for the third period, based on the forecast,” said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

While cool ocean temperatures could be playing a role, making the run a little later than anticipated, biologists don’t know for certain why the preliminary catch numbers are so low. ADF&G preliminary catch estimates from the May 28 opener showed 1,166 deliveries, including 3,140 kings, 19,979 sockeyes and 2,657 chums, for a total of 7,330 kings, 25,745 reds and 3,029 chums, weighing an average of 16 pounds, 5 pounds and 7.3 pounds respectively.

The fishery began in drizzly rain on May 17, with 384 deliveries totaling a catch of only 2,800 kings and 1,900 reds. Prices at the dock soared to $15.50 and $10.50 a pound respectively, with processors offering an additional 50 cents for dock delivery.

“It was a good start for Chinooks and exceptionally low for sockeyes,” said Botz Preliminary data for the second 12-hour opener on May 21 showed a catch of 1,436 kings and 3,868 sockeyes, averaging at 16.6 pounds and 5.1 pounds respectively. Harvesters made 289 deliveries, as weather conditions declined, said ADF&G officials in Cordova, Alaska.

Pike Place Fish Market’s online prices for fresh Copper River salmon as of May 29 had dropped from $54.99 to $39.99 a pound for whole kings, from $74.99 to $54.99 a pound for king fillets, but still at $159.96 a pound for whole sockeyes and $49.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

Online marketer FishEx in Anchorage was offering Copper River king fillet portions for $79.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound, while 10th and M Seafoods, a top seafood retailer in Anchorage, posted $65.95 a pound for Copper River king fillets and was offering king fillets for $58.95 a pound and sockeye fillets at $45.95 a pound.

Fred Meyer stores in the Anchorage area were offering king salmon fillets for $49.99 a pound and were out of reds, while Carrs-Safeway had king fillets for $45.99 a pound and sockeye fillets for $32.95 a pound.

NPAFC Plans for International Year of the Salmon

Planning is underway for the 2019 International Year of the Salmon. In the coming months, core partners from Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States will be working with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) to plan and announce details of a North Pacific opening event in Vancouver, BC in October of 2018, as well as a Gulf of Alaska signature project scheduled for March 2019 and detailed research plans. Research and outreach projects and events started in 2018 will continue through 2022.

Organizations and individuals concerned with salmon and interested in participating in this initiative are encouraged to contact the NPAFC.

The announcement came in the wake of the May 21-25 NPAFC 26th annual meeting in Khabarovsk, Russia. The organization also introduced its incoming two-year term officers President Suam Kim, Korea; Vice President James Balsiger, USA; and three committee chairpersons: Mike Carlson, Canada; Masa-aki Fukuwaka, Japan, and Vladimir Belyaev, Russia.

Balsiger is the administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska regional office, based in Juneau, Alaska. NPAFC’s current 2016-2020 science plan supports the organization’s primary objective of promoting conservation of anadromous populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout within the convention area and is integrated with the International Year of the Salmon initiative.

To review the progress of research and to promote International Year of the Salmon activities and outreach in member countries, a workshop is planned on “Salmon Ocean Ecology in a Changing Climate,” in Portland, Oregon on May 18-20, 2019, following the 27th annual meeting of NPAFC.

Workshop objectives include improving knowledge of the migration, distribution, growth and survival of salmon and their environment in the ocean and increasing understanding of the causes of variations in salmon production. The focus will also be on anticipating future changes in distribution and abundance of salmon and their marine ecosystems, as well as promoting International Year of the Salmon activities and outreach in salmon homing countries.

Salmon research cruise plans for the current year include surveys in the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea, the southern Chukchi Sea, the northwestern and central North Pacific, and the southern Sea of Okhotsk.

NPAFC’s aim is that improved understanding of mechanisms that regulate the distribution and abundance of salmon will promote the conservation of anadromous populations, allow for better forecasts of salmon production trends in the future, and enhance sustainable fisheries management, food security and economic security. NPAFC officials said that with increasingly variable aquatic conditions, a more responsive and efficient approach to understanding and responding to changes is needed.

