Tuesday, July 27, 2010

California Sea Grant Announces Funding for 17 New Projects

California Sea Grant has awarded funding to 17 marine research projects to further the program’s expertise along new avenues of scientific inquiry.

In total, about $550,000 was awarded to the year-long projects, including traineeships for 13 graduate student researchers.

“We are excited to see some new faces in the Sea Grant fold and some new research approaches,” says California Sea Grant Assistant Director Shauna Oh.

Some of the new names – people who have never before received California Sea Grant research funds – include Diana Steller, a marine biologist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, who will be studying red coralline algae nodules around the Channel Islands. Not your typical slimy algal goo, these algae (called rhodoliths) tricked even the first scientists into thinking they were corals – because they build an intricate, calcium-based outer covering and can transform sandy areas into a complex, three-dimensional reef habitat.

“It’s so cool,” says Steller, an avid diver and head of Moss Landing’s research diving program. “It’s like we found a whole new habitat to explore right out our door.”

Another new addition to the Sea Grant portfolio is Jesse Dillon, a professor in microbiology at Cal State Long Beach. Dillon’s area of expertise is extremophiles: microbes that thrive in unlikely corners of the planet – polar ice, deep-sea vents and hyper-saline marshes.

“The Sea Grant award gives us seed money to demonstrate the efficacy of stable isotope probing in characterizing microbial food webs in salt marshes,” Dillon says.

Translation: The method will tell scientists who is eating whom, at the microbial level. The mud-loving, salt-tolerant microbes are important to society at large because of their potentially huge role in removing carbon from the air and putting it in the ground.

“Our grant was written in the context of rising sea levels and whether wetland loss might measurably affect global carbon cycling,” Dillon says. “That is the big picture.”

Wei-Chun Chin, an assistant engineering professor at UC Merced, is yet another Sea Grant first-timer, funded to study the physiology of toxin-producing marine algae, in particular the intracellular chemical signaling processes that trigger toxin release.
“In animal cells, calcium ions trigger the release of hormones,” Chin explains. “I want to verify if the same signaling mechanism occurs in harmful algae.”

Xiaochun Wang, a computer modeler with the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering at UCLA, is yet another newcomer, funded to develop the ability to forecast upwelling intensities along the California coast 48 hours in advance. High-frequency radar data, 2D surface current observations, as well as single-point temperature and salinity measurements, will be used to truth-check the forecasts.

Alison Purcell, an assistant professor in environmental sciences at Humboldt State University, is also receiving her first Sea Grant award. She will be investigating the pros and cons of eradicating the invasive cordgrass Spartina densiflora in tidal marshes of Humboldt Bay. In particular, she hopes to establish whether cordgrass removal increases or decreases total net primary productivity in the marshes.

From Deadliest Catch to Safest Catch

Alaska’s Bering Sea crab fisheries have gone from being the nation’s deadliest catch to the safest catch.

A new study by the Anchorage-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) details 504 fishing-industry deaths from 2000 through 2009. Shrimp fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was by far the most deadly fishery with 55 lives lost. That compares to a death toll of 12 Bering Sea crabbers during the same time. In fact, the Bering Sea crab fisheries can claim the lowest loss of life for all of Alaska’s major fisheries.

Since 2005, when the crab fishery began operating under a slower paced catch share system, one life has been lost in the Bering Sea; there have been no vessel sinkings.
Prior to catch shares, hundreds of boats would race to load up with Bering Sea crab in wild winter fisheries lasting mere days or weeks. Now, each vessel has a set amount of crabs to catch during extended seasons.

The improved safety is “black and white,” said veteran crabber Bill Prout of Kodiak. “It’s so much better. We can wait for good weather. It’s really paying off in saved lives.”

Third generation crabber Lance Farr of Seattle said sleep deprivation is no longer an issue in the famous crab fisheries. “The catch share program has done what it was intended to do,” Farr said. “It’s made it safer.”

Longtime crab skipper Kale Garcia agreed. “I know we’ll have to keep all the drama for Hollywood, but the reality is the Bering Sea crabbers have gone from the deadliest catch to the safest catch.”

Link to NIOSH report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5927a2.htm?s_cid=mm5927a2_e

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers is an alliance that represents all crab fisheries of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. www.alaskaberingseacrabbers.org

Newport Wild Seafood Weekend

Newport Fishermen's Wives has announced an exciting new annual event premiering in Newport, Oregon on September 11& 12 of 2010.

The Newport Wild Seafood Weekend is a two day celebration of our Northwest's vital wild-caught seafood industry and the men and women who make it thrive; hard working fishermen and families who are small business owners harvesting our seafood.

On Saturday the Newport Wild Seafood Weekend will feature the third annual Great Newport Wild Seafood Cook-Off, which has become one of the most popular culinary events in the Northwest. Twenty teams, both professional and amateur will battle for mroe than $2,500 in prize money and the honor of being “Best at the Bay.”

Sunday's The Wild Brunch will feature a delicious wild seafood dining experience on the Bayfront overlooking Newport's diverse fishing fleet. Sunday will also feature the The Wild Seafood Market where the public can connect with fishermen & processors and buy fresh wild seafood. Saturday and Sunday will include the Wild Fish Walk where the public can buy directly from the fishermen at the docks and over fifty vendors will be on hand selling gifts, art, clothing, books and more plus food and drinks. Rogue Brewery will have a Beer & Spirits Garden plus the Wild Seafood Cooking School will give lessons on cooking seafood and offering samples.

From The Fleet

Jack Fee
Trout Lake, Washington

Since the start of the Iraq War, the US Has spent approximately $720 million a day, every day for more than seven years. The National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA have a $60 million a year budget of which most is spent on studies to make technological fixes on the Dams on the Snake and Columbia River to improve Salmon restoration.

The Columbia River drains a 259,000-square-mile basin covering parts of seven states and one Canadian province. It is arguably the most significant environmental force in the Pacific Northwest. In the last 150 years, 400 dams have been built, of which 11 are run-of-the-river dams across the main stream. This capitalistic domestication of the River has been a disaster for the once strong runs of salmon and the native people tied to the River culture. The last dam was completed in 1973. The Bonneville second powerhouse was completed in 1981.

