Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Expedition Cruise Line Powered by Dead Fish

A Norwegian expedition cruise line is introducing liquid biogas, a fossil-free, renewable gas produced from dead fish and other organic materials, to power its vessels for Arctic and sub-Arctic tours. Hurtigruten has announced plans to operate at least six of its ships on a combination of biogas, liquid natural gas and large battery packs by 2021.

“What others see as a problem, we see as a resource and a solution,” said Daniel Skjeldam, chief executive officer of Hutigruten. By introducing biogas as fuel for cruise ship, Hurtigruten will be the first cruise company to power ships with fossil-free fuel.”

Biogas is already use as fuel in small parts of the transportation sector, including buses. Northern Europe and Norway, which has large fishery and forestry sectors that produce a steady volume of organic waste, have a unique opportunity to become a world leader in biogas production.

Company officials said they would love for other cruise companies to follow their lead.

Hurtigruten, in business for 125 years, was the first cruise line to ban single-use plastic.

In 2019, company officials said they plan to start a large-scale green upgrade project, replacing traditional diesel propulsion with battery packs and gas engines on several of their ships. They also plan to introduce the world’s first battery-hybrid powered cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen.

“Hurtigruten’s decision to use biogas from organic waste is the kind of operational solution we aim for,” said Frederic Hauge, founder and general manager of the NGO Bellona Foundation.

Most of the more than 300 cruise ships in the world run on cheap, polluting heavy oil. Daily emissions from one single mega cruise ship can be equivalent to one million cars, according to the NGOs.

The company is currently building three hybrid-powered expedition cruise ships at Norway’s Kleven Yard – the MS Roald Amundsen, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, and a third yet unnamed sister ship – to be delivered in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“This is just the beginning,” Skjeldam said. “Hurtigruten is the world’s largest expedition cruise line, and that comes with a responsibility,” he added. “Our ultimate goal is to operate our ships completely emission free.”

Speakers Named for Alaska Symposium

Changing oceans, earthquakes, tsunamis and the scientific legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster are themes for keynote speakers at the 2019 Alaska Marine Science Symposium which opens Jan. 28 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Richard Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, will speak about changing oceans, warming water and decreasing sea ice already generating cascading impacts to the biology, and the larger climate and environmental system for which researchers have only limited understanding. He will also review some of the ongoing changes in oceans around Alaska. Thoman recently retired as a climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska Region.

Peter Haeussler, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey, will discuss earthquakes and tsunamis in southern Alaska and their relationship to the 7.0 earthquake that struck southcentral Alaska on Nov. 30. His current research is focused on understanding active tectonic processes in southern Alaska, with studies on the frequency of earthquakes, the location and rate-of-movement of active faults and mountain building.

Jeff Short, who retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will speak about the scientific legacy of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound.

The fourth keynote speaker, Jude Isabella, is the editor-in-chief of Hakai Magazine – an online publication focused on coastal science and societies – part of the Hakai Institute in British Columbia.

All four keynotes are to be delivered on the afternoon of Jan. 28 at the Hotel Captain Cook. The following days of the symposium highlight the Gulf of Alaska on Jan. 29, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands on Jan. 30 and the Arctic on Jan. 31. A related poster session is slated for the first two days of the gathering at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel.

Symposium organizers include the North Pacific Research Board, the Alaska Ocean Observing System and Alaska Sea Grant.

The complete agenda is available online at www.alaskamarinescience.org.

NPFMC Agenda Might Change with Shutdown

As the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) prepares for its meeting in Portland, Oregon Feb. 4-11, the staff is advising those planning to participate that the current federal government shutdown may create changes to its schedule.

The council’s agenda, which is available online at www.npfmc.org, includes several items scheduled for discussion, analysis and final action for which reports are anticipated, but now not guaranteed because of the current shutdown. Since the council often works cooperatively with state and federal fisheries agencies to gather data for these reports, and as federal fisheries employees usually attend the meetings to provide additional information but may not be available this time around, there could be changes in the agenda.

