Wednesday, October 17, 2018

As Arctic Sea Ice Declines, Phytoplankton Spreads North

A study released by the American Geophysical Union confirms that as Arctic sea ice declines phytoplankton blooms are expanding northward into ice-free waters. The big question is how this expansion will impact marine ecosystems in coming years.

The study, based on satellite imagery of ocean color, shows phytoplankton spring blooms in the Arctic Ocean’s central basin at low biomass, where none were found before, and expanding northward at a rate of one degree of attitude per decade.

Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that form the base of the marine food web, indirectly feeding everything from small fish to whales. They live in water, consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, converting sunlight into chemical energy.

Decline in Arctic sea ice over the past several decades has resulted in areas of open water where phytoplankton can thrive. Researchers are not sure how the expansion of phytoplankton will impact the food web, but their results suggest the decline of ice cover is already impacting marine ecosystems in unforeseen ways, and that as phytoplankton spring blooms move north these changes could affect the fate of the Arctic Ocean as a carbon source or a carbon sink.

“If the ice pack totally disappear in summer, there will be consequences for the phytoplankton spring bloom,” said Sophie Renaut, a doctoral student at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, and lead author of the study. “We cannot exactly predict how it will evolve, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be drastic consequences for the entire ecosystem.”

Phytoplankton growth is dependent on availability of carbon dioxide, sunlight, nutrients, water temperature and salinity, water depth and grazing animals, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean typically bloom every spring. In the past, such blooms have not been found in the highest Arctic latitudes, because they were usually covered by sea ice.

To learn if sea ice declines had any effect on spring phytoplankton blooms, researchers used satellite observations of ocean color to track changes of blooms each spring from 2003 to 2013. They found that in spring and summer months, net primary productivity in the Arctic Ocean increased by 31 percent between 2003 and 2013, and that these blooms in the Barents and Kara seas north of Russia are expanding north at a rate of one degree of latitude per decade.

The research was shared by the American Geophysical Union via EurekAlert, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It was first published in Geophysical Research letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

NPAFC Launches International Year of the Salmon

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) is planning a high seas expedition to the central Gulf of Alaska to learn more about salmon stocks in its five-member nations.

The expedition is scheduled to take place from late February through late March 2019 aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Kaganovsky. Scientists from the five NPAFC countries, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States will be on board.

NPAFC officially launched its International Year of the Salmon in the North Pacific on Oct. 11, the commission said in a statement from its headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Gulf of Alaska expedition is one of the signature projects for International Year of the Salmon (IYS) outreach and research across the northern hemisphere.

The IYS is an initiative of the NPAFC and its North Atlantic partner, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, to establish a new hemispheric-scale partnership of government, indigenous peoples, academia, non-governmental organizations and industry to connect hundreds of organizations that have the capacity and desire to address scientific and social challenges facing salmon and people in an increasingly uncertain environment.

The partnership plans a call to action for outreach and research through 2022 to fill knowledge gaps and develop tools to equip and train the next generation of scientists and managers. The group also wants to raise awareness of decision makers to achieve conditions necessary for the future resilience of salmon and people in a rapidly changing world.

In addition to the Gulf of Alaska expedition, the IYS signature projects are to include a program to identify key factors affecting survival of salmon from freshwater to the high seas and back, the application of new technologies to unlock mysteries of salmon migration and survival, high-tech solutions to efficiently bring salmon communities together, and the design of modern management systems that includes indigenous peoples.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Rejects ACRs on Hatchery Issues

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has rejected agenda change requests (ACR) to review sooner the matter of limiting the egg take capacity of salmon hatcheries.

During a lengthy work session in Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the board rejected by a vote of 1–6 an ACR from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association related to the increase in egg take capacity permitted in 2018 for the Valdez Fisheries Development Association’s Solomon Gulch Hatchery. The board also rejected by a 2–5 vote a second ACR from former board member Virgil Umphenour urging for a statewide cap on private non-profit salmon hatchery egg take capacity at 75 percent of the level permitted in 2000. Several hundred fish harvesters packed the work session meeting to hear reports from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on both ACRs.

Prior to the meeting, the board received dozens of related comments from harvesters, processors and non-profit entities, mostly in support of current hatchery production, and opposed to reduction of the currently allowed egg take.

During oral comments, most of those at the meeting urged rejection of the ACRs.

“Don’t monkey with something that works,” said retired commercial fisherman and former Alaska legislator Clem Tillion, a past chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council who has served on numerous fisheries committees. “The hatcheries are a success. Handle it with care. Leave a system that works alone.”

Jerry McCune, president of Cordova District Fishermen United, also opposed the ACRs. “I think what we need to be doing here is base everything on science, and not on emotion.” McCune said he felt that more science was needed, because nobody can say for certain what is going on in the ocean. He urged for more research by NOAA.

State law lists three requirements to be considered before the board can approve agenda change requests. They are whether there is a fishery conservation purpose, whether the ACR would correct an error in regulation, and whether the ACR addresses an effect of a regulation on a fishery that was unforeseen when the regulation was adopted. In both cases the board felt both ACRs did not meet those criteria.

Status of Salmon Fisheries and Progress of ASMI Programs Meetings

Two upcoming meetings of interest to commercial fishermen were announced yesterday in Alaska, one of the status of salmon stocks and the other on the progress of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) projects.

First, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, will hold a hearing on Saturday, Oct. 20 in Anchorage, Alaska, to review the health of the state’s salmon fisheries and examine current data needed to maintain healthy, sustainable stocks. The first witness panel includes Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten and Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The second will have representatives of the University of Alaska College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the North Pacific Research Board, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Prince William Sound Science Center and the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Then, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will provide those unable to attend the October 29–31 meeting in person with the option to listen in by calling 1-800-315-6388, or 1-913-904-9376 using the access code 05684.

EVOS Trustee Council to Consider Transition Plans

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council will for the first time in its 27-year history publicly consider a proposal to transition to a court-appointed private non-profit foundation or trust.

While the trustee council itself does not have authority to make the transition, the state of Alaska and federal government do, and the perspective of the six council agencies will weigh significantly in any final decision.

The EVOS council is to take up the matter today, October 17, at its board meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, which is scheduled to run until 3:30 p.m. Alaska time. To listen in call 1-800-315-6338 and use access code 72241.

As of Oct. 1, the restoration fund managed by the council had roughly $198 million left, with some $153 million in unencumbered funds available.

The issue of long-term management of the restoration funds has been under discussion privately for years. Last month, the council proposed the transition to a private foundation in an email to all council members, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Alaska Department of Law.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Crab Quota Up for Bering Sea Snow, Down for Bristol Bay Red

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and National Marine Fisheries Service released updates for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands prior to the crab fisheries opening on Oct. 15.

Snow crab stocks in the Bering Sea have rebounded to a nearly 50 percent increase compare to a year ago, while Bristol Bay red king crab stocks continue to slide. The total allowable catch (TAC) for the 2018–19 Bering Sea snow crab is set at 27,581 million pounds, with 24,822,900 pounds set aside for individual fishing quota (IFQ) and 2,758,100 pounds in community development quota (CDQ). Last year’s snow crab TAC was 18,961,000 pounds, down from the 2016–17 21,570,000 pounds.

Harvesters of Bristol Bay red king crab are allocated 4.3 million-pound quota, much less than the 6.6 million pounds permitted in 2017 and 8.4 million pounds in 2016. The red king crab allocation includes 3.9 million pounds of IFQ and 430,800 pounds for CDQ entities.

According to Miranda Westphal, area management biologist at Dutch Harbor for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the last time the Bristol Bay red king crab harvest limit was that low was in 1985, when the guideline harvest limit was set at 3 to 5 million pounds, and harvesters landed 4.09 million pounds.

Usually, harvests numbers are based on 12.5 percent of legal males, but this year it is calculated on 10 percent of that biomass. “We’ve got a continued downward trajectory for king crab stocks and we don’t see a lot of recruitment coming in,” Westphal explained. “The abundance survey is showing a continued decline for effective spawning biomass of legal males, females and sub-legals and we have low estimated recruitment, so we don’t see a lot of small juveniles coming into the system.”

ADF&G biologists said mature female abundance is more than the harvest strategy threshold of 8.4 million crab and the 2018-effective spawning biomass of 33,275 million pounds is over the threshold of 14.5 million pounds required for the fishery to open.

The western district for Tanner crab will open with a TAC of 2,439,000 pounds, down slightly from 2,500,200 a year ago.

The eastern district remains closed, as it was in 2017.

Pribilof district red and blue king crab are closed due to continued low abundance. State biologists said there is considerable uncertainty surrounding precision of abundance estimates of these crab. The Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fishery is closed for the season because those stocks were estimated to be below the federal minimum stock size threshold and consequently declared overfished.

Alaska Urges Transboundary Mining Discussion at Bilateral Talks

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and the state’s congressional delegation are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss risks posed by transboundary mining activity in upcoming bilateral talks between the United States and Canada.

The letter sent to Pompeo indicate that if poorly managed Canadian mining projects located near transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Alaska pose a threat to commercial fishing and tourism industries in Southeast Alaska.