The wild salmon are disappearing before our eyes.

March 21, 2010 at the Skamania County Interpretive Center, I listened to Robert Stansell (wildlife biologist for the Corps of Engineers) give his "Sea Lion Report." Afterward I had to ask, "How is it an endangered species like the salmon can be preyed upon by a commercial sports fishery, a commercial gill netting fishery and a Native American gill netting fishery?”

I was referred to Cindy Laflure of the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Dept. She informed me that "Fishing for salmon was only allowed when mostly hatchery fish were running." Then concluded with; "Why put the whole burden of conservation on one taker?" It was at this time I learned that Dams and some other industries were given "authorized take" under the Endangered Spies Act issued by the NMFS, whereas creatures such as sea lions, that have evolved with salmon, sturgeon and lamprey eels since the beginning of time – their meals of fresh salmon and sturgeon were considered "unauthorized".

Matt Rossell, spokesman for the group “In Defense of Animals,” spoke out saying, "The increase in sea lions, once on the endangered species list, was a clear sign of a healthy ecosystem and that nature systems have always been thrown out of balance when a large predator has been removed, i.e. wolves or bears."

For example, historically sea lions have never been a large problem because the 20 million salmon that returned each year also kept a healthy number of killer whales up and down the coast dining on sea lions for appetizers. "And if salmon were given the protection they deserved their numbers would increase in kind." Matt also pointed out that when sea lion "take" was lowered the "authorized” take of commercial fisheries was raised, so the lethal removal of pinnipeds does not put more spawning salmon in the River.

Enter the oldest, most important player, in this particular natural system: the Lamprey Eel. David Clagston a Corps fish biologist said, "We are not going to get salmon recovery unless we get lamprey recovery." Lampreys usually don't win beauty contests, they're slow, about three feet long, attach themselves to a larger fish like a hake or pollock or salmon and live on their blood in the ocean for a couple of years, then return, moving in spurts of energy, then attaching themselves with their mouths, then resting. They have great difficulty navigating fish ladders. Their fry or ammocoetes as they are called live in the stream bottoms for five to seven years, and provide food for returning salmon, also returning adults are a favorite food for sea lions and easier to catch than salmon. They're also favorite food of the elder native people. Special "Lamp Ramps" are being developed at the dams and other enhancements are being made, but the lamprey numbers a dwindling fast.

The Northern Pike Minnow, a native predator on salmon smolts, have had their numbers reduced by at least 15 percent through the anglers incentive program (bounty).

So we have "authorized takers", "unauthorized takers" "incidental takers" and believe it or not a "grand taker" who slips right through a crack in "the burden of conservation." The grand taker is the warm water game fish Industry, including small mouth bass, walleye, channel cats, crappie and perch. The first three mentioned kill as many salmon smolts as a run-of-the-river dam! Five to fifteen percent mortality per Dam, 5 to 15 percent mortality to these bony non-native piscivorous predators per reservoir!

These unbridled exotics keep their energy reserves up feeding on the offspring of the five million non-native shad that invade our River annually, so they are in top form when the baby salmon appear on the scene! Problem is; the revenue from the license fees to fish for these interlopers is the "Golden Goose" of the State fish and Wildlife Departments. And the political clout of these angling clubs controls state politicians.

Every agency I spoke with that is working for salmon restoration; NMFS, NOAA and the CRITFC are weary of seeing these non-native predators managed for "sustainable yield" and would like to see them eradicated as a non-native predator.

On September 24, 2008, John Skidmoore of BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) organized a Predation Workshop. This documented event was an attempt to bring more awareness to a pressing issue. One idea that came out of this was; "Implement a system-wide predation study of the Columbia River with Multiple agencies and Tribes involved." Unfortunately it seems like the agencies spend more time and energy butting heads and taking each other to court.

It was common knowledge, I discovered while working on an Alaskan fishing boat, that there would be no halibut fishery if it had not been for the efforts and enforcement of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, signed into law by John F. Kennedy in 1963. But we have no Salmon Czar, to coordinate a plan of recovery. The River and all its tributaries, the estuaries and the ocean constitute a vast area; salmon need to complete their cycle. This has to be seen as the ultimate blessing and opportunity.

Another group, takers equal to or surpassing the dams are the sea gulls, Caspian terns and the cormorants. Sea gulls work the spillways looking for smolts in a state of shock. Wire netting has helped tremendously. There are 9,850 breeding pairs of Caspian terns and 12,090 breeding pairs of double crested cormorants on East Sand Island in the lower Columbia River estuary. Thirty-one percent of the tern's diet is juvenile salmonids and 9.2 percent of the double crested cormorant's diet is juvenile salmonids but there are biologically sound methods to reduce these numbers.

Basically I am calling “foul play” on the warm water sports industry. Myself and a lot of other people don't want to see the pinnipeds take all the rap while a powerful political group catch and release their bony non-native predator fish.

Until all the numbers of all the players are factored into this equation of survival for the Pacific Northwest salmon, no group should be able to slip out from under the burden of conservation. So far the "golden goose" of the game fishing license fees have spelled a death sentence for the pinnipeds, and it is wrong. Every player needs to suit up and show up and lay his cards on the table, and action needs to be taken to balance the numbers appropriately.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fisheries Projects Escape Governor’s Vetoes

By Bob Tkacz

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell vetoed just 2.8 percent from the $12 billion total state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and not a penny came out of fisheries projects.

“There were no vetoes to ADF&G’s FY 11 capital or operating budgets,” wrote Tom Lawson, the Dept. of Fish and Game’s budget manager, in a June 4 email. Beside leaving the department’s $65.3 million operating budget alone Parnell’s veto pen also bypassed tens of millions of dollars in hatchery, harbor and other fisheries support projects.

Facing tough primary and potentially general election battles, Parnell cut $36 million from an almost $8 billion state operating budget and $300 million from the $3.1 billion capital projects budget approved by lawmakers in April.