The council meeting schedule posted includes a management report from NMFS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a review of observer program fees, final action on catcher vessel rockfish retention as well as individual fishing quota medical lease and beneficiary designation provisions. Discussion papers to be presented include one on crab e-logbooks, an economic data report, a stock assessment and a fishery evaluation (SAFE) report. The availability of some federal data needed for these reports if the shutdown continues is uncertain which may prompt additional changes to the schedule.

Federal Shutdown Not Yet Affecting Fisheries

As federal government shutdown prompted by a dispute over a border wall heads into its third week, it is not currently affecting the seafood industry as harvesters and processors prepare for multi-million dollar groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska.

Some sectors, like the Freezer Longline Coalition, say they aren’t having issues acquiring necessary permits or getting their scales inspected because all that was done during the summer and fall months, while their vessels were in shipyards for maintenance and repair. But, according to Coalition Executive Director Chad See, if the shutdown continues there could be an issue with deployment of observers as they need to be debriefed by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Not having enough NMFS staff to do this is a concern for the longline and catcher-processor fleet, and the Pollock fleet could also face the same challenge.

For catcher-processors represented by the At-sea Processors Association, which harvests Pollock in Alaska and Pacific whiting in West Coast waters, the concern is getting their flow scales, video monitoring equipment and observer sampling stations permitted, according to Jim Gilmore, director of public affairs for the At-sea Processors. Most of that fleet has completed their permitting. There are still a few vessels waiting for theirs, but Gilmore said he is optimistic that they’ll have them by Jan. 20, the start date of their fishery.

One industry insider engaged in a catcher-processor fishery, speaking on condition of anonymity, said vessels getting permitted at Dutch Harbor are working with the Coast Guard, while in Seattle, where federal workers charged with permitting were furloughed, the Coast Guard was also able to fill in and issue permits. Brett Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, noted that some NMFS employees were able to go back to work temporarily because cost recovery fees paid by American Fisheries Act inshore coops and Amendment 80 boats to cover the cost of rationalized fishery programs provided for their salaries.

Observer program provider Saltwater Inc. meanwhile was working with NMFS to fill every available space in required annual briefing programs for observers with some observers who hadn’t signed up by the Dec. 26 deadline. Stacey Hansen, Saltwater’s North Pacific and West Coast program manager, said that as things stand her company will have enough observers to fill immediate needs but if the shutdown continues into late January or early February, she can’t predict what will happen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Pacific Salmon Treaty Goes into Effect

A new Pacific Salmon Treaty approved by the governments of Canada and the United States is now in effect for the coming decade. The old 10-year treaty expired on Dec. 31. The revised agreement impacts management of salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, including those near the border of Alaska and British Columbia, and on several transboundary rivers.

The original treaty dates back to March 1985, when the United States and Canada agreed to cooperate on management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern. The two nations committed to preventing over-fishing and providing for optimum production, and to ensure that both counties benefitted equally from production of salmon originating in their waters.

Efforts to reach an agreement on a new treaty began several years ago, and included a team of 58 Alaskans, among them staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and affected users.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released links to three chapters of the new treaty that directly impact Alaska fisheries:

Chapter1: Transboundary Rivers
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/hottopics/pdfs/2019_pst_chp_1_transboundary_rivers.pdf

Chapter 2: Northern British Columbia and Southeastern Alaska
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/hottopics/pdfs/2019_pst_chp_2_northern_boundary.pdf

Chapter 3: Chinook Salmon
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/hottopics/pdfs/2019_pst_chp_3_chinook_salmon.pdf

Doug Vincent-Lang, acting Commissioner of ADF&G, said that the negotiated treaty language had been held in confidence for several reasons, but since the revised treaty is now in effect, releasing the latest version of the agreed upon treaty language is in the best interest of those impacted. At this time, no part of the new treaty is open to renegotiation.

Vincent-Lang said that in upcoming months ADF&G will be releasing its 2019 forecast and management regime for Southeast Alaska fisheries under the new Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Spokespersons for Alaska’s commercial fisheries in Southeast Alaska were not immediately available for extensive comment on the new treaty.