In November 2017, the delegation sent a letter to then-Secretary Rex Tillerson urging the State Department to prioritize transboundary watersheds, bringing the issue to the cabinet level. The delegation has continued to push for binding protections, joint water quality monitoring and financial assurances to ensure mining operators in British Columbia would be held accountable for any impacts to transboundary water quality that stand to threaten salmon habitat in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has included in the Senate version of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations package for fiscal year 2019 currently being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee, a $1.5 million fund to cover stream gauges to monitor water quality on transboundary rivers, a one million dollar increase from fiscal year 2017 funding levels. It also direct the U.S. Geological Survey to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes and other agencies to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.

The correspondence requesting that the State Department deliver a strong message to Global Affairs Canada during bilateral talks in Ottawa, Ontario drew kudos from campaign director Jill Weitz of Salmon Beyond Borders. Weitz said that development of large-scale open pit mines in British Columbia is moving “at a mind-blowing pace, while the cleanup of mines like the bankrupt Tulsequah Chief, which has been polluting the Taku River watershed for more than 60 years, is at a seemingly constant stand-still.”

Hatchery Issues Back Up Before the Alaska Board of Fisheries

Comments on a proposal to limit production at the Valdez Fisheries Development Association hatchery are pouring in to the Alaska Board of Fisheries in advance of a work session scheduled for Oct. 15-16 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Prior to the Oct. 3 deadline, the board had received 272 comments for inclusion as record copies in board packets, and remarks are still coming in.

During the work mid-October session, board members will decide whether or not to accept agenda change requests (ARC) on when to consider specific proposals. While public comment will not be heard at the work session, there will be a town hall style public discussion at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.

Attracting the most comments is ACR 1, from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). Back in 2016, the board approved allowing the Valdez hatchery to incubate, rear and release 250 million pink salmon eggs. That total was increased by 20 million eggs for 2018. KRSA contends that the number of hatchery-produced pink salmon in Prince William Sound poses a threat to wild stocks of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska. It seeks to decrease the egg take that went into effect for 2018. In its agenda change request, KRSA argues that the board October meeting is well after the planned 20 million egg take increase.

A second agenda change request to cap statewide private non-profit salmon hatchery egg take capacity at 75 percent of the level permitted in 2000 was submitted by former fisheries board member Virgil Uphenour.

Opposition to ACR 1 and ACR 2 is coming in from a number of commercial fishermen, including Jerry McCune, president of Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU). McCune told the fisheries board in written comments that CDFU believes the statewide hatcheries are well managed and rely on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s research for management decisions for the future of all stocks. “It is imperative that hatchery production be science-based and driven by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s continued research,” McCune said. “Circumventing the permitting process for hatchery production by utilizing a political process, rather than a scientific one, is a breakdown of public trust and jeopardizes the future of Prince William Sound fisheries.”

CDFU recommends that the fisheries board receive an annual report from the statewide hatcheries and ADF&G staff, but that decision-making regarding hatchery production remain with the regional planning team and commissioner of ADF&G.

More work session meeting information and comments are available online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=10-15-2018&meeting=anchorage

Alaska Harvesters Sentenced on Tax Charges

Two harvesters from Southeast Alaska who owed more than $300,000 in income taxes from earnings on commercial fisheries will serve a year and a day in federal prison, under sentences handed down in US District Court in Juneau, Alaska.

Judge Timothy M. Burgess sentenced Archie W, Demmert III, 58 and Roseann L. Demmert, 61, on two counts of willful failure to pay income tax. As part of their plea agreements, the Demmerts will pay restitution to the IRS for the calendar years charged covering 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Demmerts both had commercial fishing permits for herring spawn on kelp, and Archie Demmert had an additional commercial fishing permit for a salmon purse seine. The Demmerts admitted in court that they earned income from commercial fishing for over a decade, from 2006 to 2014, but willfully chose not to pay over $300,000 in income taxes, excluding penalties and interest.

Court documents showed they had a long history, dating back to at least 1994, of avoiding most of their tax obligations, and have not made any payments toward their taxes to the present day. Instead they spent their money on travel and gambling in casinos.

The investigation, conducted by IRA criminal investigators, showed that the couple spent thousands of dollars gambling in casinos in Las Vegas and Washington, despite telling the IRS that they had no way of paying their tax bills, according to office of the US, Attorney District of Alaska.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Bristol Bay Sockeye Run Is Largest on Record

Commercial fishermen engaged in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery had a record year in 2018, and in more ways than one.

State biologists say the 2018 run of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon was the largest on record, dating back to 1893, and 69 percent above the 36.9 million average run of the last 20 years. It was also the fourth consecutive year that inshore sockeye runs exceeded 50 million fish, and 21 percent above the preseason inshore forecast of 51.3 million fish. In fact, runs to all districts except Egegik exceeded the preseason forecast. The commercial harvest of 41.3 million reds was 10 percent above the 37.6 million preseason forecast and the second largest harvest on record.

The fishery also met or exceeded all sockeye escapement goals, with a total bay-wide escapement of 21 million fish. Preliminary harvests for other Pacific salmon species in Bristol Bay calculated by ADF&G were 1.9 million chums, 218,998 humpies, 138,466 silvers and 41,696 Chinooks.

Ex-vessel values also reached record levels. The preliminary ex-vessel value of all salmon species in the Bay was $281 million, 242 percent above the 20-year average of $116 million, and 39 percent higher than the $202 million ex-vessel value of the 1990 harvest. The 43.5 million harvest of all species was the second largest in the history of the Bay, surpassed only by the 45.4 million salmon of 1995. The 41.3 million sockeye harvest came second to the 1995 salmon harvest.

Statewide as of Oct. 1 the wild salmon commercial harvest stood at 113,400,000 fish, including more than 50 million sockeyes, 40 million humpies, 20 million chum, 3.5 million coho and 240,000 kings. More than 75 million of those fish came from Alaska’s central region, 21 million from Southeast Alaska, 14.6 million from the westward region and 2.3 million from the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Oliver Replaces Balsiger on IPHC

NOAA Fisheries announced on Sept. 27 that Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Chris Oliver would replace Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska, as the alternative federal commissioner on the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

Oliver, former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, oversees the management and conservation of the nation’s recreational and commercial fisheries.

Under the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, the US is represented on the IPHC by three commissioners who are appointed by the president, including one who must be a NOAA official.

The substitution came on the heels of the reappointment in early September of Robert Alverson (Seattle, Wash.) manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, and the appointment of sportfishing lodge owner Richard Yamada (Juneau, Alaska) who replaces Linda Behnken (Juneau, Alaska), executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. Yamada, a veteran of the charter fishing industry is the first person in the sport fishing industry to be named to the council.

Season Proves Another Record Breaker for NSSP

Record coho and chum salmon runs and continued robust markets for red king crab and halibut added up to another record-breaking season for Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) and infused $8.6 million into communities in Alaska’s Norton Sound region.

NSSP, a subsidiary of Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., paid out $6.4 million to 219 salmon, crab and halibut harvesters. Another $2.2 million was disbursed to 254 seasonal workers in processing plants, at buying stations and on tender vessels.

“It proved to be an incredible season,” said NSEDC Board Chairman Dan Harrelson.

The parent company is one of six community development quota groups in Alaska who were established to provide a portion of fishery quotas in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands exclusively for 65 eligible western Alaska villages.

NSSP received a record 3.6 million pounds of salmon from its small boat fishermen that added up to an ex-vessel value of just over $4 million, shattering last year’s harvest record of 2.5 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of nearly $2.8 million. Silvers harvesters delivered 1.8 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of $2.5 million. NSSP also purchased nearly 1.7 million pounds of chum valued at $1.35 million.

Fifty-two crabbers brought in 321,047 pounds of red king crab worth $2,026,026 and halibut deliveries from 15 harvesters totaled 66,471 pounds valued at $387,912.

NSSP manager William “Middy” Johnson credited the record season to the coho and chum harvest. “Crab and halibut quotas were down, and their markets remained steady, but the coho and chum runs were strong.” Johnson said. “Norton Sound salmon fishers set their nets with every opening, so we not only had a record salmon harvest, but individual fishers had record seasons. These men and women have proven that if fishers are given the opportunity, they will work hard, set, pull and deliver.”

Commercial fishermen delivered directly to NSSP processing plants in Unalakleet and Nome, plus buying stations in Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin and Savoonga.

Citizen’s Coalition Sues Over Salmon Habitat Issues

A state of Alaska decision denying a citizen group’s request for an instream flow water reservation for waters in the Chuitna watershed of Southcentral Alaska has prompted a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court.

This past week, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition filed an appeal to the decision reached by Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack against granting that reserve to protect wild salmon habitat. Mack said he had to take into consideration what is in the public interest in this case, which initially involved a proposed coal mine on lands owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and if there is a need to issue an instream flow water reservation. In this case, the need was not there, he explained.

At the time the coalition first proposed the water reserve, PacRim Coal LP, a Delaware-based corporation owned by a Texas-based energy company, had plans to build what would have been the largest strip mine in Alaska. Their plans would have included destruction of salmon habitat in the Chuitna watershed. Litigation between supporters of the project, including the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and opponents, including wild salmon harvesters and environmental groups, goes back over nine years.