New Book Explores Natural Resources of Bristol Bay

A new natural resources book on Bristol Bay, supported by the Bristol Bay Partnership, explores in depth the diversity of the region’s ecosystem and its role as habitat for the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Bristol Bay Alaska: Natural Resources of the Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems,” edited by fisheries biologist Carol Ann Woody, compiles the work of numerous scientists and researchers with years of boots on experience in the Bristol Bay watershed, and their concerns over how climate change, ocean acidification and mineral development threaten the diversity of this ecosystem.

Chapters on every facet of the ecosystem, from fish and marine mammals to moose, wolves, caribou and seabirds, and the potential for renewable energy resources call on everyone to do their part to ensure a viable economic and social future for commercial fisheries, sport anglers and hunters, and subsistence hunters and fish harvesters who reside in the region.

The book draws on the research of several dozen scientists who explain the importance of how each piece of the Bristol Bay ecosystem, like parts of a Swiss clock, contribute to the overall diversity that returns millions of salmon back to the bay every year.

The abundance of wild salmon and other wild foods allows for survival of traditional culture, diverse wildlife and vegetation, and a robust fisheries economy, all contributing the sustainability of the others.

“As an ecosystem, the currently healthy habitat of the bay supports the interactions between natural processes and the presence and abundance of all five species of Pacific salmon,” notes the chapter on essential fish habitat and estuarine processes of Bristol Bay.

The last section of the book is devoted to the non-biological resources of Bristol Bay, including the oil and gas potential of the North Aleutian Basin (Bristol Bay), copper, gold and other mineral resources within the watershed, and renewable energy resources: river hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and tidal.

Woody has skillfully edited the work of the contributing scientists and researchers to produce a very readable book on how year-round resident people and critters, and those migrating there on an annual basis have sustained the region for generations.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Copper River Opener Sends Prices Soaring

Gillnetters out in drizzly rain for the celebrated start of the Copper River salmon fishery May 17 came home with a catch of some 2,800 kings and 1,900 reds, sending prices at the dock soaring.

Harvesters making 384 deliveries netted $15.50 and $10.50 a pound respectively, with processors offering an additional 50 cents for dock delivery.

“It was a good start for Chinooks, and exceptionally low for sockeyes,” said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologists in Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Preliminary data for the second 12-hour opener on May 21 showed a catch of 1,436 kings and 3,868 sockeyes, averaging at 16.6 pounds and 5.1 pounds respectively. Harvesters made 289 deliveries, as weather conditions declined, said ADF&G officials in Cordova, Alaska.

Pike Place Fish Market’s online prices for fresh Copper River salmon as of May 22 were $54.99 a pound for whole kings, $74.99 a pound for king fillets, $159.96 a pound for whole sockeyes and $49.99 a pound for sockeye fillets.

Online marketer FishEx in Anchorage was offering Copper River king fillet portions for $79.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound, which 10th and M Seafoods, also in Anchorage, posted $65.95 a pound for Copper River king fillets.

The arrival of the first Copper River fish meanwhile was heralded with the red carpet treatment and gourmet chefs cook-off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and with a salmon season kick-off party in Anchorage hosted by Copper River Seafoods.

Some 300 tickets at $15 apiece for the family friendly Anchorage event sold out quickly, and guests indulged in gourmet salmon offerings prepared by chefs from several upscale restaurants, while listening to live music and waiting to see if they won door prizes, which included fillets from a chilled 30-plus pound whole king salmon on display in a bed of chilled ice.

15 Communities Share in NSEDC’s Fisheries Bounty

Fifteen communities in Alaska’s Norton Sound area are getting a mid-year financial boost earned from the bounty of Bering Sea fisheries.

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. is giving each of the 15 communities $133,333 as a mid-year share of their profits from groundfish and crab fishery harvests.

NSEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development quota groups allocated a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, prohibited species, halibut and crab, to provide social and economic benefits for residents of Western Alaska.

Siu Alaska Corp., NSEDC’s wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, issued a $2 million dividend to NSEDC, to allow for the dividend.

“NSEDC’s normal community benefit share distribution comes at the end of the year, but we have been hearing from many of our communities that they are facing significant needs now,” said Dan Harrelson, board chairman. “Whether it’s for aging critical infrastructure, like water, sewer and power; support for our youth and elders; or search and rescue equipment; our communities utilize this funding for items that are vital to the health and well-being of our residents.”

