Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aid Offered to Fishing Communities Affected by Japan Earthquake

The Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission, Inc. has reactivated to aid fishing communities affected by the disastrous Japan earthquakes and tsunamis.

The announcement this week came from Larry Cotter, chairman of the AFIRM board and chief executive officer of the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association. AFRIM is offering aid through the combined donations of fishermen, processors, transportation and financial segments of the seafood industry from Alaska, the West Coast and their respective offshore federal waters.

Cotter noted that Japan is Alaska’s largest trading partner, with the majority consisting of Alaska seafood.

“In one way or another, everyone involved in any aspect of the seafood industry in Alaska and the West Coast has strong ties and relationships with Japan,” he said.

AFIRM director Terry Shaff, president of Unisea Inc., and chairman of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, said many contributions have already come in and more will be eager to help when the situation allows for a good assessment as to what kind of help is needed most.

AFIRM, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, was first formed to assist the Gulf fishing communities following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The group coordinated the donation of a Marine Travellift to refloat thousands of vessels grounded far inshore by the hurricanes, as well as providing for an ice-making facility.

Even before AFIRM was born, Alaska seafood processors had donated large quantities of shelf-stable products such as canned and pouched salmon, to be distributed in the Gulf region by America's Second Harvest and other groups.

United Fishermen of Alaska’s Mark Vinsel, secretary treasurer of AFIRM, said the organization is looking for contacts in the industry and hoping to duplicate its success to help fishing communities impacted by the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes several years ago. “We want to help fishing communities and we will look for guidance from them,” he said.

More information is at Donations are fully tax deductible.

Gulf Residents Ask for Solutions to Chinook Salmon Bycatch

With the North Pacific Fishery Management Council poised to begin an initial review of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch controls, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council this week issued a call for action.

AMCC issued a news release in Anchorage, where the council is meeting from March 28 through April 5, urging that the limit on incidental harvest of king salmon in the Gulf Pollock fishery be set at a maximum of 15,000 fish.

Council members are expected to look at limits ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 kings, when the agenda item comes up on Friday.

Along with the bycatch cap, the NPFMC will consider requiring that the trawl fleet cooperate to meet any new conservation goal. Such an approach would emulate systems now used by the larger Pollock fleets in the Bering Sea that reward clean fishing and penalize vessel owners with high bycatch.

Last year some 41,000 Chinook salmon were taken as bycatch during the Gulf Pollock fishery, a record bycatch according to federal statistics., while the region’s king salmon runs were at historic low returns.

Chinook salmon returns for all Gulf of Alaska management areas last year were below 10-year averages. In fact, AMCC argued, the Pollock fishery bycatch exceeded the combined commercial king salmon harvest in the Kodiak and Chignik areas by some 20,000 fish.

More than 500 people living in coastal Alaska communities recently signed a letter urging that the bycatch not be allowed to exceed 15,000 kings, AMCC said.

Harvester Theresa Peterson, who serves as Kodiak outreach coordinator for AMCC, said fishermen are looking for solutions – commercial, sport and subsistence salmon fishermen as well as the trawl fleet. Peterson said the group hopes the state and fishery managers can reach an agreement for expedited and meaningful action that will be in the best interest of the state, fishing jobs and coastal communities.

Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium Begins April 9

Organizers of Kodiak’s first marine science symposium plan to pack into the four-day event beginning April 9 presentations of decades of marine research conducted in the Kodiak area, for the benefit of fishermen, students and other residents of Kodiak.

The event, sponsored by Alaska Sea Grant, is aimed at educating the people who live on and fish in the Kodiak area about how Kodiak’s marine environment and resources function change and affect their lives and livelihoods. Discussions will span all dimensions of marine science in the Kodiak area, from physical oceanography to zooplankton, crabs to salmon, puffins to killer whales and historic to current human dimensions, organizers said.

Community support for infrastructure needed for resident state, federal and academic researchers on the island has helped Kodiak develop into a center of marine research, with facilities including the NOAA search ship Oscar Dyson.

While a wealth of marine research has been conducted in Kodiak waters over the years, few of these studies have been presented broadly before to local fishermen and other residents of the community.

Duncan Fields, a commercial fisherman and a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council from Kodiak, will speak on the importance of science for sustainable fisheries.

Courtney Carothers of the University of Alaska Fairbanks will speak on fisheries privatization and shifting human-environment relationships in the Kodiak Archipelago,
Lowell Fritz of NOAA Fisheries in Seattle will speak on changes in the survival and reproduction of Steller sea lions in the central Gulf of Alaska from 1976 through 2009. Molly Odell of the University of Washington’s Department of Anthropology, will take on a broader topic – 7,000 years of intertidal shellfish exploitation in Chiniak Bay.

Daniel Urban of NOAA Fisheries at Kodiak will discuss Pacific cod predation on tanner crab in Marmot Bay, and Christina Conrath. Also of NOAA Fisheries at Kodiak, will talk about the Gulf of Alaska rockfish maturity project.

The complete agenda is at

ComFish 2011 Offers Full Array of Topics, Speakers

ComFish 2011, coming at Kodiak April 14-16, is packed with fishery policy forums on a list of topics ranging seafood marketing updates to safety technology, alternative energy information, new products and environmental issues.