In March 2017, PacRim advised the state of Alaska that it was suspending its effort to get permits for the mine, due to an investment effort failure.

“It’s just not fair,” said Ron Burnett, president of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “The state says mining companies can get rights to take water out of streams permanently, but regular citizens can’t get rights to keep water in our streams for fish. That’s plain wrong.”

DNR did grant the requested instream flow right to the citizens coalition in 2015, but mining, oil and gas corporations appealed the decision. Finally, last December, Mack issued his decision, saying that because the coal company had relinquished its leases, such changed circumstance warranted an entirely new decision. In late September, Mack issued his new decision denying the request to keep water in the streams on grounds that the coal company had pulled out and there was no current competing interest for the water.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Alaska APOC Wrestles with New Salmon Initiative Allocation

With just weeks to go before the Nov. 6 general election, opponents of an Alaska ballot initiative to create a new regulatory system to manage fish habitat are filing a new complaint alleging violations by backers of the initiative.

The complaint filed by Stand for Alaska Vote No on 1 with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) alleges that several groups campaigning in support of the initiative have violated state campaign finance laws and regulations by not disclosing the source of their funding.

The allegations target three environmental groups, including The Alaska Center. According to the complaint these groups “failed to report the true source of the dark money they have received from Lower 48 non-profit entities that are used to launder large outside donations into respondents’ campaign in support of Ballot Measure 1.”

The APOC held a special hearing on Sept. 25 that lasted for several hours. A final decision is expected on Oct. 3.

Stand for Alaska Vote No on 1, whose campaign resources total more than $9 million, counts among its financial supporters the oil and gas and mining industries, including backers of the Pebble mine.

Yes for Salmon’s campaign funds amount to about $1 million, including in-kind contributions from conservation and environmental groups.

The new complain comes on the heels of an APOC decision just a week earlier to fine Stand for Alaska $1,925 for violating a rule that requires an organization contesting an initiative to clearly state its opposition to the initiative in its name.

Stand for Alaska Vote No on 1 started out as simply “Stand for Alaska.”

Harvest of Sockeye, Chum and Silvers Slowing

The season may be slowing, but the fish are still running. Slightly more than 150,000 salmon were harvested in Alaska last week, including 70,000 keta, 60,000 coho and 20,000 sockeyes. That’s according to Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, who prepares the weekly salmon harvest updates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The year-to-date harvest of about 17.4 million keta salmon is 28 percent lower than 2017’s pace but similar to the five-year average.

Coho harvests of about 3.4 million, is a third lower than 2017 and 29 percent below the five-year average, with only a week or two of silver salmon fishing remaining.

A minimal number of pink or Chinook salmon were harvested in Alaska last week.

Evridge said that few additional sockeye are expected to be harvested this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) preliminary summary for Bristol Bay describes this year’s harvest as the largest on record, measured by value and size of the return.

All this brought the 2018 preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest as of Sept. 25 up to 110,643,000 wild salmon delivered to processors, including more than 50 million sockeyes, nearly 40 million humpies, more than 17 million chum, 3.4 million silver and 223,000 kings.

On a regional basis, those preliminary ADF&G catch totals include over 75 million salmon in the central region, including Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound; 18.5 million fish for Southeast Alaska; nearly 15 million for the Westward region, including Kodiak, the Aleutians and Alaska Peninsula; and 2.3 million salmon for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Proposal to Privatize Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council has received a proposal urging that after nearly three decades of efforts to restore environment damaged by a massive oil spill in Prince William Sound that the council switch from government to private non-profit status.

Establishing an EVOS Restoration Foundation would remove conflict of interest issues of government agencies funding themselves, says marine conservationist Rick Steiner of Oasis Earth, an environmental consulting entity in Anchorage, Alaska. Steiner was a marine conservation professor with the University of Alaska stationed in Cordova at the time of the spill.

The move to a private non-profit is necessary to refocus primarily on restoring the injured environment, Steiner said in a letter to the council this past week. He acknowledges some notable successes, such as the habitat protection program, but says agencies tend to look at the EVOS process in terms of what they consider may be in their immediate self-interest, rather than how to best assist environmental recovery.

Steiner also notes that all six of the council’s trustees have full time government jobs and simply can’t focus on EVOC restoration with the effort it demands.

The current trustees including Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten, Alaska Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Larry Hartig, Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, NOAA Regional administrator for Alaska Jim Balsiger, Chugach National Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron, and Steve Wackowski, senior advisor for Alaska Affairs to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Elise Hsieh, executive director of the council, acknowledged that the council had received Steiner’s proposal, but did not say when it might be considered by the council, whose next meeting is set for Oct. 17 in Anchorage.

NPFMC, AK Board of Fisheries Plan Joint Meeting

Federal fisheries officials have announced an upcoming meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council with the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Oct. 17 in Anchorage, Alaska, to discuss issues of joint concern, including salmon fishery management in Cook Inlet.

Also up for discussion will be a status report on Southeast Chinook salmon management, the status of Pacific cod stocks, an overview of total allowable catch allocation and federal management of Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands cod, an update on the council initiative of BSAI cod fishery participation, an update on council action of Aleutian Islands cod community and shoreside processor protections, an overview of state management of Pacific cod fisheries, and a review of state-managed Pacific cod proposals.

Public comment letters should be sent either electronically to the council’s executive director, David Witherell, at David.witherell@noaa.gov or mailed to North Pacific Fishery Management Council 605 W. 4th Ave., Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501-2252.

The agenda is subject to change. The latest version is posted at http://www.npfmc.org

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Project will Help Keep Whales from Depredating Longline Gear

Longline harvesters in Southeast Alaska are embarked on development of a new user-friendly tool to detect sperm whales and avoid depredation on longline gear.

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) was awarded a one-year, $245,000 grant from the NOAA Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program to adapt towed array hydrophone systems that can spot whales up to eight miles away and then share this information between a network of fishermen.

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration of fishermen, NOAA fishery managers, university-based biologists and hydrophone equipment developers building on prior work by the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Network (SEASWAP) during a 2016 pilot study.

There are three stages to this project. The first involves use of 2016 field data to improve automated detection/localization functions, improve the user interface, incorporate automated real time sharing of whale detection data to allow avoidance and upgrade existing SEASWAP hydrophone hardware. Phase two will focus on field testing the upgraded software/hardware on commercial fishing vessels, before incorporating the systems into ALFA’s whale avoidance network.

“Sperm whale depredation on longline gear poses an economic challenge to fishermen and complicates stock assessment for fisheries managers,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA. “Fishermen need tools to avoid whale depredation and this support from NOAA’s BREP will allow us to create fishermen- and whale-friendly tools.”

ALFA Research Director Dan Falvey noted that ALFA’s goal is to provide harvesters with an effective means of detecting sperm whalers before setting gear, to facilitate sharing that information with a network of fishermen and assist the fleet with avoiding sperm whale depredation. “With support from the NOAA Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program, we hope to turn research oriented towed array hydrophone systems into a plug and play tool for the longline fleet,” he said.

Pacific Salmon Commission Reaches New Coastwide Agreement

A new 10-year harvest agreement between the United States and Canada has been reached at the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Under the new Pacific Salmon Treaty every participating jurisdiction accepted a reduction in harvest, unlike recent treaties in which Alaska bore the bulk of the burden. According to the terms of the new agreement, Alaska sustains a 7.5 percent reduction, compared with 12.5 percent cut back for Canada, and diminutions ranging from 5 to 15 percent for Oregon and Washington. The agreement is now under legal review by the respective ministry in Canada and the US State Department, prior to ratification.

The treaty covers salmon fisheries on transboundary waterways flowing to Southeast Alaska, northern British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Separate negotiations are currently underway for the Fraser River while talks for the Yukon River take place only when both countries agree that there is a need for them.

“For the first time since the treaty was originally negotiated in 1985, Alaska’s diverse treaty team unanimously approved the final deal,” said Pacific Salmon Commissioner and Alaska Department of Fish and Game Deputy Director Charles Swanton. “It speaks volumes that salmon subsistence users, seafood industry leaders, commercial fishermen, and recreational representatives all ended up endorsing this deal,” said Swanton.

As a result of this agreement, harvests will increase proportionally when abundance increases. New accountability provisions advocated by the 59-member Alaska treaty team enact limits on fish available for harvest relative to how many salmon return that year.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said that the agreement would protect the health and sustainability of salmon stocks and guarantee Alaska’s ability to directly manage its fisheries without federal interference. Walker met with fishing groups opposed to this treaty and took their message to a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce to explore the option of a one-year delay, but that did not prove feasible.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she support the terms of the agreement and would continue to push for robust funding to sustain its implementation and support necessary mitigation to ensure that all parties meet their treaty obligations.

Alaska Wild Salmon Season Draws to a Close

Commercial harvests of wild salmon for 2018 in Alaska are nearing an end, with about 500,000 salmon harvested in the past week, putting the overall preliminary harvest total at 110,450,000 fish. That total accounts for upwards of 50 million sockeyes, 39 million pinks, 17 million chums, 3.3 million cohos and 223,000 kings.