NSEDC traditionally issues an annual community benefit share at its quarterly meeting in November, and for the past five years that share has been $150,000 per community. This is the second time that NSEDC has issued an additional, mid-year community benefit share, the first one being in 2012.

With this latest distribution, NSEDC has allocated to member communities a total of $30.2 million. The NSEDC board also approved 18 community level grants for a total of $668,000 and two regional grants totaling $92,000. In early May the board awarded $20,000 to fund an intensive course for up to 10 Head Start teachers to earn early childhood education credits.

The board additionally voted for a $10,000 increase in funding for Norton Sound commercial fishermen through its revolving loan fund, raising the loan cap to $35,000. The fund is designed to help resident commercial harvesters purchase fishing equipment. Borrowers are required to put 10 percent down and pay back the loans within seven years.

Trollers Want Alaska to Change Approach to Pacific Salmon Treaty Negotiations

Alaska Trollers Association President Steve Merritt is asking the state of Alaska to change its approach in negotiations over the Pacific Salmon Treaty or face the loss of a very valuable resource.

The troll fishery ranks among the largest commercial fisheries in Alaska and most of its permit holders live in Southeast Alaska, playing a vital part in the region’s economy and social well-being. In fact about one in 35 people living in Southeast Alaska works on a troll vessel, according to the ATA.

Merritt voiced his concerns on May 22, in the wake of a king salmon symposium in Sitka a day earlier, where ATA learned they would be giving up more of their harvest share of treaty king salmon as a result of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations. “Alaska has not one time, since the treaty’s implementation, went into these negotiations and returned without a loss to their harvest share,” Merritt said.

The troll fleet is being managed very conservatively because of poor returns of kings to the rivers of Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Board of Fisheries last January implemented stock of concern plans that made major cuts to troll winter and spring fisheries. Those were meaningful conservation measures and trollers understood their importance to the health of their fishery, he said.

With abundance of kings in general at low levels for several other stocks on the Northwest coast, Alaska has smaller king quotas under the current Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement, Merritt said.

And Alaska’s Deputy Commissioner of Fish and Game, Charles Swanton, has levied an additional 10 percent cut on Alaska’s Chinook fisheries for 2018 for conservation of Trans-Boundary River and Canadian stocks as well. That’s a cut that the ATA strongly disputes as having any meaningful conservation value and believes is a misinterpretation of the Standardized Fishing Regime portion of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, Merritt said.

Researcher Studies Rising Abundance of Pink Salmon in North Pacific Ocean

Research by University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Alan Springer has found a correlation between increased abundance of pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean and declining abundance at breeding sites of another species in Australia.

Springer’s research, published in May in Journal, proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that pink salmon in the North Pacific Ocean have flourished since the 1970s, with growth in wild populations augmented by rising hatchery production. As their abundance has grown so has evidence that they are having effects on other species and on ocean ecosystems.

Springer’s study showed that in alternating years of high abundance, they can initiate pelagic trophic cascades in the northern North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea and depress the availability of common prey resources of other salmon, resident seabirds and other pelagic species.

Spring and other authors of the study found a correlation between the increasing abundance of pink salmon and declining abundance and productivity at breeding sites in southeastern Australia of short-tailed shearwaters, a bird that migrates from nesting grounds in the South Pacific Ocean to wintering grounds in the North Pacific Ocean.

The researchers said they can view the biennial pulses of pink salmon as a large, replicated, natural experiment that offers opportunities to better learn how these ecosystems function. By exploring trophic interaction chains driven by pink salmon, they said they may achieve a deeper conservation conscientiousness for northern open oceans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Seafood Aficionados Brace for Copper River Opener

Less than 24 hours from now Alaska’s famed Copper River salmon fishery gets underway, with first deliveries anticipated in Anchorage, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington, by Friday morning, May 18. Rain is in the forecast, along with temperatures in the low 40s.

To celebrate the arrival, gourmet chefs will face off on the tarmac at Seattle Sea-Tac Airport to see who can prepare the most creative dish made of wild caught king salmon fillets, delivered by Alaska Airlines fresh from the Copper River.

