Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Satellite Based Data Offers Footprint on Global Fisheries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Fisheries Face Dramatic Decline in Productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full paper at

Hardware Bundle Will Aid Reporting of Fisheries Harvests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft already sold the tablet and Bak USA worked with Smith to put together the bundle. More information is online at

2017 Alaska Harvest Included 47M Hatchery Salmon

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

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

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

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

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

A copy if the Alaska Salmon Fisheries Enhancement annual report for 2017 is online at

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Millions of Tons Southeast Asia Fish Diverted to Fishmeal Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington State Senator Holds Town Meeting

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

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

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

Trident, EPA Reach Settlement of Fish Waste Discharges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cod Wins Grand Prize at Alaska Symphony of Seafood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volcanoes, Eelgrass Suspect in Changing Salmon Habitat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The complete study, published in journal ScienceDirect, can be found online at

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