At a June 3 news conference Parnell noted his support for the regional salmon hatchery system, which received a total of $4.5 million in state funding. Salmon ranching support included $2.3 million for the Prince William Sound Regional Aquaculture Association, $1 million for the Cook Inlet RAA, $700,000 for the Northern Southeast RAA and $500,000 for the Kodiak RAA. The Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward received $150,000 for “repairs and upgrades.”

The nearby Alaska Sealife Center received $1 million for intake pipes and biofouling remediation.

Parnell said he considered vetoing $750,000 to pay for a National Science Academy study of the impact of a mega-mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed. “That one for me was a tough one, because on the one hand I don’t want to damage the permitting process by setting up a system where, every time legislators oppose a particular project they go get an appropriation to try to make it part of the permitting process and try to use it for delay,” Parnell said.

The state mine permitting project focuses primarily on environmental issues, and Kodiak Rep. Alan Austerman sought the money for an analysis of possible socio-economic impacts of the Pebble gold mine project, or any other supersize mine project in the region. With mine industry lobbyists, Parnell’s Dept. of Natural Resources worried during legislative hearings that the study would foul the permitting process but the governor said in June that he “received assurances” from the department that the permitting system would not be affected.

Large and small ports and harbors around Alaska’s coasts got tens of millions of dollars for expansion and repairs. Docking facilities in Old Harbor and Port Lions, both on Kodiak Island, got $3.1 million and $1 million, respectively for upgrades. The Seward Marine Center is to receive $1.5 million for new mooring dolphins and dock improvements and Chignik’s small boat harbor will see $1.4 million in upgrades. The Hoonah and Homer harbors each are slated for $1 million in repairs.

Among larger marine and transportation facilities important to the seafood industry, the Port of Anchorage will get $20 million, the Bristol Bay Borough Port will get $5 million for port repairs and the Kodiak airport will receive $36 million in federal pass-through funding for improvements.

Aside from some $2 million in salmon research and remediation funding in the ADF&G budget, the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association will receive $1.125 million for its sustainable salmon initiative in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region and the western Alaska canned chum and herring demonstration project is in line for $300,000 in state assistance.

At the opposite end of the state, the cit of Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, will receive $200,000 to upgrade its community cold storage and fish processing facility.

Industry Fishing For Top Profits, Not Top Predators

People who fish for a living pursue top profits, not necessarily top predators, according to the first-ever analysis of worldwide catch and economic data for the past 55 years by the University of Washington.

This differs from the observation raised 10 years ago that humans were "fishing down" the food web. It was assumed that catches of the predators at the top of the food chain, such as halibut and tuna, were declining after fishers started landing more fish from lower on the food chain, such as herring and anchovies.

The idea was that people had targeted fish at top of the food web causing declines that forced harvests of fish at ever lower "trophic levels" in the food web. Proponent of the idea at the time wrote, "If we don't manage this resource, we will be left with a diet of jellyfish and plankton stew."

Fishing down the food web has been debated by biologists and fisheries managers since the idea emerged. However, some in the news media, as well as a number of conservation groups and individuals, accepted the hypothesis without question, according to Suresh Sethi, a University of Washington doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences.

"We wanted to examine why fishermen might be motivated to preferentially harvest different trophic levels and our data showed that fishing down the food web - by moving from higher to lower value species - is an incomplete story of the evolution of global fishery development," says Sethi, lead author of a paper on the subject published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We found no evidence that humans first developed commercial fisheries on top predators then sequentially moved to species lower in the food web since the 1950s. Instead, those who fish for a living have pursued high revenue fisheries, no matter what the tropic level of the species."

It's important to know what motivates those who fish for a living as nations move toward ecosystem-based management, Sethi says.

"Attributes related to economic opportunity will be important for understanding which species are susceptible to new fishery development or expansion of existing harvest when costs and benefits are altered, for example, through government subsidies," the paper says. Co-authors are Trevor Branch, UW research scientist with aquatic and fishery sciences, and Reg Watson, senior research fellow with University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

It was the late 1990s when University of British Columbia's Daniel Pauly published findings in Science magazine that said global landings of fish included more species from lower trophic levels. In discussions that followed, it was assumed that this was because fish at the higher levels fetched the best prices and, as they were depleted, fishers had to turn to lower-value fish that also are lower on the food web.

Work published in 2006 challenged the idea that the largest fish were, in fact, gone. The work led by UW researcher Tim Essington documented that, in the majority of ecosystems studied, when the catch changed to include fish from lower trophic levels, the catch of fish higher up the food chain stayed the same or increased.

The new research considers the assumption that fish at the top of the food web are targeted because they have the most economic value. Some do, but many don't.

Take price. The authors divided fisheries into three groups and used a worldwide economic database to find that average prices for the lowest trophic levels, which includes pricey shellfish such as shrimp and abalone, were 25 percent higher overall than fish at the highest trophic level. Prices for the lowest level were 45 percent higher than for the middle group, which includes fish like herring.

In the drive to catch fish with the best economic value, species that are super abundant present some of the best opportunities. Alaska pollock, for example, are caught in great quantities in the Bering Sea and are a very valuable fishery even though the fish is inexpensive to buy and not high on the food web. Similarly, species found in shallower water were targeted first because they are less expensive to catch and therefore profitable even if they don't fetch top prices, the researchers said. The fishing industry also preferred larger-body fish that can be made into more kinds of products, some with higher values.

Taking fishing motivation into account should help make plans for sustainable harvests more reliable. This is of growing importance in a world where fishing is a mature industry and the potential for new fisheries is very limited, co-author Branch says.

"Our research revealed that nearly all high-catch fisheries are already developed, and that few new high-catch or valuable fishing opportunities exist today," Branch says. "Total revenue from new fisheries dropped 95 percent from 1950 to 1999. Meanwhile, fisheries already developed by 1980 contribute more than 90 percent of both catch and total revenue expected from marine fisheries today."