The online company FishEx in Anchorage is accepting orders for fresh Copper River sockeye salmon fillet premium portions for $46.95 a pound, compared with $34.99 a pound at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

While prices have yet to be set, the popular downtown Anchorage restaurant Orso has already added to its menu a wild Alaska sockeye salmon pan seared entrée, with asparagus, baby carrots, basil pesto, balsamic glaze and fresh lemon, for $29.95.

Copper River Seafoods and 49th State Brewing Co. have teamed up to kick-off the summer salmon season with a family-friendly event on Saturday, May 19, showcasing a variety of award-winning dishes by five popular Alaska chefs.

Chefs Thomas Chapman and Daniel Shier of the 49th State Brewing Co., are preparing Salmon Mi-Cuit, a sous-vide sockeye, with whipped mascarpone, salter baguette and aromatics, plus a sockeye belly hand roll, with nori, furikake, sushi rice, compressed cucumber and Wasabi mayo. Chef Jeremy Fike of Glacier Brewhouse and Orso restaurants is preparing a crème brulee salmon. Chef Laura Cole of 229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern, just outside of Denali National Park and Preserve, will serve up Copper River salmon and spot prawn, sea lettuce dashi with pickled plums, tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, sesame, crispy salmon skin and Asuki beans. A chef for Westmark Hotels, also in Anchorage, will serve pecan and maple crusted wild Alaska salmon with mushroom potato hash.

Tickets for the event can be purchased for $15 a piece either at the door or online at https://salmonseasonkickoff.brownpapertickets.com. Children under 12 are free. Space is limited and advance purchase is advised.

New Report Shows Disruptive Impact of Climate Change on Fisheries

A university study published online today in the journal PLOS ONE concludes that climate change will force hundreds of ocean fish and invertebrate species, including Pacific rockfish, to move northward. The Rutgers University led study, funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pew Charitable Trusts, says these populations, being sensitive to water temperatures, often shift to where that water temperature is right for them.

Their research draws in part on bottom trawl surveys of the Gulf of Alaska, Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands conducted from 1983 through 2014 by NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Lead author James Morley noted that shifts of a couple of hundred miles in a species’ range can disrupt fisheries. “This study shows that such dislocations will happen all over the continent and on both coasts throughout the 21st century,” he said.

Co-author Malin Pinsky, at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, pointed out that for commercial harvesters, this often means longer trips and higher fuel costs. “Some species along the US and Canadian Pacific coasts will move as much as 900 miles north from their current habitats,” he said.

15 Communities Share in NSEDC’s Fisheries Bounty

Fifteen communities in Alaska’s Norton Sound area are getting a mid-year financial boost earned from the bounty of Bering Sea fisheries.

Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. (NSEDC) is giving each of the 15 communities $133,333 as a mid-year share of their profits from groundfish and crab fishery harvests.

NSEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development quota groups allocated a percentage of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, prohibited species, halibut and crab, to provide social and economic benefits for residents of Western Alaska.

Siu Alaska Corp., NSEDC’s wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary, issued a $2 million dividend to NSEDC, to allow for the disbursement.

“NSEDC’s normal community benefit share distribution comes at the end of the year, but we have been hearing from many of our communities that they are facing significant needs now,” said Dan Harrelson, board chairman. “Whether it’s for aging critical infrastructure, like water, sewer and power; support for our youth and elders; or search and rescue equipment; our communities utilize this funding for items that are vital to the health and well-being of our residents.”

NSEDC traditionally issues an annual community benefit share at its quarterly meeting in November, and for the past five years that share has been $150,000 per community. This is the second time that NSEDC has issued an additional, mid-year community benefit share, the first one occurred in 2012.

With this latest disbursement, NSEDC has allocated to member communities a total of $30.2 million. The NSEDC board also approved 18 community level grants for a total of $668,000 and two regional grants totaling $92,000. In early May, the board awarded $20,000 to fund an intensive course for up to 10 Head Start teachers to earn early childhood education credits. The board additionally voted for a $10,000 increase in funding for Norton Sound commercial fishermen through its revolving loan fund, raising the loan cap to $35,000. The fund is designed to help resident commercial harvesters purchase fishing equipment. Borrowers are required to put 10 percent down and pay back the loans within seven years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Copper River Salmon Fishery Opens May 17

Alaska’s famed Copper River salmon fishery will open for the 2018 season at 7 a.m. on May 17 for a 12-hour commercial fishing period. Prior to the start of the commercial season, the Copper River District subsistence fishery will open for a single 12-hour period starting at 7 a.m. on May 15. Waters within an expanded Chinook salmon inside closure area will be closed during both periods.