Fisheries economist Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, says in his latest weekly report to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that Alaska’s 2018 pink salmon harvest is about six percent above 2016 levels, but well below the 2018 forecast of about 70 million humpies.

In the wake of two strong weeks of keta harvest, production in that fishery has slowed, with the past week yielding some 120,000 fish. The year-to-date keta numbers are about one third lower than 2017 and 13 percent below the five-year average, Evridge wrote.

Year-to-date coho harvests are 33 percent lower than a year ago, with only two more weeks of production remaining. Few Chinooks have been caught in recent weeks, and year-to-date production is now seven percent lower than a year ago. In sockeye fisheries, the last week’s addition of 113,000 salmon brought the red salmon harvest over the 50 million fish mark.

ADF&G’s Hartill Will Join American Seafoods

Trent Hartill, federal fisheries coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), will join American Seafoods Company in Seattle, Wash., in late October as the company’s vice president of fisheries and sustainability.

The veteran ADF&G biologist said that his new role will be tracking legislative and regulatory developments in state and federal bodies.

Hartill has been with the state agency for a decade, predominantly with the extended jurisdiction section. His responsibilities have also included serving as an alternate for ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten at meetings of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Earlier, he was a management biologist for groundfish and shellfish at Kodiak and Dutch Harbor, and prior to that a management biologist for salmon and herring on the Alaska Peninsula.

NFWF Offers $1.5 Million in Fishing for Energy Grants

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded seven new grants totaling $1.5 million on behalf of Fishing for Energy partners Covanta Energy Corp. and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. The goal is to provide free solutions for fishermen to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear and reduce the presence of such gear in and around coastal waterways. Three of the seven recipients have Pacific Northwest ties.

The grants include $140,568 to the College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science for a Dungeness crab trap biodegradable hinge escape mechanism. The project aims at reducing ecological and economic impacts associated with lost gear in coastal Washington and Alaska. The group will incorporate this innovative mechanism into crab traps, to test an effective, inexpensive mechanism to disarm derelict traps.

Another $174,913 was awarded to Natural Resources Consultants to remove up to 30 derelict gillnets from marine waters in Puget Sound, Washington. The project will clear areas of historically high concentrations of derelict nets to protect critical habitats for listed species, including Chinook salmon, bocaccio rockfish, yellow-eye rockfish and marbled murrelet.

A third grant of $213,627 was awarded to Island Trails Network of Kodiak, Alaska, to remove derelict fishing gear from prioritized locations in the Kodiak archipelago to reduce entanglement and mortality of whales, Stellar sea lions and other marine mammals, and to make more people aware of the impact of entangling debris.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Salmon Hatcheries Back on Agenda for Alaska Board of Fisheries

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will revisit salmon hatchery issues on October 16 following the conclusion of their scheduled October 15 work session at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The meeting will include reports by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, followed by a town hall style public forum moderated by the board with open public participation.

The fisheries board announced the timing of that special session on September 11. The regular work session will address agenda change requests (ACR).

Among the 11 ACRs to be considered are two that would cap hatchery production. The first, from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, proposes to prohibit Valdez Fisheries Development Association from incubating, rearing and releasing pink salmon resulting from additional egg take capacity permitted during 2018 and cap egg take capacity.

The second is from former fisheries board member Virgil Umphenour, now chairman of the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee. The Umphenour ACR would cap statewide private non-profit salmon hatchery egg take capacity.

A complete list of ACRs is available online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=10-15-2018&meeting=anchorage.The fisheries board will hold a joint protocol meeting with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on October 17 to discuss several ideas. The list includes the status of the council’s fisheries management plan development for Cook Inlet salmon in federal waters, the status of state management of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska, and Bering Sea Pacific cod abundance and management issues. Live audio streaming of the meetings can be found at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.

Ocean Cleanup Test Run Underway

The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit organization, has launched the world’s first ocean cleanup system. It will complete a two-week test run in the Pacific Ocean of the coast off California before continuing toward floating plastic debris in the Pacific Gyre between California and Hawaii.

Boyan Slat, founder and chief executive officer of The Ocean Cleanup, said that the launch of the equipment is an important milestone, but that the real celebration will come once the first plastic returned to shore. “For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from that day onwards, we’re taking it back out again,” he said.

Officials with Ocean Cleanup say their cleanup system, System 001, consists of a 600-meter-long U-shaped floating barrier with a 10-foot skirt designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it, like a giant Pac-Man. The debris will be funneled to the center of the system, moving slightly faster than the plastic trash.

According to the organization officials this will be the first time free-floating plastic will be successfully collected at sea. Upon returned to land, The Ocean Cleanup plans to recycle the materials into products and use the proceeds to help fund the cleanup operations.

Ocean Cleanup officials say they anticipate that the first plastic will be collected and returned to land within six months of the deployment. While the main objective is to prove the technology and start the cleanup, the secondary goal is to collect performance data to improve the design for future deployments. To that effect, the system is currently equipped with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to communicate its position to passing marine traffic and allow for extensive monitoring of the system itself and the environment.

Keta Catches Push Alaska’s YTD Salmon Harvest Above 110M

A commercial harvest boost of some two million more salmon, mostly keta, last week in Alaska has pushed the year-to-date harvest to more than 110 million fish, says Garrett Evridge, economist for the McDowell Groups in Juneau, Alaska.

Preliminary harvest figures posted daily by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game put the total catch as of September 11 at 111,729,000 fish. That total includes more than 50 million sockeyes, of which in excess of 41 million came from Bristol Bay. The pink salmon harvest of 39.5 million fish includes 23.8 million from Prince William Sound. Ten million of the nearly 19 million keta salmon caught statewide came from Southeast Alaska fishing communities.

Evridge notes in his weekly update to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that pink salmon production slowed last week with the addition of 390,000 fish, putting the year-to-date volume just under 40 million fish, six percent above 2016 numbers.

Keta salmon harvests have bumped up significantly over the past two weeks due to Southeast Alaska’s Crawfish Inlet production of three million fish. Statewide year-to-date keta volume is 21 percent below the 2017 pace and seven percent above the five-year average. Add to that 280,000 coho harvested last week, with about three more weeks of fishing expected, the year-to-date harvest is about a quarter below the five-year average.

Chinook production meanwhile was nearly equal to 2017 levels and 170,000 sockeyes were harvested last week primarily in Kodiak.

Effort Intensifies to Recycle Old Commercial Fishing Nets into New Products

A research scientist intent on helping the seafood industry responsibly dispose of old fish nets, preferably by recycling them into ingredients for or actual new products, met this past week in Anchorage, Alaska, with an eclectic group offering a variety of potential uses for tons of discarded nets.

“Key to success in this program is to see these old nets as raw material for new products” says former fisheries observer Nicole Baker, who now works with fisheries professors at the University of Washington.

Baker held her Alaska Net Hack Challenge last weekend in Anchorage – with a simultaneous event in Kodiak – at Anchorage Makerspace, a non-profit facility that provides everything from 3D printers and a professional laser cutter to electronics and woodworking equipment. The group, which included engineers and a federal fisheries analyst, designed and produced a variety of basic product samples ranging from stiff bristle deck brushes to filament for 3D printers, to display boards, backpacks and soccer goal nets. They also discussed how the nets could be used to create emergency shelters and cots for use in disaster areas.

Baker collaborated with Joe Cladouhos, director of the Anchorage-based Alaska Ocean Cluster initiative, and others including representatives from NOAA and a private equity fund. Cladouhos is also the founder and organizer for the Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint, or OTIS, developed in conjunction with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association and the University of Alaska’s Business Enterprise Institute.

Baker’s passion for net recycling stems from her days as fisheries observer traveling in and out of Dutch Harbor where she saw piles of discarded nets weighing thousands of pounds. Through her collaborative efforts in the industry some of those nets were shipped out last summer to Europe for processing into materials to make new products.

The next step will be to work on design details and determine which products could become economically viable.

Alaska Symphony of Seafood Seeks Product for Competition

Plans are shaping up for the 26th annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood. The call went out this week from Wrangell, in Southeast Alaska, for new value-added product competitors to enter either of four categories: retail, food service, beyond the plate and beyond the egg.

Judging and open house events are slated for Seattle, Washington on November 14 and in Juneau, Alaska, in mid-February.

First place winners and Seattle People’s Choice will be announced at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, which runs from November 18 -20. The overall grand prize, second and third place winners in each category and the Juneau People’s Choice winner will be divulged at the Juneau Legislative reception, which will be co-hosted by the United Fishermen of Alaska. First place winners will receive complimentary booth space and free airfare to participate in Seafood Expo North America in Boston in March.

“A significant portion of the value and health benefits in any fishery resource is found in the byproducts and roe,” said Julie Decker, executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which organizes the symphony competition.

Products are evaluated based on their packaging, presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success.

Entry forms and fees are due by October 19.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Secretary of State Makes Two Appointments to IPHC

NOAA Fisheries has announced two alternate commissioner appointments for the United States to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC): Bob Alverson, long-time manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, Wash., and Richard Yamada, of Auke Bay, Alaska, president of the Alaska Charter Association. Their terms run through January 31, 2019.