Sethi, sasethi@uw.edu
Branch, tbranch@uw.edu

Gulf of Mexico Blowouts

The website for UK based partnership Step Change in Safety posted a piece by former Shell International Health and Safety Group auditor Bill Campbell, who looked at public data on blowouts. Some of his conclusions, below:

World-wide since 1955 and prior to Deepwater Horizon there have been 44 notable blowout events causing 79 deaths, with significant loss of assets and one event in 1979 causing massive pollution. In this 55-year period, 1955 – 2010, the mean time between blowouts was 15 months.

What does history tell us about the Gulf of Mexico?

In the 37-year period 1964 – 2001 there were 10 blowouts or 23% of the world-wide events. This resulted in 27 deaths or 34% of the deaths world-wide. One event, the blowout on the Semi-submersible Sedco 135F caused pollution into the Gulf of an estimated 455,000 to 480,000 [metric tons] of oil.

In the 46 year period 1964 – 2010, including the Deepwater Horizon there have been 11 blowouts, resulting in an additional 11 deaths and pollution estimated on 4th July last of between 333,000 – 572,000 [metric tons] of oil.

By comparison in the UK North Sea there have been two blowouts, one in 1977 on a fixed installation, and one in 1988 on a Semi-submersible with one fatality over the 55 years period from 1955 to 2010.

Help clean up the Gulf oil spill and support local salmon fishermen at Scoma’s

Scoma’s, San Francisco’s venerable seafood restaurant, is launching another fundraiser to support both Gulf oil spill clean-up and the Pacific Coast’s salmon fishers. On Thursdays - July 15, 22 and 29 -100 percent of the proceeds from the restaurant’s popular Triple Play lunch menu will be donated to United Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Louisiana, and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen, San Francisco.

Lunch Triple Play is just $23.95 including complimentary valet parking.

Scoma’s customers and employees raised $7,000 in May’s fundraiser for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

“ Both the San Francisco and Louisiana fishing communities and seafood habitats are being devastated by poor environmental practices. On the West Coast, what should now be our thriving salmon season is practically non-existent. And it will be too long before the Gulf fishing industry recovers,” said Mariann Costello, vice president, Scoma’s. “As dedicated supporters of sustainable fishing, we hope this fund raising effort gives our guests and our employees an opportunity to support the protection and clean-up of our precious oceans and gulfs. We urge the community to join us.”

Lunch is served 11:30am – 3:30pm. Complimentary valet parking. Scoma’s is located on Pier 47 overlooking the Bay at Al Scoma Way and Jefferson St.

About Scoma’s – Celebrating 45 years

Steeped with a family tradition of quality and service, San Francisco’s most popular and venerable seafood restaurant first opened in 1965, when brothers Al and Joseph Scoma took over a six-table coffee shop to serve fishermen on the wharf. Using their mother’s recipe collection, the Scoma brothers’ humble café became so popular that today it serves more than 300,000 locals and visitors annually. For more information, please visit www.scomas.com.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scientists Will Track Fish With Underwater Gliders

By Margaret Bauman

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks say they have successfully tested a form of underwater glider for use in tracking tagged fish. Now they are planning to use the gliders to gather oceanographic information in the Chukchi Sea, UAF officials said in a statement issued in early June.

The autonomous underwater vehicles were tested in May by Peter Winsor, an associate professor of physical oceanography, and Andrew Seitz, an assistant professor of fisheries.

Winsor and Seitz suspended acoustic tags, usually implanted in fish, at different depths along a buoy line near Juneau. They then deployed two gliders fitted with an acoustic listening device to “hear” the signals from the tags. These are the first gliders to be deployed in Alaska with an acoustic monitoring device to track tagged fish, they said.

Each glider is about five feet long and flies like an airplane through the water in an up-and-down motion. They are propelled using an internal bladder that works much like a fish’s swim bladder. When the bladder expands, the glider moves toward the surface. When it contracts, it moves toward the seafloor, converting changes in water depth into forward movement.

The gliders move at a speed of nearly one mile per hour, can operate for up to three months, and cover thousands of miles of ocean, Winsor said. At the surface, the glider transmits data, including its location and oceanographic readings, directly to scientists.

Using the gliders, the researchers can learn where the fish go, and measure the physical, chemical and biological environment of the ocean at the same time,” said Winsor.

Traditional methods of tracking tagged fish include using a ship equipped with an acoustic listening device, or by using what scientists call a “listening line,” which is a series of hydrophones attached to the seafloor.

“The problem with using hydrophones is that they stay in one place and the tagged fish have to move near enough to the hydrophones to be detected,” said Seitz. “This can create big geographic gaps in your data, especially in the vast oceans surrounding Alaska.”

The gliders can be programmed to follow tagged fish, Seitz and Winsor said. The technology is ideal for Alaska waters because the gliders can cover large distances and are much less expensive than using a ship or sets of hydrophones.

‘River Of Knowledge’ Needed to Keep US Seafood Industry Competitive

By Bob Tkacz

The US seafood industry needs to create an “aquatic river of knowledge” to make sure it has the scientific and technological expertise it needs to remain competitive in the most complex animal protein market in the world, a University of Alaska faculty member warned.

“Currently there are more than 800 species of aquatic foods that are internationally traded… The international trade in fish is more than twice that of the combination of both meats and poultry,” said Dr. Marat Balaban, director of the university’s Fishery Industrial Technology Center, in Kodiak.

Speaking to regional US processors attending the “Second International Congress on Seafood Technology,” Balaban asked for their support for a formal, industry-integrated academic curriculum, which, unlike other countries with major seafood markets, does not exist anywhere in US academia.

“No seafood science and technology department in the US. No formal curriculum,” Balaban said at the May 10-12 event in Anchorage.

Meat science departments offer advanced degrees at Kansas and Texas colleges. The University of Wisconsin has a dairy science department and California universities in wine country offer oenology degrees. Balaban said a seafood curriculum should be more comprehensive. “We are talking about seafood from fish to dish. It needs to be integrated,” he declared.

Undergraduates in the fisheries curriculum at Ege University, in Balaban’s homeland of Turkey, spend their first three years learning the basics of fisheries management, value-added processing and seafood chemistry. In their fourth year they choose from three options including marine and freshwater fisheries science and technology, seafood processing technology or aquaculture.