Aficionados of the celebrated opener are already starting to place orders for first run fillets of Copper River reds and kings, even though the price per pound has not been determined. Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market is already posting a price of $54.99 a pound for wild Copper River king salmon, $174.93 per fish for Copper River reds, $74.99 a pound for wild Copper River king salmon fillets and $34.99 a pound for wild Copper River sockeye fillets.

10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska, isn’t releasing prices yet, but started to take orders over the phone. A spokesman for the company said they are expecting a lot more orders to come in just days before the fishery begins.

Copper River Seafoods meanwhile is getting ready to kick off the season with a direct flight out of Cordova to Seattle area markets eager for the fresh fillets, and a celebration at the 49th Street Brewing Company in Anchorage. Three hundred tickets, at $15 apiece are being sold for this family-friendly event that will feature live music and sample gourmet dishes of Copper River sockeyes prepared by chefs from five popular Alaska restaurants.

“We’re due for a good run here,” said Copper River Seafoods spokesman Marty Weiser, “We’re all feeling very optimistic.”

PFDs Save Lives, But Many Still Don’t Wear Them

Fatal falls overboard keep commercial fishing in the top ranks of most dangerous jobs in America, and yet many commercial harvesters still resist wearing the personal floatation devices (PFD) that might save their lives in such incidents.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that from 2000 through 2016 a total of 204 commercial fishermen died from unintentional falls overboard, including 51 – or 25 percent of the total – in Alaska. One hundred and 20 of those victims were employed as deckhands, nine of them had taken formal marine safety training.

According to the CDC, the majority of those falls were not witnessed, however, for the 83 that were and rescue attempts made, 22 victims were recovered, but none successfully resuscitated. In all instances, none of the victims was wearing a PFD at the time of death.

One of the authors of the study, epidemiologist Samantha Case, said some harvesters still think PFDs are too big and bulky or think of them as an entanglement hazard. Others found them effective but had a fatalist attitude about falling overboard.

Jerry Dzugan, of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) said he feels progress is being made in getting more harvesters to wear PFDs, but it is at a minimal rate.

In every workshop host by AMSEA, instructors present each group of 18 participants with a variety of PFDs available on the market and one or two in each class will say they plan on buying one, although he cannot confirm if they actually do. “The other problem is the old cultural bias against wearing them,” said Dzugan, “that they are not macho.” Historically, there is an emotional reason why some people don’t wear them, fatalism, but on the bright side, he is finding younger harvests more open to the idea about using them.

The study is available online at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6716a2.htm?s_cid=mm6716a2_e

NPFMC Meets in Kodiak June 4–11

Initial reviews of fixed gear catcher vessel rockfish retention, halibut retention, and a Bering Sea/Aleutian Island Pacific cod trawl catcher vessel analysis are on the agenda for the upcoming federal fisheries meeting in Kodiak June 4–11.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has scheduled a preliminary review, including a discussion of interaction with Aleutian Island Pacific cod set aside adjustment analysis. Other major items on the agenda include discussion papers on Gulf of Alaska pollock and cod seasons and allocations, Gulf Tanner crab observer efforts, and self-guided halibut rental boats.

The federal council will also do a review of the 2017 observer annual report and hear an electronic monitoring workgroup report.

The meeting will be held at the Kodiak Best Western Convention Center in Alaska. All sessions are open to the public except for executive sessions. The council is accepting public comment through June 1 through its eComment Portal: comments.npfmc.org

The council meeting will be broadcasted live at https://mpfmc.adobeconnect.com/june2018.

ABSC Names Goen as Executive Director

Fisheries industry veteran Jamie Goen has joined Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC) as executive director.

Goen, who holds a master’s degree in marine policy from the University of Washington, has extensive experience in fisheries management. In her work and travels she has sailed every ocean except the Arctic.

“Throughout my career, I have been drawn to stakeholders and their role in managing resources, helping them navigate process and encouraging their voice,” Goen said.