An impressive speakers list begins with Kodiak’s Mark Buckley, with his report card to fishermen on how their efforts paid off in much improved quality of sockeye salmon harvested from Bristol Bay during the 2010 season.

Buckley, who is pursuing a doctoral degree based on his fisheries research, has spent nearly 40 years working in many fields related to Alaska fisheries, and fished the bay himself for 22 summers. Now his research is based on helping fish harvesters get a better price for their salmon by better handling of the fish from the time it is picked from nets until it reaches the processing facilities.

Peter Bechtel of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who is affiliated with the US Department of Agriculture, will talk about waste in the seafood industry , with tips on how now wasted parts of fish can be turned into profitable new products.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, will update ComFish attendees on congressional legislation, and Ken Lawrenson, fishing vessel safety coordinator for the U.S. Coast Guard 17th district, will talk about new regulations for dockside exams that will begin in late 2012.

Another perennial topic – development of non-renewable natural resources – will be discussed in forums on the proposed Chuitna coal mine project in Cook Inlet and the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.
These presentations will be led by Dennis Gann, of Cook InletKeeper and the Renewable Resources Coalition respectively.

The last day of ComFish will include the showing of the film “Ocean Fury: Tsunamis in Alaska,” by Alaska Sea Grant. The award-winning film features live footage and interviews with survivors of the 1964 Alaska earthquake and deadly tsunamis in its wake on Alaska communities.

More information is at

Gripping Tales of the Bering Sea Fisheries

Joe Upton, author of the award-winning book Alaska Blues, an account of a season commercial fishing in Southeast Alaska, has produced a new volume, Bering Sea Blues – A Crabber’s Tale of Fear in the Icy North, just out from Epicenter Press in Kenmore, Washington.

Upton was just 25 years old when he boarded the 104-foot Flood Tide pulling out of Seattle in March 1971, headed for Dutch Harbor with 700-pound crab pots stacked three deep on the deck. Every time the vessel iced up, which was often, the crew would have to beat the ice off with hammers and baseball bats, literally fighting for their lives in the howling winds in 30 foot seas.

This is Upton’s white-knuckle memoir of a winter of fishing for king crab in the Bering Sea, of 12-to-14 hour days in search of elusive pockets on the ocean floor that could yield tons of the precious king crab.

The mood of the book, a sense of foreboding, is set in Upton’s prologue: “The Bering Sea is a bad place, the meanest sea that washes any shore,” he wrote. “To the west is Siberia, to the north the Arctic, to the south the North Pacific, and to the east the vast tundra coast of Alaska. All are weather breeders. Calm days are rare.”

Upton, who got his start in fisheries as a fleet mechanic for a Chilean fishing company at $50 a month, was befriended by a fellow American who suggested he head north to Alaska, where he could make big bucks and walking the docks in Seattle, he found a job aboard a vessel heading for Southeast Alaska to buy fish.

Later Upton moved to crab boats and describes in vivid detail that drama and hair raising adventures of life aboard a crab vessel.

Upton’s epilogue too will keep readers on edge as he describes some of the tragic losses of life in the Bering Sea crab fishery. “For myself, if there was a single event that epitomized the vicious conditions of the Bering Sea, always probing the defenses of any boat, it was what happened to the big 120 footer Vestfjord on an October evening in 1981 and shocked the entire Bering Sea crab fleet,” he wrote.

“Apparently the wave that hit the Vestfjord blew her pilothouse windows inward with enough force that the brass motor of the spinner drove directly into (Skipper Jens) Jensen’s head, killing him instantly. The water also shorted out most of the radios, the automatic pilot, and all the electronic navigation equipment.”

Only after a fierce struggle with the wind howling through the shattered pilothouse windows was the crew able to get the manual steering operating, the crabber turned away from the wind, a radio operating, and start back to Dutch Harbor.

“It was a tragic reminder to the whole crab fleet that even in the apparent security of the pilothouse, the Bering Sea is capable of striking a fatal blow,” he wrote.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Endangered Coho Salmon Return to Russian River

Field biologists are reporting the largest number of endangered coho salmon returning to spawn in tributaries of Northern California’s Russian River in more than a decade.

Most of these fish were released as fingerlings into the river system, as part of a captive broodstock program at Don Clausen Warm Springs Hatchery on Lake Sonoma that began 10 years ago, when wild coho salmon were rapidly vanishing from the region.

"We were very excited to observe so many adult coho return and spawn this winter," said Mariska Obedzinski, lead biologist and monitoring program manager with California Sea Grant. "A lot of people are working hard to improve conditions for coho in the Russian, and this is a hopeful sign that our efforts are starting to pay off."

Since the launch of the recovery program in 2001, returning adult coho salmon averaged less than four per year. These low numbers were the catalyst for the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, a recovery effort in which offspring from hatchery-reared adults are released into the river system.

This year, biologists estimate that more than 190 adult coho have returned to the Russian River watershed, beginning with early storms in October and peaking in December. Promisingly, a few coho are being sighted in unstocked creeks, utilizing habitat beyond those tributaries in which coho are released.