Effect of Climate on Oysters Studied

Scientists at Great Britain’s University of Plymouth say their research suggests that the nutritional qualities of shellfish could be greatly reduced by ocean acidification and warming.

Their study published recently in Marine Environmental Research shows the potential for negative nutritional effects within economically and commercially valuable species.

Their research, focused on the Pacific oyster, found that increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could significantly reduce that oyster’s levels of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Given that seafood is the source of more than 15 percent of animal protein consumed globally, the aquaculture industry may want to consider a shift in focus toward species that are most robust to climate change and less prone to deterioration in quality, the study concludes.

Oysters used in the research project were subjected to six different sets of ocean conditions over a 12-week period, from current temperatures and carbon dioxide levels to increased measurements predicted for both the middle and end of the century.

Along with changes in nutrient levels, researchers observed changes in essential mineral composition, and noted that the enhanced accumulation of copper in Pacific oysters may be of future concern in terms of consumption safety.

According to Antony Knights, an associate professor in marine ecology at Plymouth, oysters have the potential to be a sustainable, low-cost alternative source of protein for humans at a time when climate change and the growing world population are placing arguably unsustainable demands on sources of animal protein. Former doctoral student Anaelle Lemasson, who led the study team, said that identifying changes in nutritional quality, as well as species most at risk, is crucial if societies are to secure food production.

Southeast Alaska Tanner Crab Fishery Deadline Nears

The 2018/2019 commercial Tanner crab fishery in Southeast Alaska will open concurrently with the commercial golden king crab fishery on Feb. 12, 2019. The registration deadline is Jan. 14, and all commercial fishermen registering after the deadline will have to pay a $45 late fee.

Permit holders may register at Alaska Department of Fish and Game area offices in Douglas, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell and Haines.

Simultaneous, though separate, registrations are allowed for Tanner crab and golden king crab. Commercial shrimp or Dungeness crab pot registrations may also be obtained and fished simultaneously with Tanner Crab, if simultaneous seasons are open, state biologists said. The state agency also reminded processors that registration for tenders is required.

Logbooks, which are mandatory for all pot fishing vessels participating in the Tanner crab fishery, are available at area ADF&G offices, along with buoy tags and other related materials.

The initial period for the commercial Tanner crab fishing season in core areas, non-core areas and exploratory areas will be a minimum of six days. Additional fishing time may be allowed based on the number of registered pots at the start of the fishery.

An ADF&G news release will be issued on Feb. 12 announcing the total number of pots registered for the fishery and whether the initial fishing period will be extended. At the end of the initial period, the core areas will close to fishing and the non-core areas and exploratory areas will remain open for an additional five days. After the non-core areas close to fishing, the exploratory areas will remain open for an additional 14 days.

Parallel Pacific Cod, Pollock Seasons Opening

The parallel Pacific cod season opened on New Year’s Day in Prince William Sound, on the heels of closure on New Year’s Eve of the 2018 Prince William Sound area parallel Pacific cod season for pot gear and the state waters seasons for longline and jig gear.

The Prince William Sound parallel Pacific cod season closures for jig and pot gear coincided with their respective closures in the adjacent federal Central Gulf of Alaska regulatory area. The Prince William Sound parallel season closure for longline gear coincided with the federal closure of the less than 50-foot hook and line gear sector in the Central Gulf.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes that directed fishing for all groundfish species is closed in waters within three nautical miles of two Steller sea lion rookeries within Prince William Sound and that certain waters are closed to fishing with groundfish pot gear. Specific regulatory language regarding Stellar sea lion protection areas is available by calling 1-907-481-1780 or online at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/sslpm.

The directed fishery for walleye Pollock using pelagic trawl gear in Prince William Sound opens at noon on Jan. 20 with a guideline harvest level of 6.6 million pounds. The registration deadline for this fishery is also Jan. 14 and is available only to individuals who have a 2019 miscellaneous saltwater finfish permit card for trawl gear. Permit card applications can be obtained at ADF&G offices, online at www.cfec.state.ak.us or by calling the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission at 1-907-789-6160.

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