After graduate school Goen worked briefly for the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners Association’s vessel safety program, before joining the National Marine Fisheries Service for 15 years, predominantly working on catch share programs. Most of her time there was spent with the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery, working on the limited entry fixed gear sablefish permit stacking program, and as the lead on implementation of the trawl rationalization program.

She also spent a year in New England working on the Atlantic Sea Scallop quota program, and later on temporary special assignment as the congressional affairs liaison to the head of NOAA Fisheries, handling all congressional requests, helping to prepare briefing materials for congressional hearings and coordinating national announcements of high profile federal actions.

Most recently, at the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), Goen was charged with overseeing their data collection programs from fisheries and fisheries-independent surveys, and also was involved in regulations and fisheries policy.

ABSC members are engaged in harvesting king, snow and bairdi crab in the Bering Sea and are actively involved in scientific research, policy development and marketing, with a commitment to the sustainability of the Bering Sea crab fishery.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Salmon Ballot Initiative’s Fate Rests with Court

Alaska Supreme Court judges will ultimately decide by early September the initial fate of the Yes for Salmon initiative slated to go on the state’s general election ballot in November.

The five justices heard arguments in Anchorage, Alaska on April 26 from the Alaska Attorney General’s office and Stand for Salmon sponsors on whether the initiative to strengthen requirements for the permitting of renewable resource projects, including mines, is legally qualified to go to a vote. The court now has until September 5 to issue a ruling.

If the court rules in favor of the initiative, it goes to the ballot. The court could also find certain provisions in the ballot initiative unconstitutional and eliminate those provisions, still allowing the initiative to go to a vote.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Joanne Grace, arguing for the state, told the court that “many large projects in Alaska, including natural resource development projects, cannot be built without permanently displacing some amount of anadromous habitat as it is very broadly defined in this bill.

“The second critical element is the plain language of the bill, which gives Fish and Game no discretion to grant a permit or an activity that will permanently displace the habitat for that category of activities,” Grace said.

Attorney Valerie Brown of Trustees of Alaska, representing Stand for Salmon, acknowledge that some permits would be denied if the initiative passed, but told the judges “that is not the test that this court applies. If the permitting scheme could lead to a denial after the exercise of legislative discretion, that’s permissible.”

“I think what the initiative does is it forces maybe re-siting or technology for projects that will cause adverse impacts,” she added.

During the court session, justices asked a number of questions about whether they could remove portions of the initiative, letting the rest of it stand on the ballot. But they noted that such action would only be allowed if it did not change the reason why thousands of signatures were collected to put the initiative on the ballot.

The initiative qualified to be put on the ballot in January after the Stand for Salmon sponsors submitted more than 43,000 signatures from all 40 legislative districts to the state’s Division of Elections.

The state had rejected the initiative language as unconstitutional in September 2017. Stand for Salmon appealed that decision to the Alaska Superior Court, winning a reversal and the state then appealed that decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Bering River Coal Shareholder to Divest

The majority shareholder in the Korea Alaska Development Corp. says he is giving the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOS) until May 28 to buy his shares or risk development of the coal prospect on the eastern edge of Prince William Sound.

H. Joe Shin, chairman of KADCO, made his offer in a letter in late April.

Shin said KADCO still is agreeable to enter into a conservation transaction to help conserve the area of the coal field to further the restoration mission of EVOS. Shin, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in a few months, said that over the last three decades he has developed a special kinship with Cordova, but now he must make some decisions, including what to do with his majority shares in the company. He said that arrangements have been made with others with minority shareholder status in KADCO to convey some shares to them, allowing them to become majority shareholders, unless an agreement is reached with EVOS by May 28.

A coalition of Alaskans, including marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner of Anchorage, have for years urged that funds for oil spill recovery from the Exxon Valdez disaster be used to retire the Bering River coal field patent from the Korean entity. In December the coalition, including hundreds of individuals, plus small businesses and nonprofits, urged the trustee council to use part of the EVOS settlement funds for a “link to injury” determination needed for any potential habitat project related to the species and human services injured by the 1980 Exxon Valdez disaster. So far, the trustees have only agreed to have staff scope the potential link to injury of fish and wildlife resources and human services in the Copper River Delta.