“We are hopeful this trend will continue and the Russian River coho salmon population will establish self-sustaining runs,” said Paul Olin, an advisor with California Sea Grant Extension, who oversees monitoring of juvenile and adult salmon in the river system. “This program might help guide recovery efforts for many other remnant populations of coho salmon in California.”

Coho salmon abundance has declined dramatically statewide in the past few decades. Biologists believe that additional captive breeding efforts and other focused recovery measures will likely have to be instituted to prevent widespread extinction of coho salmon in Central California.

The Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program is a broad coalition of government agencies, scientists and private landowners dedicated to bringing back productive salmon runs. Its members include the California Department of Fish and Game, which manages the hatchery component at the Don Clausen Warm Springs Hatchery, National Marine Fisheries Service, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Sea Grant Extension, UC Cooperative Extension, and US Army Corps of Engineers, along with hundreds of cooperating landowners.

Maritime Lien Reform Act Introduced

Alaska’s congressional delegation is taking another try at legislation to protect fishermen holding Alaska commercial fishing permits from getting slapped with liens on those permits, thereby endangering their economic livelihood.

The measure was introduced into the Senate Commerce Committee as S608 by Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska introduced the legislation as HR1210 into the House subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure.

The good news, said Bob King, a fisheries aide to Begich, is that in the Senate it will get referred to the oceans subcommittee, which Begich chairs.

Similar legislation was introduced in Congress in 2006 and 2008, but failed to pass.

The current measure would benefit some `3,000 individuals who hold Alaska commercial entry permits, about 75 percent of them Alaska residents. There are permit holders in all 50 states.

“I don’t think anybody is opposed to it,” King said. “The question is whether it is going to be taken up.”

There is hope that this and other relatively small, non-controversial fisheries issues, with no major fiscal impact, may be wrapped into a single piece of legislation before this session ends, he said.

In the past the legislation failed because it was linked with some more contentious issues, he said.

Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission has fought for years to protect limited entry permits as a use privilege, rather than a piece of property. The CFEC also is working to protect the status of these permits as a use privilege, he said.

Murkowski, Begich and Young issued a joint statement on the measure on March 18, noting that Alaska state law already prohibits liens on Alaska limited entry permits, but that a court decision threw that into doubt by determining that a fishing license was subject to a maritime lien under Federal Admiralty Law. That decision, they said, has become the rationale for attempts to take Alaska fishing permits in federal bankruptcy court. The federal measure is the best way to protect these permits and the fish harvesters, they said.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council Spring Meeting in Anchorage

Final action on crab management issues in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and hired skipper restrictions for halibut/ sablefish are on the agenda for the March 30- April 5 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

The council will conduct a preliminary review of changes proposed in the salmon fishery management plan and an initial review of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch control measures.

The council has scheduled eight hours each for halibut/sablefish, salmon and BSAI crab issues.

Also on tap is final action on the essential fish habitat omnibus amendment, which were identified during the 2010 EFH 5-year-review, and an initial review, followed by final action to revise Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod jig fishery management.

The bulk of the public testimony is expected to come on the Gulf king salmon bycatch control measures, and action to amend hired skipper privileges granted to individual and corporate initial recipients of catcher vessel quota shares during implementation of the halibut and sablefish Individual Fishing Quota program in 1995, council staff opined.

During its February meeting in Seattle, the federal panel reviewed two staff discussion papers concerning measures to address Chinook salmon bycatch by Pollock trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

The council’s action is rooted in the record high bycatch of 54,000 king salmon catch in the Gulf groundfish trawl fishery in 2010. This occurred at the same time as many of the Gulf king salmon runs were suffering from historic low returns., outraging commercial sport and subsistence users of the succulent fish.

The proposed action includes alternatives to implement Chinook salmon bycatch caps in the central and western Gulf Pollock fisheries and/or a cooperative program to address Chinook bycatch in those fisheries. After reviewing the papers, the council modified its alternatives by clarifying the options for apportioning the proposed caps between the two regulatory areas, and more fully specifying the cooperative program alternative.

The council clarified that the cap would be apportioned between the western and central Gulf, rather than a Gulf-wide cap, and that apportionment would be based either on the relative historic Pollock catch in each regulatory area, or relative historic bycatch amounts in each area, or a weighted ratio of catch and bycatch.

A second discussion paper, on the cooperative program reviewed at the February meeting led the council to add substantial detail to its bycatch control cooperative alternative.

The complete agenda is at

Bristol Bay Watershed Fight Goes Back to Juneau

A contingent of commercial and sport fishermen, and other stakeholders, including a Kodiak chef renowned for his seafood dishes, gave Alaska legislators and state officials an earful in Juneau last week on the importance of the Clean Water Act.

They made a point of explaining to each legislator and state employee they met with that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken up its study on potential impacts to the Bristol Bay watershed of large-scale resource development at the request of area stakeholders, rather than its own impetus.

The EPA is acting through its authority under section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act, to determine how the world-class copper, gold and molybdenum prospect at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed could affect that watershed and its world famous sockeye salmon fishery.

According to Lindsey Bloom, representing the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association, the group had more than two-dozen meetings with state agency officials, as well as legislators.