Alverson, who was reappointed, has served on the IPHC since 2014 filling in the commission seat reserved for a Washington resident. The Fishing Vessel Owners Association is a trade association formed in December of 1914 to represent halibut boat owners involved in longline fishing in the North Pacific who harvest halibut, sablefish, Pacific cod, rockfish and turbot.

Yamada, who will serve in the seat reserved for an Alaska resident, has been involved in recreational fishing in Alaska for over three decades as a business owner and recreational fishing advocate. He came to Alaska from Hawaii in 1972 as a Russian linguist in the US Air Force. In 1982 he opened Shelter Lodge in Juneau. He also served for five years as chairman of the board of United Anglers of Alaska. He replaces Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association who occupied the seat on an interim basis.

Final Scoping Report on Pebble Mine Released

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on August 31 released its final scoping report for the environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed Pebble mine, a massive copper, gold and molybdenum project that would be built in Southwest Alaska.

Having produced the report, the USACE now begins developing the draft environmental impact statement, which should be released in January 2019. That release will be followed by another public comment period, with the final EIS anticipated to be out in late 2019, according to the corps.

The report has drawn criticism from Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and United Tribes of Bristol Bay. In a statement released on September 4, Mike Friccero, of Kodiak, Alaska, a representative for Bristol Bay Commercial Fishermen and president of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, points out that based on the corps’ scoping report it is clear that “this administration has no interest in conducting an honest review of the impacts that the Pebble mine would have on Bristol Bay’s salmon and the people who depend on it. If they did, then they would not have produced such a cursory report that omits thousands of comments, including that of expert scientists and commercial fishermen.”

“The scoping report is just the latest example of how the US Army Corps of Engineers is steamrolling local communities and streamlining Pebble’s incomplete application at unprecedented speeds, despite the science being crystal clear that this type of mine is too destructive for the headwaters of the last great sockeye salmon fishery in the world, which produced a record-breaking return of more than 62 million sockeye this year,” said Robert Heyano, president of UTBB, a tribal consortium representing 15 Bristol Bay tribal governments, which comprise over 80 percent of the region’s population.

Bristol Bay fishermen had asked that the analysis consider the socioeconomic impacts for their communities in Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and other states, as the fishery draws harvesters nationwide. There is no mention of this analysis in either the fishery impacts or socioeconomic sections.

“Residents of lower Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula communities had also asked the USACE to consider the downstream impacts, both to the fishery resource and the fishery economy, but these comments are not mentioned in either the fishery impacts or socioeconomic impacts sections of the report,” Heyano added.

The complete scoping report and further details about the corps’ timeline on related work can be viewed online at https://pebbleprojecteis.com.

Comment Now on Federal Funds for 2016 Pink Salmon Disaster Fund

The state of Alaska is seeking public comment on how to distribute $56.3 million in federal funds allocated to those impacted by the 2016 Prince William Sound fish salmon fisheries disaster.

The money is part of the $200 million in disaster relief allocated by the Secretary of Commerce in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Fisheries in Washington, California, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean will also share in the overall fund.

Harvesters, processors and people impacted have until September 18 to tell state officials how they think the money should be allocated.

The state has developed a draft distribution plan for the funds administered through the Pacific States Marine Commission, in consultation with the Alaska regional office of NOAA. It calls for portions of the money to go to fishery participants, processors, municipalities as well as research. Now the state wants to hear from impacted users and user groups.

To view the proposed distribution plan and enter public comments go to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishing.2016_pinksalmon_disaster_relief_fund.

Fish Oil Supplement in Pregnancy Linked to Increase in Lean and Bone Mass

A study published in The BMJ concludes that fish oil supplements given in the later stages of pregnancy are associated with a higher body mass index in children in the first six years of life.

The article notes that prior studies in animals have shown that supplementing the diet with fish oil during pregnancy affects the development of fat cells. Human trials, however, have shown that pregnant women with a higher intake of fish oil give birth to higher birth weight infants, but the impact of these children in later life has been unclear.

A team of researchers based in Denmark and the United Kingdom examined the effect of fish oil supplements during the pregnancies of women on the growth and body composition of children later in life. They found in measuring height, weight, head and waist measurements 11 times from birth to age six that those given the fish oil supplements sustained higher body mass index during that period.

Researchers concluded that the body composition at age six in children given fish oil supplements was characterized by a proportional increase in lean, bone and fat mass suggesting a general growth stimulating effect.

The BMJ, previously known as the British Medical Journal, is one of the world’s oldest general medical journals. The study can be viewed online at https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3312.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Global Fisheries Could See More Profit Despite
Climate Change

Sustainable harvesting of seafood globally – over the next 75 years – could provide more food and profits, despite warming seas, if adaptive management prices are implemented, according to a report on international research efforts by Japan’s Hokkaido University.

The report published on August 29 in the journal Science Advances is also available online through the American Association for the Advancement of Science website EurekAlert.

Researchers said their conclusions take into consideration the projected fish populations decline as the ocean warms and habitats change.

The study points out that under a best management scenario, some major fish and shellfish stocks that are commercially harvested will grow and become more profitable offsetting others projected to shrink or even disappear. It also indicates that on a global average, profitability could rise by 14 billion US dollars and harvest by 217 million metric tons above today’s levels.

In the model used for the study, growth would be achieved under the projected moderate warming of 2.2 degrees Celsius (3.9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average global temperatures by 2100. But if temperatures rise further, global fish harvest and profits are expected to decline below today’s levels even with best management practice in place.

Their message, researchers said, is that oceans can continue to be a source of healthy seafood and sustainable livelihoods for billions of people only if actions are taken to manage stocks well and limit the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

“By working toward development of adaptive fishery management strategies and committing to international agreements for climate change mitigation and emission reductions, the future may be overall brighter than so far anticipated,” said Jorge Garcia Molinos an aquatic ecologist at Hokkaido University. Still this potentially brighter future appears unattainable for nearly half of the 915 species and mixed groups of species analyzed, and the tropics will be especially hard hit, he indicated.

Researchers said their work represents the first such study incorporating both climate change projections and alternative management approaches into predictions of future fishery status.

Participants in the study were from Hokkaido University, the University of California Santa Barbara, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Their work was funded by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology and three private US foundations.

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest 31 Percent Below Forecast

A preliminary review of 2018 Alaska commercial salmon fishing season released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) in late August notes the harvest is 31 percent below the preseason forecast of 147 million fish and not likely to recover by season’s end.

Most of that shortfall has come from poor pink salmon returns to streams and rivers flowing into the Gulf of Alaska where the humpy harvest is about half of the preseason prediction. As of August 28, the preliminary harvest estimated by ADF&G was 105,862,000 salmon, including 49.6 million sockeyes, 38 million pinks, 15.4 million chums, 2.3 million cohos and 234,000 kings.

State biologists said several major sockeye salmon stocks had unexpected run timing this year. The peak run of Kvichak River sockeyes in the Bristol Bay watershed was 10 days later than average, making it the latest run since 1956. More than half of Kenai River late-run sockeyes returned in August, and Copper River sockeyes came back in three distinct pulses, the third happening in mid-July. These unusual run timing events created uncertainty for fishery managers and results in foregone harvest opportunity for commercial fishermen.

Still the fishing closures and restrictions allowed enough salmon passage to meet or exceed many established escapement goals, notably Yukon River summer and fall chum salmon, Canadian border king salmon passage, Kuskokwim River king salmon, Copper River sockeye and king salmon, all sockeyes and cohos in Upper Cook Inlet, Kenai River late-run kings and Unuk, Alsek and Keta river king salmon. Meeting those escapement goals bodes well for the probability that future salmon returns will provide harvestable surplus for all harvesters, the report reads.

ADF&G also noted that the three largest Alaska commercial salmon harvests to date occurred between 2013 and 2017. Back in the mid-1970s, harvests between 100 million and 150 million fish, like 2018, were far more common than harvests exceeding 200 million fish. The latter occurring only in seven seasons since 1975.

One of the highlights of the season was the Bristol Bay fishery, which saw the second largest sockeye harvest on record with nearly 42 million fish. It was the region fourth consecutive season with a harvest exceeding 35 million sockeyes. Also, on the plus side are Norton Sound, which is on track to exceed last year’s record coho salmon harvest, and the Kotzebue Sound with its chum harvest that should be among the top four ever recorded, biologists said.

ASMI/McDowell Group Notes Harvest Similarity to 2016

The latest weekly harvest report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Association prepared by McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, notes that the state’s year-to-date harvest of some 105 million salmon is nearly identical to 2016 and generally below expectation.

The report was prepared by research analyst Garrett Evridge, a key member for the Seafood Market Information Service, conducted by McDowell on behalf of ASMI.