“Never has there been a more appropriate opportunity to use EVOS funds as to buy and retire the Bering River coalfield owned by KADCO,” Steiner said. “Chugach Alaska Corp. did its share last year, by selling interests in their forest in Carbon Mountain, along with the residual coal, in the California carbon market.

“But the vast majority of the environmental threat in the region remains in the Bering River Coalfield, still owned by KADCO,” he said.

According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten, who serves as a trustee on the council, the big issue is that these coal fields are outside of the Exxon Valdez oil spill area, and the matter currently is not a huge priority for the council.

Murkowski: Frankenfish Fight Not Over

In the wake of a Federal Drug Administration decision to approve an application for an AquaBounty salmon facility in Indiana, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says the fight against Frankenfish is not over.

The Alaska Republican issued a statement on May 1 saying she will continue to push for clear labeling of this product, if it enters the domestic marketplace, and for proper oversight. The senator is a sponsor of the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act.

Murkowski noted that genetically engineered salmon are currently evaluated under the FDA’s New Animal Drug Application, a program intended to oversee antibiotics and medicines used on animals and livestock. “The fact that the FDA does not have a proper approval process in place for these new GE (genetically engineered) animals for human consumption is frightening and appalling,” she said. “Alaska’s fisheries are world renowned for their high quality, productivity and sustainability, and these genetically modified salmon could potentially devastate our wild populations of salmon and desolate our fisheries,” she said.

While the Indiana plant is approved for production, the company is prohibited from importing the eggs necessary for producing GE salmon there, meaning that U.S. production of the genetically engineered fish is not allowed. That’s because of a requirement in FDA’s current appropriations law that Murkowski championed, which was added in the recent fiscal year 2018 government funding bill and signed into law in March.

Harvester Posthumously Named Fisherman of the Year

United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) has posthumously named Michael Bangs of Petersburg its Fisherman of the Year for 2018.

UFA is honoring Bangs, who passed away at his home in February, at the age of 62, as an industry leader in development of the roe-on-kelp and dive fisheries in Southeast Alaska.

Bangs had been the chair of the Southeast Regional Subsistence Advisory Council and served on that body since 2003. He also served on the Petersburg Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

“Michael Bangs was a prime example that the job of a commercial fisherman is not limited to just working on the boat,” said Frances Leach, executive director of UFA. “Michael’s involvement on the Southeast Regional Subsistence Advisory Council, Petersburg Fish and Game Advisory Committee and on the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association demonstrates his service and involvement in public policy and helped paved the way to keep Alaska fishermen fishing.”

UFA, the statewide organization for Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, has since 2001, honored persons of the year in fisheries politics and fishermen.

Past recipients of the fisheries politics award have included former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, the late Sen. Ted Stevens, and twice Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

A complete list of past honorees is available online at www.ufafish.org/about/ufa-awards/

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cantwell, Merkley Challenge Alaska Leases

Democrats in the US House and Senate are calling on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to halt preparations for a potential 2019 oil and gas lease sale in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea.

The call came yesterday, April 24, in a letter signed by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D- Ariz., joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-CA. “As BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) itself previously recognized in excluding the region entirely from offshore oil leasing in the 2017–2022 Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program, the harsh and fragile Arctic Ocean is incompatible with expanded offshore drilling,” they said. “A major oil spill in this unique ecosystem would occur more than a thousand miles from the nearest Coast guard station, with the threat of sea ice in all seasons, subzero temperatures, storms, fog and complete darkness up to 20 hours a day.”

The letter cited last year’s report by the US Global Change Research Program, which claimed the world must substantially reduce net global carbon dioxide emissions prior to 2040 relative to present day values to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Expanding oil development in areas like the Arctic Ocean, where any oil would not come to market for decades “even if it were discovered and could be developed safely, harms our nation’s urgent need to transition to a low carbon future,” they said.

Zinke announced in early January his plans for the 2019–2024 leasing program.

Processors Eager to Hire via Anchorage Job Center

Seafood processors eager to hire workers for the busy upcoming harvesting season are hoping to meet their quotas in part through the state of Alaska’s midtown job center in Anchorage.

Representatives from the At-Sea Processors Association will be on-site tomorrow, April 26, to hire workers for two to three months on board catcher/processors owned by American Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Arctic Storm. The jobs, beginning in May and June, average 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and pay is by percentage of the catch or case rate, depending on the company.