The meetings were cordial, and those in attendance thankful to have positions clarified by the group, which opposes the mine, Bloom said.

The Pebble mine, a divisive issue, has resulted in an ongoing run of advertisements from proponents and opponents of the mine. One side sees the massive mine as an economic prospect worth millions which can co-exist comfortably with the fisheries. The other points to the environmental devastation that large scale mining has inflicted on third world countries as well as regions of the United States, saying the risk to the multi-million dollar fishery is too great. Kodiak chef Joel Chenet said he had seen with his own eyes the devastation in Madagascar caused by mining.

The EPA, said the group, is not trying to tell Alaska what to do. The EPA is responding to a request for help from Alaskans who live and work in Bristol Bay, where people as well as wildlife are reliant on the fisheries, they said.

Management Measures Tightened in Southeast Alaska Halibut Fishery

NOAA’s Fisheries Service has begun implementing the regulatory recommendations of the International Pacific Halibut Commission because of concerns over declining halibut stocks. The new regulations include a 37-inch limit on the size of a halibut hooked by clients aboard charter vessels in Southeast Alaska, and retaining the one-fish-per-person-a-day rule implemented in 2009.

NOAA officials said the halibut stocks are declining due to reduced numbers of fish reaching a catchable size range, lower growth rates, and higher than target harvest rates, and that meanwhile stocks continue to be at risk of further decline.

“The declining halibut stock is impacting both charter and commercial halibut fishers all along the west coast from Washington State to Alaska, “said James Balsiger, Alaska Fisheries regional administrator for the federal agency. “NOAA’s Fisheries Service is committed to working cooperatively with our international partners in Canada to jointly manage this important stock for the long-term benefit of both our countries.”
Numerous restrictions have been implemented on Area 2C charter boats in an effort to more closely align charter harvest with the limit, but those measures have been insufficient, NOAA officials said. Even with the one fish bag limit last year, the charter halibut fleet exceeded its harvest limit by 491,000 pounds, or 62 percent. Each year that the charter fleet exceeds its harvest limit it leads to a lower fixed quota for the commercial fishery the following year. The commercial catch limit in area 2C is now 73 percent lower than it was in 2003.

According to NOA, the idea behind the rule is to let charter halibut vessels continue to stay in business while staying within the harvest limit, and minimizing adverse effects on the charter fishery, its clients and coastal communities that serve as home port for that fishery. Allowing halibut stocks to rebuild will best serve the economic interests of both the charter and commercial fisheries over the long term, NOAA officials said.

The harvest limit was adopted by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and implemented by NOAA Fisheries in 2003. Under a treaty in place since 1923, between the U.S. and Canada the IPHC has governed the harvest of Pacific halibut by all users. A critical element in maintaining the health of the resource is that catch limits not be exceeded. The commercial halibut fishery has not exceeded the Area specific catch limit recommended by IPHC Commissioners in any year since the IFQ plan was implemented in 1995.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fresh Fish and Tin Ears

As we go to press, we’re wrapping up this year’s successful Wild Seafood Exchange, produced by Fishermen’s News in partnership with Washington Sea Grant.

The 2011 conference, sponsored by Nichols Bros. Boat Builders, the Port of Seattle and Trace Register, consisted of four panels, made up of panelists whose field of expertise included restaurant management, direct marketing, processing and distribution and vessel construction financing.

After a continental breakfast and networking opportunity, the first panel, moderated by Fishermen’s News Publisher Peter Philips and made up of Robert Spaulding, Executive Chef of Elliott’s Oyster House and Peter Birk, Executive Chef of Ray’s Boathouse, addressed issues such as sustainability and pricing.

The chefs described what they look for in wild seafood products and vendors, including which species are desirable, how much they use and how they like to work with suppliers.

Both chefs work with four or five suppliers of fish, increasing to as many as eight different suppliers during the summer months.

Peter Birk stressed that quality was paramount and noted that during the summer months Ray’s Boathouse returned 30 to 40 percent of fish delivered.

The second panel, Successful Direct Marketing Operations, was moderated by Pete Granger of Washington Sea Grant, and addressed setting up a successful direct marketing operation, effective sales techniques, and how to manage harvesting and delivery of a wild seafood product.

Panelists included Andy Furner, of Trace Register, Joe Malley, of the F/V St. Jude and Karen Edwards of Island Wild Seafoods.

Andy Furner described how his service, Trace Register, a web-based application that producers, buyers, marketers, and regulators use to track products through the supply chain, could be used by fishermen and restaurants to “attach” data about a product, via barcode or other identifying number, to provide information on that product to the end user- in this case a customer at a restaurant.

Furner demonstrated how a diner could scan a barcode on his menu with his smart phone and discover where the fish on the menu was caught, by whom, the name of the vessel and other significant information.

Joe Malley and Karen Edwards described some of their successful direct marketing campaigns, including a powerful web presence.

After a buffet luncheon, which included roundtable discussions on selling to restaurants, financing a new vessel, design and construction questions and marketing via the internet, Pete Granger moderated a panel on Processing and Distributing.

Panelists Flip Sturdivant of Select Fish/Whole Foods, Tom Hassenauer of Food Services of America and Johnpaul Davies of Port Townsend-based Key City Fish addressed issues related to getting the product from the net to the customer.