Evridge notes that pink salmon harvests to date are about four percent above the 2016 pace but remain slow compared to historical even-year harvests, with Southeast Alaska at 67 percent below the typical even-year numbers. The year-to-date keta volume is about a third lower than last year and 10 percent below the five-year average, while production in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region continues to exceed expectations. Through August 28, the AYK region harvested 2.1 million fish, including 1.8 million chum, 297,000 coho, 76,000 pink, 3,000 sockeye and 1,000 kings. Of that total 727,000 chum came from the Lower Yukon River, 659,000 from the Kotzebue area and 231,000 from Norton Sound.

Evridge’s report also indicates that about 2.3 million silver salmon have been harvested statewide this year, roughly a quarter below the five-year average, and that relatively strong Chinook fishing over the past two weeks has pushed the year-to-date total of kings to near the 2017 level.

At Kodiak, the sockeye harvest last week totaled about 340,000 fish, the highest weekly harvest this year for that region.

Alaska’s Chignik Salmon Fishery Declared an Economic Disaster

The declaration by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on August 23 includes the communities of Chignik, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville and Ivanof Bay, all of which depend on the availability of salmon for subsistence and commercial harvest.

“Chignik is used to catching more than a million sockeye every year,” Walker said. “This year they caught 128 fish. Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch. It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover; that’s what we’re here for.”

The disaster declaration allows the Alaska Legislature to appropriate money for assistance grants and allows the governor to make budget recommendations to legislators to accelerate the region’s existing capital projects and provide funding for new ones.

Walker has also directed the state’s Division of Economic Development to commit as many resources as possible to assist salmon permit holders participating in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program unable to meet terms of their loans because of the low harvest.

“Declaring an economic disaster increases the ability of the state’s Division of Economic Development to work with commercial fishermen impacted by the disaster,” noted Micaela Fowler, a policy analyst with Alaska Office of Management and Budget. “It allows for greater flexibility to repayment (of loan) plans.” And while an appropriations bill is needed to fund capital projects, economic disaster stats would allow for additional flexibility with procurement and hiring practices once the money is appropriated, she added.

Recycling Solutions Sought for Commercial Fishing Nets

The Alaska Net Hack Challenge set for September 8–9 in Anchorage and Kodiak will engage participants in creating prototype designs for products to be made from recycled fish nets.

The challenge was designed by Nicole Baker, a former North Pacific groundfish fishery observer and researcher at the University of Washington. Baker is also the founder of www.netyourproblem.com, an entity working with fishermen and recyclers to get thousands of pounds of discarded fishing nets turned into new plastic products.

Through her website, Baker is connecting with fishermen with old nets that need recycling, recyclers looking for raw materials, net manufacturers who want to be involved in responsible disposal of their products, and others who might offer financial support for this massive recycling endeavor.

Last summer Baker’s efforts helped ship nearly 240,000 pounds of nets from Dutch Harbor to the Danish company Plastix, which refines and pelletizes plastics for reuse in many items, including water bottles.

Baker is co-hosting the challenge with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association’s Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, whose goal is to create new businesses in Alaska and thousands of new jobs, based on the Blue Economy. In addition to the design contest, speakers Peter Murphy, the Alaska regional coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program and Ky Holland of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization, will discuss opportunities for entrepreneurial small businesses.

Baker said she is hopeful that people will start looking at those massive piles of old fishing nets as a resource that can be recycled into useful and valuable products.

More information on BEFA’s Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative can be found online at https://www.bsfaak.org/alaska-ocean-cluster-initiative.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lack of ‘Cold Pool’ Observed in Southern Bering Sea Trawl Survey

For the past 37 years, annual trawl surveys of the southern Bering Sea have identified a “cold pool” south of St. Lawrence Island, a natural barrier that kept Alaska Pollock and Pacific cod from swimming beyond that area. This year there was none.

“We did find Pollock and cod all the way up to the Bering Strait, but they were not concentrated in the normal areas,” says Lyle Britt, a veteran research fisheries biologist with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center who was involved in the survey. “It appears that conditions are such now that we are moving into a warming phase and there is not clear evidence that we will move back into a cold phase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a cold pool… because of the influx of climate change and weather,” he said.

The annual surveys, used in part by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to determine commercial groundfish allocations, collect data on everything, and that data, said Britt, goes into models that help assess the health of the habitat. Researchers trawl the bottom of each of dozens of measured squares in what has been considered a closed ecosystem and as they march across they expect fish to move around but that cold pool is critical to movement of the fish.

“Pollock and cod don’t want to go into the cold pool, because below 2 degrees Celsius their metabolic rates go down, so they can’t process food as well, they can become lethargic and they are not (long term) as reproductively fit,” Britt added. “We started realizing we were not seeing cold pool waters and there was not much ice last year. We also started to see that catches of Pollock and cod were lower than what we would historically see.”

Britt said the whole ecosystem is starting to look different, not just the commercial fishery, but cautioned that at this time the only hard data they have is the temperature data. “It is alarming to not have a cold pool for the first time in 37 years of the survey,” he said. “This can have some effect on distribution of the fishes, but until we have all the results from the survey processed, I don’t have any hard numbers to give you.”

Meanwhile there are no firm answers on whether the biomass of these groundfish has declined or these fish have moved outside the survey area.

Transboundary Mine Negotiations Criticized for Missing the Target

Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, have thanked Canadian government officials for their attention to transboundary mining issues, but say key areas of concern remain.

In their July 31 letter to Minister of Environment Catherin McKenna and Minister of International Trade James Carr, made public on August 21, they identified reclamation of the Tulsequah Chief mine site as one of those key areas, and urged their help in coordinating and facilitating British Columbia’s efforts to do so. They also urged the support of Canada’s government in establishing and funding a joint water quality monitoring program for salmon rich transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska.

The Tulsequah Chief mine, which operated from 1950 to 1957, and is currently in receivership, has been leaking acid mine drainage ever since.

Salmon Beyond Border, which represent commercial and sport fishermen and tribal groups on both sides of the border, thanked Mallott and Sullivan for writing the letter, but said they seem to have lost sight of the real issue. That is, they said, the need for binding international agreements and financial assurances to protect shared waters, rather than the continued pursuit of non-binding understandings that the group says hinder real action and liability.

Salmon Beyond Borders Campaign Director Jill Weitz said Teck Resources has been required to post more money in financial assurances for its one Alaska mine than for all five of its British Columbia coal mines that drain into Montana, despite their adverse impact on fish downstream in US rivers. Weitz also noted that Canadian taxpayers ended up footing the $40 million cleanup bill for the Imperil Metals’ Mount Polley disaster in the Fraser River watershed, which flows into the ocean just north of the Washington state line.

2018-2019 BOF Proposal Book for Alaska Available

A compilation of the proposals that the Alaska Board of Fisheries will consider during its 2018-2019 meeting schedule are now available in the new proposal book, which can be downloaded from http://boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov.

The board accepted and will review 173 proposals during its regulatory meetings, including matters related to Alaska Peninsula/Chignik/Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands Pacific cod; Bristol Bay finfish, Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim finfish, Alaska Peninsula/Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands/Chignik finfish, and statewide finfish.

Alaska Peninsula/Chignik/Bering Sea-Aleutian Island Pacific Cod issues are on the agenda for the October 18-19 meeting in Anchorage. Bristol Bay finfish discussions will take place on November 28 to December 4 in Dillingham, and Arctic/Yukon/Kuskokwim finfish will be reviewed January 15-19 in Anchorage.

The board will be back in Anchorage for the last two of this cycle’s meetings.

Alaska Peninsula/Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands/Chignik finfish are on the agenda February 21-27, while statewide finfish general provisions and supplemental issues are on tap March 8-11, 2019.

The proposals constitute proposed regulatory changes for the identified regions and species. For a copy of the proposed regulation changes contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Boards Support Section, P.O. Box 115526, Juneau, AK 99811-5526 or call 907-465-4110.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wild Salmon Deliveries to Processors in Alaska
Top 93 Million Fish

Commercial deliveries of wild salmon to processors in Alaska rose by eight million fish in the past week, bringing the total estimated catch to about 93.6 million fish through August 14.

Deliveries included 48,575,000 sockeyes, 30,919,000 humpies, 12,462,000 chums, 1,440,000 cohos and 202,000 Chinooks.

The state’s central region, Bristol Bay in particular, with Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, brought in nearly 70 million of those salmon. The Bristol Bay harvest alone came to a preliminary harvest estimate of 43.5 million fish, including nearly 42 million sockeyes, while Prince William Sound brought in upwards of 23.7 million fish. However, the catch continued to lag well behind most forecasts.

McDowell Group economist Garrett Evridge noted in his weekly report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that the year-to-date catch is five percent behind 2016 and 40 percent below the five-year average. With only three weeks of fishing left, the year-to-date statewide pink salmon volume is roughly equal to 2016, a year in which economic disaster declarations were issued, Evridge said. Pink salmon harvests in Prince William Sound and Kodiak were about double the year-to-date 2016 volume, while Southeast is two-thirds lower.

Keta harvests of 12 million fish so far are about 20 percent lower than the five-year average, and sockeye production continues to be slow in Cook Inlet, Southeast and Chignik fisheries.