He also noted a United Nations fisheries technology program established in Iceland that covers fisheries policy and planning, resource stock assessment, seafood processing, handling and quality control; fishing technology, sustainable aquaculture and fisheries business management.

“It’s a global perspective,” Balaban said.

The US seafood industry should build an “aquatic river of knowledge,” based most logically in Alaska, where harvest technology and maritime disciplines could included with the other courses. “I suspect if something like this is going to happen it is going to happen in Alaska,” Balaban said.

His river begins with the information generated by oceanographic research with success downstream contributions from “ecosystem people” on physical, chemical and biological topics, “fisheries people” on population dynamics, physiology, and genetics.

Sustainable utilization would follow, including seafood science, processing, safety and marketing.

Referring to participants before or after the point of processing Balaban said even now the “live fish people and the dead fish people” don’t talk to each other enough to better integrate their respective questions and answers.

A 2009 survey of the educational background of the seafood industry here, conducted by the FITC, showed that only 13 percent of current personnel earned graduate degrees with 23% holding bachelor’s degrees, 17% with two-year and 13% with one year certifications.

Balaban counseled against copying other schools that “focus on generating as many masters and doctoral degrees as they can. The industry doesn’t require a whole lot of them.”

He also emphasized that advance institutions could be located in remote locations like Alaska because of modern distance learning techniques. “If there’s a good course in Norway or Turkey or Alaska why should not everybody benefit from it?” he asked.

Even cooperative long distance laboratory experiments may be possible. “If we can fly a jet in a simulator we can have mutual experiments,” Balaban suggested.

Nothing that Kodiak High School will begin offering a seafood science curriculum in 2012, Balaban said the program should expand downward to grade schools and upward through doctoral degrees and national and international exchange programs.

Listeners from the industry expressed support for Balaban’s suggestions. “I think Dr. Balaban’s comments this morning were really well taken, that we have an opportunity to become kind of a leader for the US and maybe Europe to have a centralized educational data-sharing lab, a virtual lab kind of thing. I would like to see that pursued,” said Sandro Lane, CEO of Alaska Protein Recovery, which converts salmon byproducts into high grade vitamin supplements for humans and animal feed.

Jeff Backlund, of North Pacific Seafoods said Balaban “is really pushing the program in Kodiak We’ve been very supportive of that. It’s going to be a stepwise process, but it’s needed.”

Lahsen Ababouch, head of the Fisheries Utilization and Marketing Service of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, said a business-focused curriculum could help bring seafood processing back to the US as continued mechanization reduces labor needs.

“We do believe whether we like it or not, it’s like textiles. It will be outsourced to where the labor is cheaper. So if you want to keep the value addition, lets says in the US, Iceland, Norway where you have low interest of people for this kind of jobs, robotization and highly sophisticated processing is the way,” Ababouch said.

The absence of an academic base here, and China’s one-child policy and its ongoing shortage of labor in seafood manufacturing and other sectors may also force US companies to send their fish even farther away if they continue to rely on low cost processing.

“When you have only one child you are trying to make them an engineer and so on. Vietnam, Thailand, India will be competitive for many years in labor. China, very soon, they will not have really the labor to do a lot of the manual work and if they have they will go to work for cleaner technologies,” Ababouch said. “I think innovation in equipment, that’s basically a must if you want to keep value addition in developed countries,” he added.

Salmon Projections

By Margaret Bauman

Alaska’s 2010 fishing season, underway in earnest in June, is expected to see a harvest of 45 million fish, slightly above the 5-year average of 42 million, making this the seventh consecutive year of sockeye harvests near or above 40 million fish.

That’s the word from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Salmon Market Bulletin, out in early June and online at alaskaseafood.org.

The bulletin, written for ASMI under contract with the McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research and consulting firm, notes that Bristol Bay is expected to be a strong performer again this year, with a harvest projection of 30 million sockeye, 67 percent of the statewide total. Elsewhere in Alaska, fisheries are expected to produce 15 million sockeye, up from 12 million in 2009.

State sockeye harvest projections have been relatively accurate over in the past four years, although low by 17 percent in 2006, 16 percent in 2007 and 14 percent in 2009, the report said. If this recent pattern of under-projection holds for 2010, the sockeye harvest could exceed 50 million for the first time since 1995. The Bristol Bay harvest is key to that potential. Last year the Bristol Bay catch was projected at 24 million sockeye, but came in at nearly 31 million fish.

The anticipated king salmon harvest is 415,000 fish, about 20 percent below the 5-year average, but the state has not yet released the projection for Southeast Alaska, the primary harvest area for the species. Chinook harvests in Southeast Alaska is limited by terms of the pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and quotas allowed under that treaty were published recently.

The bad news for harvesters of pinks is that if the 2010 harvest projection of 69 million fish is accurate, that would be the second smallest Alaska pink harvest in 20 years. The low point was 60 million pinks in 1992.

While the 2010 projection is near the low end of the 20-year range, it is consistent with the normal fluctuation in the abundance cycle. The report notes that variation of the Alaska pink harvest follows a predictable pattern based on the two-year life cycle of the fish. Abundance of parent-year fish is directly related to current-year abundance. Pink harvests in 2004, 2006 and 2008 averaged 85 million fish, compared to harvests averaging 134 million pinks in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The odd-even pink salmon abundance pattern is especially distinct in recent years, but is a long-term pattern.

The 2010 chum projection is 17.9 million fish, slightly above the 5-year average of 17.3 million. Major harvests will be in Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound, with much of the catch coming from hatchery fish.

For coho salmon, the 2010 projection is 4.35 million fish reveals little about the potential of the coho return to produce a harvest substantially above or below projection. The five-year average harvest is 4.29 million silvers.

The Alaska coho harvest can vary widely. While the recent 10-year average harvest is 4.5 million, the harvest has been as low as 3.6 million fish in 2007 and as high as 9.6 million in 1994. Prices for coho salmon dipped in 2009, but otherwise have remained relatively strong in recent years, stimulating fishing effort in the late season, when silvers are most abundant. “Improved salmon market conditions suggest the price will recover to some extent an coho fishing effort is likely to remain strong, creating potential for a harvest substantially above projection,” the report said.