The final panel of the day addressed Vessel Construction Financing. Banks are again interested in lending to independent fishermen, and the panel, moderated by Bruce King, of Garvey Shubert Barer, looked at different public funding sources available to the independent fisherman. Panelists included Matt Nichols, of Nichols Bros. Boatbuilders, Chris Eckels, of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Roy Wallace, from Banner Bank and Erik Houser, with the Northwest Business Development Association (NWBDA).

Panelists addressed issues such as how to determine what financing solution is best for you, and how to prepare a plan that is attractive to the lender.

Matt Nichols told the attendees that the best thing a prospective boatbuilding client can do is have a complete set of well-defined plans at the start of construction. He noted that change orders are costly not only for the client, but for the yard as well, creating delays that potentially affect the yard’s future projects.

Other interesting topics in the final discussion included a Federal government-backed loan program that offers up to 40 percent of the financing to build a new vessel, along with up to 50 percent conventional financing, allowing a fisherman to put only 10 percent toward a new vessel.

The one-day conference opened with keynote speaker and natural resource economist Dr. Hans Radtke, Ph.D., who discussed the economic benefits of commercial fishing to Washington State. His paper was excerpted in this space last month, and our readers already understand the benefits of commercial fishing to the Washington State economy.

Those benefits are, sadly, lost on at least one Port of Seattle commissioner.

Last month, the Port held a “media roundtable” in which only five media representatives were present, handpicked by the Port of Seattle. Those present included two representatives from one local television station, a representative of the Seattle Times, a university radio station and a neighborhood blogger.

The commercial fishing industry was not invited, nor were any representatives of the maritime media.

During the roundtable, Seattle Port commissioner John Creighton made the following statement:

“You look at Fishermen’s Terminal- We’re gonna have to invest millions of dollars in the next few years. I’m sure you know we have fishing net sheds that basically have been, not quite condemned by the Seattle Fire Department but, um, you know we’ve been told we have to rebuild those. Well that’s going to cost millions of dollars, and yet you look at the fishing industry for the next decade, um, you know the fish stocks are dwindling, so how can we make that big investment important to our community, important to our culture and our history and also remain nimble enough to be able to generate revenue and jobs out of it well into the future if things change.”

No one present corrected Commissioner Creighton, who seemed to be setting the terminal up for some future, non-fishing development. No one, including three other port commissioners or the five media representatives in the room knew enough about the West Coast fishing industry to contradict Mr. Creighton’s false assertion that the fishing industry was doomed. Instead, the Seattle Times reported the false assertion, and Commissioner Creighton is “…very pleased at the thought provoking input we received…”
Rather than correct the assertion, Commissioner Creighton wonders whether Philips Publishing Group would be interested in sponsoring the Port of Seattle’s centennial party.

Catch Shares

An Oregon-based environmental group with ties to fisheries issued a report March 15 with 16 recommendations to strengthen the resilience and prosperity of fishing communities under a new national catch share policy.

Ecotrust, with offices in Newport, Oregon, is urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to further define and develop guidelines for implementation of community provisions within the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to be applied by all fishery management councils.

Ecotrust issued its own report, which it said was written by a national bi-partisan panel of experts, with 16 recommendations that Ecotrust said would strengthen the resilience and prosperity of fishing communities under a new catch share plan.

America’s fishing communities generate $163 billion in revenues each year and support 1.9 million jobs; yet there has been a notable lack of implementation of existing provisions for communities in the nation’s fisheries law, Ecotrust said.

The report released by Ecotrust was a 36-page document developed over the past year by a national panel on community dimensions of fisheries catch share programs. It aims to address ways that NOAA and regional fisheries councils should include communities in implementation of catch share policy.

One example is to encourage NOAA to grant initial allocations of fish quotas to community entities.

Ecotrust released the report in conjunction with a teleconference in which participants recommended that NOAA and the regional councils expand their financial tools to include public-private partnerships, loan guarantees and a dedicated loan program to help communities purchase catch shares.
The entire report is at

Grant Gives Canadian Fishermen an Edge Over Their US Counterparts

The Canadian Government has awarded a $24,000 grant to the commercial fishing group, the Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation, (CHMSF) to develop overseas markets for its sustainably caught albacore tuna, says a recent press release from trade group Wild Pacific Albacore. South of the border, US albacore trollers struggle against a rising tide of regulations and restrictions that threaten to wipe out the century-old fishery.

“It is encouraging to see the Canadian government supporting groups who fish in a responsible, sustainable way,” says Wayne Heikkila, Executive Director of the Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA), which represents about 300 West coast albacore fishermen. The press release notes the non-profit has been denied similar government funding to effectively market its troll-caught albacore.

Commercial fishing in US waters is becoming more restrictive each year, despite it being one of the most sustainable and well-managed fisheries in the world. Instead of promoting their sustainable tuna to US and overseas consumers, the WFOA must use available funds to ensure compliance with Government regulations.