On the bright side, sockeye fillets were back in the coolers at Costco stores in Alaska, still at $9.95 a pound. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., had plenty of fresh wild caught salmon too, including sockeye fillets at $24.99 a pound, although not saying online where they were caught. Anchorage two top seafood retailers, New Sagaya and 10th & M Seafoods, also had fresh sockeyes for sale. New Sagaya had plenty of whole sockeyes at $5.99 a pound, while 10th & M offered fresh sockeye fillets at $10.95 a pound and fresh wild sockeye steaks for $7.95 a pound.

Hundreds Turn Out in Alaska to Celebrate
Wild Salmon Day

Hundreds of people flocked to events in nine Alaska communities on August 10 to chow down on barbecued wild salmon and learn more about the importance of maintaining healthy fish habitat.

The events, most free of charge, were also in support of an initiative to strengthen fish habitat protection standards.

Anchorage and Palmer events were hosted by The Alaska Center and included a barbecue, live music, family-friendly activities, as well as presentations on the importance of salmon habitat.

Those attending the Trout Unlimited event at Cooper Landing were asked to bring a dish to share. In Fairbanks, Tanana Valley Watershed Association hosted a floating film festival down the Chena River with talks about the importance of salmon to the Alaska lifestyle.

In Homer and Soldotna, a salmon barbecue, local salmon arts and crafts and other family-friendly activities were sponsored by Cook Inletkeeper, while in Juneau Salmon Beyond Borders provided food, libations and a silent auction.

The Sitka Seafood Festival, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust were hosts in Sitka, where the festivities included frilled salmon, a beer garden, and live music, while the Susitna River Coalition at Talkeetna entertained with a taste of wild salmon, games, a river walk and fish screen printing.

Wild Salmon Day was signed into law on May 8, 2016 by Gov. Bill Walker.

“Nearly all Alaskans are impacted by salmon in some way whether through subsistence, recreational, or commercial fishing, or just sheer appreciation for Alaska’s abundant wildlife,” the governor said. “HB 128 (establishing Wild Salmon Day) is intended to celebrate these uniquely Alaskan ways of life and share our appreciation for wild Alaskan salmon with the rest of the world.”

Alaska Supreme Court Approves Putting Salmon Initiative on November Ballot

The Alaska Supreme Court has reversed a lower court decision on the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative and ordered that it be placed on the November 6 general election ballots, except for two provisions that were ruled out by the judges.

In the decision handed down on August 8, the judges deleted two sentences on grounds that they would encroach on the discretion over allocation decisions delegated to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Alaskans are divided in their opinions on the Stand for Salmon initiative, for which proponents turned in some 49,500 signatures to the Division of Elections in Anchorage on January 16.

Initiative backers say it offers stronger protections for fish habitat. Opponents contend that it will have an adverse impact on business development.

Opposition to the initiative is led by Stand for Alaska, which includes eight Alaska Native regional corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and the ANCSA Regional Corp., as well as numbers businesses affiliated with the oil and gas and mining industries. The Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (BBFA) has also filed a brief in the Alaska Supreme Court opposing the initiative.

A complete list of Stand for Alaska supporters is posted online at https://www.standforak.com/coalition/. Stand for Alaska to date has raised upwards of $8 million, compare to less than $1 million by Stand for Salmon, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Major contributions totaling more than $1 million toward defeating the initiative came from BP Exploration Alaska, Donlin Gold, Teck Alaska (owner of the Red Dog Mine), Kinross Fort Knox and Sumitomo Metal mining, owner of the Pogo Mine.

According to Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, the supreme court decision “confirmed the state’s understanding of the initiative power and its limitations. That limitation extends to the legislature’s power to allocate the state’s resources – including fisheries and waters – among competing uses.”

In this case, said Lindemuth, “It would have prohibited development of any project that would substantially damage anadromous waters (i.e. waters that support migrating fish such as salmon) and presumed that all waters are anadromous unless proven otherwise. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the state that this effectively allocated use of the waters for fish to the exclusion of other uses, such as mining.”

Stand for Alaska meanwhile issued a statement saying the high court’s decision “validates just how flawed and poorly crafted the measure is” and reaffirmed its opposition to the initiative.

“The court severed two sentences on provisions that prohibit certain permitting decisions,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for the nonprofit environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska. “What that means is a decision to deny a permit is not required, but it is within the discretion of Fish and Game to deny a permit. Otherwise the rest of the initiative goes forward.”

Brown added, “If it passes it will mean we will have public notice and public comment and that the court also preserves the habitat protection standard, so for the first time we have standards that the Department of Fish and Game has to apply when they are making permitting decisions.”

UK Website Explores Women in Fisheries

Researchers in the United Kingdom have launched a new website, at https://women-fisheries.com/research/, to explore the role of women in fishing families on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

The study is examining how women contribute to the survival of both fishing families and the fishing industry and aim to shed light on women’s roles, identities and their well-being. Researchers also hope to learn how small-scale fishing families, using boasts under 10 meters (32.8 feet) are adapting to a changing environmental and economic climate.

“Listening to women’s stories is a central part of this research and the new website provides information about how people can sign up and take part,” said Madeleine Gustavsson, a research fellow at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health, who is leading the study. “We want to hear from as many women involved in fisheries as possible, whatever their roles might be.”

The website features a regularly updated news section where readers can follow the project’s progress, read about the latest research and hear about other efforts to improve recognition of women in fisheries on local and international levels.

Gusatavsson notes that while small scale vessels make up 80 percent of the fishing fleet in the UK they receive only four percent of the national fishing quota.

Project organizers are working closely with small scale fisheries harvesters and advocacy groups, including AKTEA (European network for women in fisheries and aquaculture), LIFE (Low Impact fishers of Europe) and the Coastal Producer Organization.

Those interested in contributing to the discussion are invited to email Gustavsson at m.c.gustavsson@exter.ac.uk, follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcgustavsson, or contact the Take Part page of the website.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Golden King Crab Fishery Under Way in Aleutians

The 2018–2019 Aleutian Islands golden king crab fisheries is under way, with a quota of 3,470,400 pounds of individual fishing quota (IFQ) and 385,600 pounds of community development quota (CDQ), for a total of 3.9 million pounds east of Adak.

West of Adak, there is a 2.5 million-pound quota, with 2,250,000 pounds for the IFQ harvesters and 250,000 pounds for the Adak community allocation (ACA).

Vessel registration got under way on July 29. The fishery began on August 1 and will remain open until April 30. Fishermen can concurrently harvest IFQ and CDQ golden king crab in the eastern Aleutian Islands or IFQ and ACA golden king crab in the western Aleutian Islands, but they may not be concurrently registered in both the eastern and western Aleutian Islands.

Catcher only vessels are required to carry an observer for 50 percent by weight of their harvested crab during each of three trimesters: August 1 to October 31, November 1 to January 31, and February 1 to April 30.

Last year’s quota for the area east of Adak was 2,979,000 pounds of IFQ and 331,000 pounds of CDQ, for a total of 3.3 million pounds. West of Adak, the 2017 quota was 2.2 million pounds, including 2,011.500 pounds of IFQ and 223,5000 pounds for the Adak Community Allocation.

Salmonfest Draws 8,000 Lovers of Music and Salmon Habitat

Salmonfest 2018 at Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, brought together more than 8,000 people for three days of music, food, fish and love. The event celebrates the connection of Alaskans to the fish and waters that provide their beloved resource.

Sixty-five bands performed on four stages in this annual late summer event that also promotes information on the importance of healthy salmon habitat and educates festival goers on projects that could potentially have adverse impact on critical habitat.

Salmon themes and signs protesting the Pebble mine were visible festival-wide. Headliner Brandi Carlile’s band and other musicians also sported stickers on their shirts in protest of the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed area.

“This is the population that can make a difference,” said Sam Snyder, the Wild Salmon Center’s senior campaign manager, whose focus this year is the Stand for Salmon Campaign backing the salmon initiative on the state’s general election ballot in November.

“We’ve got to protect the habitat,” Snyder said. “How do we maintain habitat and balance with resource development? Our fisheries are complicated.” These fish, he said, “are part of our economy, part of our culture.”

The eclectic crowd, from parents with babies in arms to grandparents from the Woodstock generation, meandered in the warm sunshine between informational booths manned by a variety of conservation and environmental entities to vendors hawking food and beverages, crafts and even massages.

“We love salmon,” said Dawnell Smith of Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with offices in Anchorage, Alaska. “We love clean waters. We want people to know what we do.”

The annual music festival is supported by and benefits two non-profits, the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper, both of Homer, Alaska.

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvest Climbs to
Nearly 85M

Deliveries of commercial wild Alaska salmon to processors reached nearly 85 million fish by August 7, including some 48 million sockeyes, over 24 million humpies, 11.5 million chums, nearly 1.1 million cohos and 198,000 Chinooks.

For the same period a year ago, the harvest included 53.6 million sockeyes, 25 million chums, 5.2 million cohos, and 262,000 kings. The pink salmon catch compared with 39 million caught for the same period in 2016, which was a disaster year for humpies.

“Bristol Bay remains the bright spot in Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries this summer,” notes Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, in a weekly summary report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “The Bristol Bay sockeye harvest was one of the best ever,” said Garrett, “but all other sockeye harvests in Alaska are well below the forecast.”