The companies require those hired to speak and understand English, and pass a health, drug screen and criminal background check. All applicants must also attend one of the job center’s seafood orientation sessions, which are held every weekday at 9 a.m. Pre-registration in ALEXsys at www.jobs.alaska.gov is required, along with US Form I-9 identification.

At-Sea Processors is just the latest of a number of processors working with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to fill jobs with Alaska residents. Trident is also posting job opportunities for its facilities in the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, Valdez and Kodiak for work running through October, for $10.58 an hour, with no experience required. Peter Pan Seafoods will be at the job center May 1 and May 18, offering $10.58 an hour as well, for seasonal processing jobs in Dillingham and Valdez.

Representatives of Alaska Glacier Seafoods, in Juneau, will be hiring May 9–10, and Copper River Seafoods will be hiring for its processing plants in Anchorage, Togiak, Kenai, Cordova, Kotzebue and Naknek on May 22.

Most major companies provide competitive wages, gear and supplies, plus room and board on condition that the worker complete the contract. Some require applicants to pass health and drug tests. For specifics on requirements and benefits of different companies, contact the job center at 1-800-473-0688.

Fishermen Charged with Killing Steller Sea Lions

Two commercial fishermen are charged in the deaths of 15 Steller sea lions whose bodies were found during the opening of the 2015 Copper River salmon fishery, and for allegedly obstructing an investigation into their criminal activity.

The charges against Jon Nichols, 31, of Cordova, captain of the F/V Iron Hide, and deckhand Theodore “Teddy” Turgeon, 21, of Wasilla, were announced this past week by US Attorney Bryan Schroder in Anchorage. The charges include conspiracy, violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act obstruction of a Marine Mammal Protection Act investigation, false statements and obstruction. Steller sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are listed as an endangered species for the area where their deaths occurred.

The indictment alleges that on various occasions between May and June 2015 Nichols regularly directed his crew, including Turgeon, to shoot at Steller sea lions while fishing in the Copper River fishing district, and that at times Nichols himself would shoot.

The indictment further alleges that upon learning of an investigation into the deaths of the Steller sea lions that Nichols and Turgeon obstructed the investigation by removing the shotgun from the vessel and coordinating false stories regarding the incidents. Turgeon is also charged with making false statements to NOAA and Nichols is charged with obstructing and attempting to obstruct a grand jury investigation by trying to influence his crew not to provide truthful information relevant to the investigation.

Pebble Protests Continue as USACE Weighs In

There were new developments this past week in the controversy over the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed of Southwest Alaska.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, having extended its comment period on scoping for an environmental impact statement on the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) permit application, was accepting written comment only in Anchorage on April 19. Meanwhile, outside of the city’s convention center, some 200 opponents of the mine heard speakers, including former Alaska State Senate President Rick Halford, who asked “what part of ‘no’ don’t they understand? Twelve, 14 years of saying ‘no’, ‘no’ to foreign companies, ‘no’ to the developers and “no’ to the Corps of Engineers.”

The PLP maintains that the mine can be built and operated in Bristol Bay in harmony with the waterways that provide critical habitat to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon. “This is scoping, which is an identification process, not the time for opinions,” said the PLP’s Mike Heatwole in a written statement.

The Corps says it is seeking information to help inform the scope of their analysis as it specifically relates to the PLP’s permit application, including potentially affected resources, alternative options, analytical methodology and potential mitigation measures.

The permit application is online at www.pebbleprojecteis.com

Earlier this month, nearly 200 residents of Bristol Bay turned out in Naknek, Kokhanok, Igiugig, and New Stuyahok to offer public testimony in opposition to the mine. During its stop in Dillingham, where the Corps accepted only written testimony, Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, told the crowd that “the only acceptable alternative is no Pebble.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker meanwhile issued a permit for the PLP to conduct activities on its mining claims during the 2018 field season. In a separate action, Walker re-established the Bristol Bay Advisory group, which he said “gives local residents a powerful tool to guide land and resource management in their region.” Walker noted that Bristol Bay supports the most productive wild sockeye fishery in the world, adding “we should continue to protect that resource, which has sustained the region for generations.”

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.

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