“We fish for the same tuna, in the same waters, using the same gear. This grant gives Canadian fishermen a real advantage in competitive overseas markets,” say Heikkila.
Canadian fishermen have made significant headway in their efforts to attract North American and international consumers through ongoing government support, the press release notes, while the US lags despite catching twice the tonnage annually.
Unlike the larger scale fisheries, the US albacore industry consists of small, family-run boats with one to three crew members. With rising fuel costs and tight profit margins, there is very little money left over for marketing.

Lorne Clayton, Executive Director of the CHMSF, explained that the AgriMarketing grant gave the Foundation its first opportunity to expand their marketing strategy to include countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Japan, China, and Dubai.

“We hope our Government will see the success of the Canadian campaign and take measures to support us by way of a similar grant. At the very least, stop reducing our international competitiveness through excessive, burdensome regulation and monitoring requirements,” says Heikkila.

In 2010 the WFOA and the CHMSF went through the expensive Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process, allowing them to differentiate their albacore as a premium product. The MSC is considered the world’s leading labeling program for sustainable seafood. The certification is required by many leading retailers overseas, including UK retail giant Tesco.

Consumers outside North America, particularly in Europe, are more aware of the importance of choosing sustainably caught or ethically raised fish. “It’s really important for US fishermen to get a foothold in these markets to stay competitive,” says Heikkila.

“We believe the U.S. Government, through NOAA/NMFS, needs to do more to recognize the value and sustainability of local U.S. fish and fishermen before it disappears for good and the U.S. consumer can only find imported seafood in the marketplace,” says Heikkila.

NOAA: US “Turning a Corner” in Ending Overfishing

At a hearing last week in front of the Senate Commerce Committee on the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Assistant NOAA Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab said that the U.S. is making good progress toward meeting the mandate to end domestic overfishing.
“We know that nearly $31 billion in sales and as many as 500,000 jobs are lost because our fisheries are not performing as well as they would if all stocks were rebuilt,” Schwaab said. “While we are turning a corner toward a brighter future for fishermen and fishing communities, many fishermen are struggling in part as a result of years of decline in fishing opportunity.”

Schwaab said that NOAA is committed to working with fishermen and communities during this period of transition.

Our nation’s fisheries have been vital to the economics and identities of our coastal communities for hundreds of years. According to the most recent estimates, US commercial and saltwater recreational fisheries support almost two million jobs and generate more than $160 billion in sales.

Schwaab talked about fishery management challenges, including improving collection, analysis, and accuracy of scientific information used to manage both recreational and commercial fisheries. He indicated that NOAA Fisheries would continue to work hard with the regional fishery management councils, fishermen and the coastal communities to increase confidence in the management system and ensure productive and efficient fisheries.

“We have turned a corner in our management of fisheries in this country, and the sacrifices made and being made by so many who rely on this industry are showing great promise,” Schwaab said. “As we end overfishing and rebuild stocks, we will increase the economic output of our fisheries, improve the economic conditions for our fishermen, and create better, more stable and sustainable jobs and opportunities in our coastal communities.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Speaking Statistically

The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results. Take the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for example:

A 2009 report on spending by “fishers, hunters and wildlife watchers” from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) found that commercial fisheries generate $3.8 billion a year in economic activity for the State of Washington. The report was based on Fisheries Economics of the U.S., 2006, published by the NOAA office of Science and Technology.

The 2010 WDFW report for the State of Washington, based on the same 2006 NOAA study, found the impact of commercial fishing to be $1.6 billion. Same report, same data, different results. Crazy? Perhaps. The 2009 WDFW report has now been relegated to the state archives, and branded with a disclaimer that it “may contain factual inaccuracies that do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy.”

The discrepancy was called to our attention by a group of stakeholders, who discovered that the state had massaged the numbers, giving less importance to the commercial fishermen in favor of the “hunters and wildlife watchers.” The “new” study reduced commercial fishing’s share of the profit generation from 56 percent to 35 percent.

In December of 2008 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife published a new report, titled “Economic Analysis of the Non-Treaty Commercial and Recreational Fisheries in Washington State”. While the new 49-page report’s findings are the basis of the State’s data going forward, it includes the following disclaimer in the first paragraph:

Although the study estimates net economic values and economic impacts of both commercial and recreational fisheries, it is not sufficiently comprehensive and the values are not estimated with adequate precision to warrant a comparative analysis of the two fisheries.

A group of concerned commercial fishermen engaged the Seattle Marine Business Coalition in support of an independent, third party scientific study, in response to the State’s inadequately estimated comparative analysis.

The result is a study by economist and former Pacific Fishery Management Council Chairman Hans Radtke, Ph.D. Radtke’s study, Washington State Commercial Fishing Industry Total Economic Contribution, was released last month. The new, independent study, determined that the State’s study “represented about 28 percent for the sum of Washington harvest value from onshore landings and the harvest value of Washington based vessel participation in other West Coast fisheries,” but left out large economic effects from other commercial fishery related activities.

Among the omissions noted by Radtke were the tribal fisheries:

“The ocean, Puget Sound, and river tribal fisheries are major contributors to Washington’s economy. Tribal commercial fisheries’ activities are tracked in the commercial fish ticket system. The data available for such tribal fisheries include: ocean non-salmon and salmon treaty allocations, inland shellfish, river salmon and steelhead, and others. Tribal harvesters depend on the same gear and other supply businesses; and, harvests enter the same processing and distribution chains as non-Indian fisheries.”