The focus of the industry has shifted to pink salmon, with the current week typically the peak harvest period for humpbacks. “Year-to-date pink harvest volume is comparable to 2016, but very slow by historical standards, particularly in Southeast Alaska,” he said.

With about one month of fishing remaining, year-to-date keta harvests statewide are 42 percent lower than a year ago and 20 percent behind the five-year average, although the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region continues to exceed its five-year average volume.

Evridge also notes that coho production year-to-date is 51 percent lower than 2017 and Chinook production is 15 percent behind as well.

The availability of wild Alaska sockeye salmon is slimming rapidly, not even mentioned online this week by the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash. In Anchorage, they have disappeared from the seafood department at Costco stores and were marked up to $19.95 a pound at Fred Meyer stores, which was $10 over the sale price two weeks earlier. 10th & M Seafoods still had fresh wild sockeye salmon steaks for $7.95 a pound and fresh sockeye salmon fillets for $10.95 a pound, while the online Anchorage purveyor FishEx was offering sockeye fillet portions for $29.95 a pound.

UW Releases Revised Quinn Book on Pacific Salmon and Trout

A revised edition of University of Washington fisheries professor Thomas Quinn’s book “The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout” has been published, complete with over 100 new photos and information gained since the first edition in 2005.

“This is a book really about the fish, not about what we have done to them,” said Quinn, whose initial intent was to write “a book specifically about the fish, their behavior, their ecology, their movement, what they eat, what eats them.”

Over the past 13 years since the first edition was published, there has been substantial research on salmon and trout, and Quinn decided it was time for an updated version of the book.

The first edition was mostly about salmon. The revised and updated book covers all aspects of the life cycle of Pacific salmon, trout and char fish in the Pacific with chapters about: homing migration from the open ocean through coastal waters and up rivers to their breeding grounds; courtship and reproduction; the lives of juvenile salmon and trout in rivers and lakes; migration to the sea; the structure of fish populations; and the importance of fish carcasses to the ecosystem. The book also includes information on salmon and trout transplanted outside their ranges.

Almost all the photos in the original book were from slides. The new edition contains several digital images, tables, figures and updated references.

“It’s everything you ever wanted to know about salmon and trout, with beautiful photos, for students, anglers, conservation groups, citizens who want to get involved in stream restoration,” he said.

There is also information throughout the book on the impact of climate change on these fish, with the topic specifically addressed in the last chapter.

What’s important to me is that people realize it is an effort to be informative; to be accurate, but accessible and also visually attractive, so people can pick it up and read it,” he said.

“The last edition came out in 2005. There have been a fair number of things we have learned since then,” he said. That new research includes much on the impact of climate change on fish, which he has been monitoring. “We had an inkling, but things have happened faster than I would have guessed,” he said.

The book may be preordered from the University of Washington press, the nonprofit book and multimedia publishing arm of the university, at https://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/QUIBE2.html.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

New Towing Vessel Regulations in Effect

As of July 20, 2018, all vessels engaged in towing – including fishing vessels towing other fishing vessels – are now required to comply with new towing vessel regulations, the Coast Guard announced. Certificates of inspection are to be issued to towing vessels in phases over the next four years. Coast Guard Sector Juneau and Sector Anchorage personnel worked with towing vessel operators throughout Alaska to prepare them to meet the deadline.

Lt. Cmdr. Mason Wilcox, chief of inspections for Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, noted that the operators they have communicated with have been receptive and working hard to ensure they are all in 100 percent compliance. “We appreciate them being proactive and their dedication to safety,” he said.

The regulations history dates back to passage of the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Act of 2004. The new regulations, referred to as subchapter M within Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, boost the existing requirements for firefighting and lifesaving equipment, establish standards for construction and arrangement of new construction vessels, and phase-in machinery and electrical standards over the coming decade.

For further information regarding towing vessel inspection regulations, contact:
• Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division – 1-907-463-2477 or email SectorJuneauInspections@USCG.mil;

• Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Inspections Division – 1-907-428-4200 or Anchorage.Inspections@USCG.mil;

• Coast Guard District Seventeen Towing Vessel Coordinator – 1-907-463-2823 or Samuel.E.Hatch2@USCG.mil

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Commercial Salmon Harvest in Alaska
Tops 73 Million Fish

More than 73 million salmon have been commercially harvested in Alaska so far this season, which is a third lower than the 2017 year-to-date harvest of 110 million fish.

The statewide sockeye harvest is seven percent lower than last year and nine percent above the five-year-average, according to Garrett Evridge, an economist with the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska. These numbers appear in his report for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

“While the Bristol Bay sockeye volume will be one of the highest on record, other sockeye fisheries continue to suffer this year,” Evridge wrote, “Chignik has recorded no landings and Southeast Alaska is 80 percent below the five-year average.”

The year-to-date pink salmon harvest is 15 percent behind 2016, due primarily to lagging harvest in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound and Kodiak. Harvesters have delivered some 5.8 million salmon to processors in Southeast Alaska, 15.5 million in Prince William Sound, and 1.5 million at Kodiak. The statewide keta harvest of 11 million fish is about 40 percent below 2017 and 14 percent behind the five-year average.

Meanwhile in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, keta salmon fishing is 27 percent above the five-year average. Coho production is 52 percent below the 2017 pace but there are still two more months of steady fishing ahead. The king salmon volume is 16 percent behind a year ago.

In western Alaska, fishermen harvested nearly five million salmon overall in the Alaska Peninsula, with the South Peninsula delivering more than three million fish.

Retail prices for wild Alaska sockeyes this past week ranged from $17.99 a pound for fillets when available at Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash., to $7.95 a pound for sockeye steaks and $10.95 a pound for sockeye fillets at 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage.

Economist Advises to Brace for Continuing Change in Seafood Industry

Economic success for specific wild fisheries in the future will depend on management that enables sustainability, efficiency, innovation and market orientation throughout the supply chain, according to fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp.

“Think in terms of the entire supply chain, with everyone in the supply chain depending on everyone else,” he advised during a presentation, in late July, to the biennial meeting of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade in Seattle, Wash. “And think broadly,” said Knapp, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, citing a World Bank report on the prospects for fisheries and aquaculture through 2030.

The report projects that aquaculture will produce about two-thirds of food fish, that China will consume nearly 40 percent of all seafood, and the production of tilapia and shrimp will more than double., In addition, it predicts that aquaculture will more than double in India, Latin America and Southeast Asia, while per capita consumption of fish in Sub-Sahara Africa will decline.

“The question is not just how much fish can we catch or grow, but how much fish do people want to buy,” he said. To that end he compared the differences between wild fisheries and aquaculture, noting for example that the potential for growth in aquaculture is high, while the potential for growth in wild fisheries is low. “There are also more communities historically dependent on wild fisheries who would be less receptive to innovation, compared to those historically less dependent, and more receptive to innovation,” he noted.

“Economic factors, particularly population and income growth, are likely to drive growth in aquaculture production and consumption and changes in the geographic distribution of production and consumption. Fish politics, meanwhile, will figure in total allowable catches, open access versus rights-based management, marine protected areas and quota allocations, while “regular” politics will impact trade, labor, immigration, environmental regulation and food safety” he added.

“My guess is that globally fish and aquaculture politics will gradually shift to enable fisheries and aquaculture to better respond to future opportunities and challenges” Knapp said.

He also added that changes in ocean conditions, including temperatures, currents and acidification, will also directly impact wild fisheries and aquaculture, as well as global food markets. And while resource uncertainty will remain a fundamental and possibly growing constraint to wild fisheries, aquaculture will be relatively less vulnerable to nature-driven changes.

Investigation Underway into Sinking of Fishing Tender in Bristol Bay

An investigation into the sinking of the 58-foot F/V Pacific Knight near Clark’s Point in Bristol Bay, Alaska – an incident in which one crew member was lost, while two others were rescued by good Samaritans from the F/V Amanda C – is underway.

According to the US Coast Guard an estimated 800 gallons of diesel and 300 gallons of hydraulic fluid were on board when the vessel sank on July 25. How much of that fuel spilled, creating a sheen on the water that prompted closure of the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay, is still undetermined.

The fishery was reopened on the afternoon of July 31, after two days of aerial surveys showed no visible sheen, according to Tim Sands, area management biologist at Dillingham for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

According to Todd Duke, general manager for Resolve Magone Marine Services (Alaska) Corp. in Anchorage, Alaska, it will take several weeks to remove the vessel. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans to attempt to refloat the vessel in future dive operations. Poor visibility, severe currents and deck gear have restricted dive operations.

Lone Fisherman, Inc. was identified as the responsible party for the Pacific Knight.

DEC officials said the vessel owner was working with the Coast Guard and had hired Resolve Magone. Sockeyes are still plentiful in the Nushagak district, with nearly 24 million of the red salmon harvested so far this season, and fishing still underway for pink and silver salmon.

At this time of year Nushagak Bay supports all five species of Pacific salmon, several commercially important ground fish species, marine mammals, sea birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and eagles. The shorelines west of Nushagak Bay are part of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

FN Online Advertising