Estimates of salmon roe production – from pink, chum and sockeye – are for 19 million to 20 million pounds, down from the recent five-year average of 23.5 million pounds. Pink salmon typically provides a little more than half of the roe production, but with the modest 69 million pinks in 2010, pink roe is expected to be about 7 million pounds, less than 40 percent of the statewide total roe production volume.

Chum salmon provide the second largest source of roe, and chum roe production is expected to be at or near 6 million pounds with the chum harvest projection at 18 million. Chum roe is the highest valued roe and most often used to make ikura or other single-egg roe products.

Sockeye makes up the final major piece or roe supply, and with that harvest projected at 45 million fish, the sockeye are expected to yield approximately 6 million pounds of roe.

Roe recovery has generally been lower for sockeye, due in part to the compression of the run and to relate chilling issues with Bristol Bay sockeye. Still, the Bristol Bay fleet is making significant headway on chilling and sockeye roe recovery may improve as more fish are chilled at the point of harvest, the report said.

What is Stability?

By Eric Blumhagen, P.E.

“I’d rather have my gums scraped than go to a stability class.” This is a pretty common sentiment among non-naval architects, and who can blame them? Many old-school stability classes are filled with abstract ideas like righting arm and metacentric height, not to mention pages and pages of calculations. This article isn’t about the numbers – it’s about the basic information you need to operate your boat safely.

Stability is the boat’s ability to ride out wind and seas without capsizing. If a boat comes back safely from a trip, then it had enough stability. The tricky part is knowing whether a boat has enough stability before the trip. To answer that question, the Coast Guard has issued a series of stability criteria for fishing boats. If a boat passes these criteria, then it is virtually certain to come back safely.

How do you know if your boat passes the stability criteria? In general, following the guidelines in the stability booklet will make sure that the boat passes the stability criteria. However, the Coast Guard only requires stability booklets on boats of more than 79 feet registered length (usually 85-90 feet overall). Smaller boats often do not have any stability booklet, and so they have to rely more on guesswork.

In general, there are two types of stability: initial and reserve stability. Initial stability is what you feel most of the time when you’re running your boat. The more initial stability a boat has, the faster and sharper the roll will be. The width of the boat and the height of its center of gravity are the biggest factors in determining initial stability. Reserve stability is what brings the boat back from a deep roll. The biggest factor determining a boat’s reserve stability is reserve buoyancy, or watertight volumes above the waterline. Reserve buoyancy comes from freeboard, poop decks, watertight foc’sles, etc.

All bets are off if the boat starts flooding. Water can come in through leaky hatches, cracks in the hull, or open doors. No matter how the water gets into the boat, it is extremely dangerous. Most capsizing incidents start with flooding. The water sloshing around the bilges destabilizes the boat, making it roll over. The first symptom of water in the bilge is a slower roll. While this can feel more comfortable, it is a big warning sign. If the boat’s roll suddenly slows down unexpectedly, check for flooding.

Installing bilge alarms in all dry spaces can give you early notice, but only if they work. Float switches are notorious for failing at just the wrong moment, so test them often. It’s also important to keep any water that leaks into the boat contained. Close up holes in watertight hatches and make sure you keep doors closed.

The Stability Booklet
There’s nothing I hate more than a lousy stability booklet. You know the type. It’s about 500 pages long, filled with pages and pages of numbers and no guidance to the skipper in sight. Yes, this booklet meets the bare regulatory requirements, but it’s unusable on board. You should look for a few features in your stability booklet. First of all, you should trust the naval architect. The booklet should give you clear and straightforward instructions on how to operate your boat, with a list of fishing gear weights.

The stability booklet reflects the condition of the boat at the time the naval architect produced it. If you add a new deckhouse to your boat, then the guidance in the stability booklet is no longer valid. More importantly, boats gain weight over time. This is just because we always add more stuff each year than we take off. Each individual item is insignificant, but the total can really add up after a few years. On most boats, this weight growth is about one half of one percent of its empty weight each year. Normally, the Coast Guard requires owners to have the stability booklet updated after the boats weight has changed by two to three percent. Because of this, we recommend that owners update their stability booklet every 5-10 years.

If you convert your boat to a different fishery, you should absolutely have the stability booklet updated. Better yet, ask a naval architect if the conversion will make sense before you start the work. You can save a lot of money by finding out that there’s a problem while everything is still on paper and not committed to steel.

You’re trusting your life to the instructions, so you should make sure they match up to your boat and your operation. The instructions should typically reference a loading table. These tables will give you an allowed deck load based on fuel and hold loadings. Unless your boat has exceptional stability or very light deck loads, you should see some differences in the allowed deck loads if the fuel tanks and holds are full or empty.

Because the stability of the boat depends so much on how you load it, the stability instructions may tell you to burn fuel or load holds in a particular order. If that order doesn’t work well for you, then you should have the naval architect change the instructions. This might reduce your allowed deck loads, but this is better than having a stability booklet that you don’t use.

The Bottom Line
If your boat meets the stability criteria, you’re in good shape, but you still need to be careful. Keeping an eye out for flooding or bad weather will help bring you home at the end of the trip. If you want to learn more, we’ve heard good reviews from the stability classes offered by AMSEA and NPFVOA. No gum scraping required.

Eric Blumhagen is Chief Naval Architect, Jensen Maritime Consultants, Inc.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spanish-Flagged Vessel Charged With 67 Counts of Fishing Without a US Permit

A Spanish-flagged fishing vessel faces a possible $7.4 million civil penalty for 67 counts of fishing in US waters without a US permit, according to NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation in the Pacific Islands region. The penalty would be the highest ever assessed by NOAA.

NOAA issued the Notice of Violation and Assessment, known as a NOVA, on June 2, to Spanish company Albacora S.A., owner of the Albacora Uno. It charges the purse seine vessel with fishing inside the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western and central Pacific Ocean over two years.