Also omitted from the State exercise were the economic effects from distant water fisheries.

“Distant water fisheries are mostly in Alaska waters and at-sea deliveries off the West Coast. This segment would also include onshore deliveries made in other West Coast states by vessels based at Washington ports.” Radtke notes many economic effects to Washington’s economy for these fisheries, including, “Skippers and crew that have residency and spend their earnings in Washington; catcher-processor products entering seafood distribution channels in Washington; provisioning and repairs purchased from Washington businesses; secondary and analog seafood processing; and cold storage occurring in Washington.” Radtke also notes the legal, financial, and administrative companies that provide services for the direct participants.

Aquaculture, including shellfish, was also omitted from the State’s study. Radtke notes that this fishing industry segment is important to include because, “economic activity in the included Washington fisheries relies upon many of the same support businesses as does aquaculture.”

Other omissions from the State report include the West Coast offshore Pacific whiting fishery, which is prosecuted by catcher vessels delivering to motherships and catcher- processor vessels, Oregon Coast catch area harvests that are southerly of the Washington–Oregon land boundary extension but delivered to Washington ports, and Alaska and other West Coast waters’ catch delivered to Washington ports.

Radtke’s study is a clear condemnation of the slipshod, albeit publicly funded, report on which Washington State is basing its economic decisions. This editor will not speculate on the motivation of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in producing and disseminating its admittedly inaccurate study. I will note, however, that Professor Radtke’s report is accurate and has been made available to any Washington State legislators who are interested in the true economic benefits to the State of Washington from the largest commercial fishing fleet in the US. The report is available to our readers for download and dissemination at

Feel free to share it with your legislator and your fellow fishermen.

Several local fishermen have approached Fishermen’s News about having the paper advocate on behalf of the industry regarding this issue. Fishermen's News has picked up the mantle of exposing the state's manipulation of scientific data to minimize fishing industry's value to the state's economy.

Several fisheries group’s representatives will be meeting at Wild Seafood Exchange ( to begin informal discussions with each other about presenting a cohesive industry-wide response to the Department of Fish and Wildlife's recent actions.

David Harsila, John MacDonald and Bill Gardner are rallying their constituents. We encourage those of you interested in this effort to pass on this message to your customers and colleagues in the fishing industry to alert them to next week's Wild Seafood Exchange.

Professor Radtke will discuss the economic impact of Washington State commercial fisheries, and the findings of his just-released study, at the 8th annual Wild Seafood Exchange to be presented March 9th at the Embassy Suites in Lynnwood, Washington.

Wild Seafood Exchange is produced every spring by Fishermen’s News, in partnership with Washington Sea Grant. The conference assembles independent commercial fishermen to explore harvesting, marketing and delivery of sustainably harvested wild seafood to retailers and restaurants. In recent years Wild Seafood Exchange has grown to also cover small business issues, and this year new vessel construction financing.

More information about Wild Seafood Exchange can be found on the Wild Seafood Exchange website, or by calling the offices of Fishermen’s News at (206) 284-8285.

Documentary Features 100-Year Old Fishing Vessel

In 1911, Pancho Villa led rebel forces during the Mexican Revolution. North of the border, John Browning introduced the Colt 45. 1911 saw the first use of aircraft as offensive weapons during the Turkish-Italian war, and the United States Navy ordered it's first airplane, the Curtiss A-1.

In 1911, Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole, the US Supreme Court dissolved Standard Oil and a first class stamp cost $.02.

In Seattle, the fishing vessel Tordenskjold slid down the ways at a little shipyard in the Scandinavian community of Ballard. Of all the events that transpired 100 years ago, the Tordenskjold is one that endures.

Remarkably, as she celebrates her centennial, she is neither relic nor museum piece. The Tordenskjold leads a small fleet of hard working commercial fishing schooners that compete head to head with modern boats on the Alaska fishing grounds.

Marvin Gjerde has owned and operated the Tordenskjold since 1979. He's still making a living with his century-old boat: You make a good living at it. “You know they're efficient boats, they're fairly inexpensive to operate. They're easily driven so you don't burn a lot of fuel,” he says.

Nobody is quite sure how many of the historic schooners are left.

“At one time, I was told there were 100 schooners in Seattle,” says Per Odegaard, owner of the Vansee. “And now, in the Seattle area that I know of, we're down to about 20. There's a few here and there, a couple in California, a few in Alaska but I don't believe there's 30 left.”

John McHenry owns the Seymour, which targets halibut and sablefish just like the Tordenskjold and her sisters. An anomaly in the clannish halibut fishery, an Irishman from Pennsylvania, McHenry has been a fisherman for 36 years. For McHenry, operating a 98-year-old boat is no hobby. “It's not really a form of nostalgia that has kept the Seymour going,” he says. “It's still a very safe, effective platform to catch our fish. At first glance it would appear as though it was a dinosaur but we'll be out with modern boats competing neck and neck and when we pull up to the fuel dock we usually win that contest.”

Anomalies like McHenry aside; halibut fishing has always been a family affair.