The case resulted from an investigation by agents with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE), who boarded the vessel when it docked in the US port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, in March 2010, and found records documenting the Albacora Uno’s activities in US waters.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act prohibits foreign-flagged vessels from catching, taking or harvesting fish, or supporting those actions, in US waters without a US permit, which the Albacora Uno did not have.

The NOVA charges that the Albacora Uno deployed 67 fish aggregating devices inside the 200-mile EEZ around Howland/Baker Islands and Jarvis Island between November 2007 and October 2009.

A fish aggregating device attracts fish by giving fish shelter or shade at the water’s surface or underwater. Since these devices are so successful, vessels now attach buoys with Global Positioning Systems units to them so that they can leave them adrift longer, amassing fish, and then relocate. Vessels set their nets on or near the devices to capture the fish they attract.

Albacora S.A. has 30 days from the receipt of the NOVA to respond by paying the penalty, seeking to have the assessment modified, or requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge to deny or contest all or any part of the charges and the penalties assessed.

Any penalty collected will go into the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund, which is used primarily for marine conservation plans in the Pacific by the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.


Alaska Sea Grant to Fund $1 Million in Marine Research

Alaska Sea Grant will provide $1 million during the next two years to support marine research that includes projects to assess the potential impact of the growing sea otter population in Southeast; develop better pollock fishery management models; and determine the genetic stock structure of red and blue king crab.

Alaska Sea Grant is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that conducts marine research, education, communication, and Marine Advisory Program extension throughout coastal Alaska. The program is based at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Alaska Sea Grant also will fund a host of other studies, including a study of the abundance of plankton species that are an important food source for juvenile pink salmon in Prince William Sound, and a project to determine whether some small salmon fisheries can be effectively managed at a lower cost by using predetermined fishing periods rather than expensive test fisheries and escapement surveys.

The funding announcement comes after a yearlong project submission and review process. Alaska Sea Grant issued a request for proposals in December 2008, and received 33 pre-proposals. Of these, 16 projects were developed into full proposals. Final projects were selected following a proposal review process that included science peers and an advisory panel.

Federal funding for the six projects over the next two years totals approximately $1,000,232. The funding includes money to support graduate students working on these projects.

Eat Wild Salmon and Savor Bristol Bay

Freshly caught wild salmon, direct from the pristine waters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, will arrive in restaurants and seafood cases in Portland and Seattle early next month as part of Trout Unlimited Alaska’s Savor Bristol Bay campaign.

Nearly 40 restaurants and markets in Washington and Oregon will feature Bristol Bay sockeye salmon from July 4 to 10 and encourage consumers to “Vote with Their Forks” for this sustainable, carefully managed Alaska fishery that faces threats from proposed large-scale mining.

“Bristol Bay’s sockeye fishery is a model for what defines a truly sustainable, wild salmon fishery, from the size of the nets to the number of fish allowed to be harvested each year. I hadn’t planned on serving salmon on my menu anymore because of declining wild salmon runs on the West Coast,” said Bryan Szeliga, chef de cuisine at Lucy’s Table of Portland. “After learning more about Bristol Bay, its healthy and well-managed the fishery, I decided to get off the sidelines and get involved with Trout Unlimited Alaska’s campaign. By serving these truly wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon we are able to spread awareness and fight to protect the future of these wild salmon.” Szeliga also appreciates wild salmon outside of the kitchen as he is also an avid fly fisherman and Trout Unlimited member.

Chef Jenn Louis, co-owner of Lincoln Restaurant and Culinary Artistry in Portland agrees.

“The pristine waters that are home to the Bristol Bay sockeye provide perfect habitat for healthy fish and they deserve protection. It is wonderful to have such a prolific fishery and to be able to work with such great seafood in its season.” said Louis.

By participating in Savor Bristol Bay week, businesses are supporting Trout Unlimited Alaska’s grassroots Save Bristol Bay campaign. Bristol Bay is not only rich with wild salmon, but it’s also where developers want to build a massive, open-pit copper and gold mine called Pebble in the headwaters of some of the most productive fish habitat left on the planet. The proposed mine threatens to pollute the waters of Bristol Bay and harm the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Trout Unlimited Alaska is working with a diverse coalition of food community members, Alaska Native leaders, commercial and sport fishermen and many others to gain permanent protection for Bristol Bay.

“We work with a wide range of Alaskans who typically support natural resource development. But in this case, even people who are pro-mining recognize that a mega-sized mine like Pebble should never be built in such a sensitive and productive watershed like Bristol Bay. The risks of mine pollution harming the fishery are simply too great,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited Alaska.

During the week of July 4 to 10, seafood lovers are encouraged to support Bristol Bay salmon by “Voting with Their Forks” at participating businesses (listed below.). They can also purchase salmon from Seattle’s PCC Markets and Seattle Fish Company or any of the Portland-based New Seasons Markets and Newman’s Fish Market. Several of these retailers will also hold cooking demonstrations and provide salmon recipe ideas for July 4th celebrations.

“We’re pleased to support Savor Bristol Bay week. It's not a question of being pro or anti-mining. I realize that there's a lot of money at stake, but the headwaters of Bristol Bay is simply one of the worst possible places on Earth for a mine like Pebble. The close proximity to the salmon runs, the inevitability of toxic releases, and the massive amount of fish habitat that would be destroyed make this mine a disaster in the making. In light of what we’re seeing happening to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s unconscionable to even consider building this mine. Let's decide to do something and stop the Pebble project before it's too late” said Chef and Gulf Coast native Kevin Davis, owner of Seattle-based Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood.