“The boats in the Seattle fleet here, all of them are second or third generation,” says Wade Bassi, owner of the Polaris. “It's a family run business, family orientated, small business, and it gets handed down from father to son to next son and it kind of stays in the family.”

Odegaard, who started longline fishing in 1967, describes the Vansee.

“She is an 87-foot halibut schooner, traditional wooden schooner, built out of fir, sawn fir frames, old-growth timber,” he says. “Obviously, these boats were heavily built, that's one of the reasons they lasted so long. It's very similar to a sailboat style when you see the lines of it. And the sister ship Polaris, there's a picture of them when they were built side-by-side and when you see the bottom you can really see the round kind of traditional Gloucester, East Coast sailboat lines which is what they were modeled after.”

Odegaard says it’s obvious they're very good sea boats, as they've taken weather for 90 some years. “I was in the tail end of a tropical typhoon one time in the Bering Sea and that was probably the biggest storm I've been in, we had 50-foot waves. We were loaded with about 80 some thousand pounds of halibut at the time.”

According to Bassi, The Polaris and the Vansee were literally cut from the same trees. “When they cut the ribs we got the inside part and he got the outside part so he's about a foot and a half wider than we are.”

Good trees they were, the old growth fir reaped from Pacific Northwest forests. The Tordenskjold is planked with 21/4-inch fir on frames sawn from old growth trees.
“They had really good carpenters and really, really good material to work with,” Gjerde says. “I don't know how far they had to go to get the vertical grain fir she was built with. They were probably still logging on (Seattle's) Capitol Hill in those days and it was just the finest material you could possibly use. Some of the later ones, they used bent oak frames. With boats like Tordenskjold and the Polaris, they're actually double sawn 8 x 8 frames, all vertical grain fir.”

Most of the planks and beams that you see in the boat are original, they haven't changed, says Bassi. “There are some planks on there that are close to 40 feet long,” he says. “Everything is fir on here, old growth fir, rims and planks are both fir, and the keel, everything is fir, there's no oak in her at all. I don't think you can afford to build a boat like this anymore, not only could you not get the materials, it would be so expensive to do that it wouldn't be worth it.

In significant ways, the Seymour is much the same as when it came off the ways in 1913. In other regards, it is significantly different.

The basic hull is very similar, so below the water line, the keel, the bow stem, the horn timber, the real guts of the boat, the frames, According to McHenry. As you get above the water line into the bulwarks, the wheelhouse has been changed; it's a modern aluminum wheelhouse. The masts are now aluminum. It has a modern diesel engine.

“I'm sure when those guys drug that lumber down to that boat in horse drawn wagons in 1913, they had no idea this boat would be fishing with a computer on it, all the modern navigational devices, watch alarm, satellite phones,” McHenry says.

Now, a 30-minute PBS style documentary celebrates the old schooners and their extraordinary history. Produced by John Sabella, the program is sponsored by the nearly 100-year-old organizations that represent the halibut schooners and their deckhands: the Fishing Vessel Owners Association and Deep Sea Fisherman's Union of the Pacific. The documentary premieres April 20 at Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum (3014 NW 67th Street, Seattle). The event begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m., the screening at 7:30 and a follow up discussion with the vessel owners at 8. Tickets are priced at $10, which includes complimentary hors d'oeuvre. There will be a cash bar.

To order tickets, call (206) 789-5707 or email Seating is limited to 220. To order copies of the documentary ($19.95 per copy), call John Sabella & Associates, Inc at (360) 379-1668 or follow this link:

American Pride Seafoods Wins Awards at Alaska Symphony of Seafood 2011

American Pride Seafoods is proud to once again be recognized as a top quality supplier of Alaskan Seafood at the 2011 Symphony of Seafood. The company’s Potato Crusted Cod received the Silver medal in the foodservice category – moist and flaky white cod with real potato in a crunchy crust. New Blackened Seafood by American Pride Seafoods also took the Bronze medal in the foodservice category with its premium white fish and authentic blend of spices delivering a traditional eating experience that American Pride says is easy to prepare.

These products join the ranks of past American Pride Seafoods winners including last year’s Silver and Bronze award winners in Foodservice – Zesty Lemon Flounder and Kickin’ Buffalo Panko Sliders.

Brown, Snowe Call for Annual Fisheries Impact Reports

US Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, this week cosponsored legislation with Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), to ensure that fisherman and fishing communities are not subjected to unnecessary and over-broad regulations imposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Under National Standard 8 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, NOAA is currently required to release a fishing impact statement prior to the ratification of any new fisheries management plan or amendment to the existing plan. The bill Senator Snowe is supporting today, the Fishing Impact Statement Honesty (FISH) Act of 2011, S. 238, expands on that requirement by calling for those impact statements to be updated annually to better track the social and economic effect of these regulations on the fishing community. Specifically, the FISH Act requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to select an independent third party to conduct the statement analysis.

“As a longtime leader in fisheries management issues, I fought hard to get National Standard 8 into law in the mid-1990s,” says Senator Snowe. “I could not be more pleased to support Senator Scott Browns legislation to strengthen the socioeconomic impact process and require an independent third party chosen by the GAO to handle the statement analysis.”

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