Savor Bristol Bay Week Events:
  • Screenings of the award-winning Bristol Bay documentary, Red Gold, will be held throughout the week.
  • In Seattle, Roy Street Coffee & Tea will screen Red Gold at 7:30 p.m. on July 6 and at 7:30 p.m. on July 8.
  • In Portland, members of the public are invited to a screening Friday July 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ecotrust Building.
  • A Bristol Bay salmon dinner and slideshow will be hosted by Chef Lisa Schroeder at Mother’s Bistro on July 15.
  • Chef Becky Selengut will host a Bristol Bay Salmon cooking class at the Edmonds PCC on Wednesday July 7th. For more details on the class please visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/112619
  • Learn more about Savor Bristol Bay week and what you can do to get involved by visiting the following websites: www.savebristolbay.org and www.whywild.org
  • Participating Seattle Restaurants Steelhead Diner Blueacre Seafood Andaluca Tilth Art of the Table Delicatus Ray's Boathouse Pike Brewing Company Nell's Emmer & Rye Crush Tilikum Place Café Flying Fish Roy Street Coffee Salty's on Alki Beach Salty’s at Redondo Beach Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedar Brook Lodge Kingfisher Dining Lodge, Sleeping Lady Resort Summit House Bistro, Crystal Mountain Resort Seattle Fish Company
  • Participating Portland Restaurants Bridgeport Brewing Company: Brewpub Lincoln Lucy's Table Metrovino Bon Appétit Management Company Irving Street Kitchen The Original Papa Haydn Northwest Papa Haydn East Jo's Bar Cafe Nell Serratto Mother's Bistro Salty's on the Columbia River Higgins Restaurant Bluehour New Seasons Market Newman’s Fish Market Bon Appétit Management Company at OMSI PCC Natural Markets

California Waypoints - Caveat Emptor*

By John Hurwitz

Midsummer, somewhere off Northern California’s lost coast, I’d been salmon fishing around Shelter Cove. The fog hung halfway up the mountains, the sky was missing, replaced by a grey blanket stretching as far west as I could see. Mountains rise straight up from the sea with innumerable creeks springing from every crevice and gorge. The waterfalls and rivulets trip and flow down the cliffs, grow into creeks as they meet the beach and then race across the sand to join the sea. A magical place to be sure and once there, a place you’ll never forget. Off some of these creeks there’s some good holding ground for boaters who don’t mind anchoring just outside the breaker line facing the open sea. In this setting I stretched out on the deck one evening and contemplated where to end my trip. With my golden retriever, Pal resting at my side, we considered our options.

Home at that time was in Belmont, California. We could fish on down the coast, deliver in Half Moon Bay, and see my wife, Irene. Pal had been my deckhand all of his life. We had spent many years talking to each other out on the ocean. He was my best friend, an incredible retriever, and not a bad storyteller. He agreed with the plan.

So we kicked off our trip down the coast, destination: Half Moon Bay. I’d call Irene and she could come over the hill from Belmont and pick us up. And if by chance the albacore should show up I’d be in position. Half Moon is a great jumping off spot for the Pioneer, Guide, and Davidson seamounts, favorite playgrounds for the tuna.

Passing many rivers as I fished south, I held as close to them as I could for any stray salmon. Off the Navarro, above Pt. Arena I was going through the gear when I found two dead steelhead twirling on the dog lines. I didn’t think much about it. I had at least three thousand pounds of ice on board and these two were destined for Irene’s table at home. They were already dead, but that far from justified feeding these beautiful fish to the crabs. I cleaned them, dug a special hole in the ice and buried them for the final leg of the trip.

I anchored at Pt. Reyes the evening before making the run to Half Moon. It was smoking out of the NW, but Reyes is the perfect place to lay back and listen to the wind play tunes in the rigging. I knew this northwest wouldn’t trouble my run home, I’d just slide with it. That night several other boats joined me in the anchorage and I listened as fishermen wearily pitched their anchors and let the force of the wind set the hooks.

At first light I set my gear just outside the anchorage and trolled in the general direction of the southeast island. Nearing the island, I adjusted my course for Half Moon and took a couple nice fish off the gear after the turn. It was a slow sloppy scratch, but certainly better then nothing. Nearing the harbor I stowed the gear and Pal and I started cleaning up the boat. While I cleaned and fastened everything topside, Pal was cleaning up the galley and around my bunk where I frequently snacked when reading in the evening. He even got a biscuit or two for his efforts.

Entering Half Moon Bay, I turned toward the large pier jutting out into the center of the bay. The fish houses and their buyers were located at the end of the pier. As I swung the boat around to place it under the hoist, I noticed the buyer standing out at the hoist and was grateful to have him there to catch a line. The tide was high and snagging a piling was the next best thing after a friendly hand. As the North Cape gently nudged the pilings I looked up and called to Michael McHenry that I had salmon to unload. “Great. Let’s do it!” he replied. He dropped the basket on my deck and I loaded what fish I had into it. He gave me my fish ticket and said I could pick up a check the next day. As we were standing there talking, up pulled a truck with the familiar symbol and a game warden stepped out.

The warden walked over to me and said “ Say Captain, mind if I have a look in your fish hold?” “Sure,” I replied, “be my guest.” (Comfortable in the knowledge he’d never find those two steelhead.) At my consent he returned to his truck and retrieved a long telescoping steel rod. His producing this steel rod was not something I had anticipated, I felt my nerves start to tingle a little. That rod had only one function which was to probe into ice bins for hidden fish. Had he been watching me?

McHenry stayed on the pier with me updating me with the latest gossip and fishing info while the warden continued his search. Suddenly out of the hold appeared the warden, arms outstretched and a steelhead in each hand. He shouted, “Skipper, what are these?” Stunned I blurted out, “Two silvers. I was taking them home to my wife for dinner.” This set off the warden into a long tirade chastising me about how commercial fishermen cannot keep fish to take home for dinner and that these fish must be sold. He climbed off the boat and handed me the fish.
When I explained I didn’t know about the law against taking fish home, the warden resumed his sermon even more passionately. With the speech droning on, I laid the fish down on the dock between Michael and me.

As I stared at my boots like a wayward schoolboy I noticed the buyer attempting to distance himself from me and my fish. My attention was now captured by Michael’s slow but deliberate movement as he continued to gaze down at the two fish while edging backwards till he took one final long step backwards. At the same moment I heard a truck door slam. The warden, having delivered his speech, had moved on, and was driving off the pier leaving us alone with the two fish. As Michael and I watched him go, he turned to me and said, “John, you just used up your luck for the whole year!”

The steelhead was delicious.

*Buyer Beware

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