Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today's Catch - Nice Work if You Can Get It

Sunday, May 1, marked the beginning of the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, offering cash to anglers who catch the predatory fish.

Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead each year. Research shows reducing pikeminnow numbers helps protect salmon and steelhead populations. In a counterintuitive move, Oregon State fish and wildlife workers have specially tagged and released about 1,000 of the nasty predators into the rivers.

The northern pikeminnow with the special tag are worth $500 each, and the program also pays registered anglers $4 to $8 per fish nine inches or longer.

The more fish an angler catches, the more each pikeminnow is worth. Last year the top fisherman in the program earned more than $80,000 in just five-months of fishing.

At press time, more than 2,800 of the nasty predators had been caught – 10 of those were tagged fish worth $500 each.

The program is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.

Catch and Release
A less lucrative way to get paid for fishing is to be reimbursed by US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who last month apologized to New England fishermen who were wronged by inappropriate and excessive enforcement actions enacted by NOAA enforcement staff for more than a decade.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced that $649,527 in fisheries enforcement penalties would be returned to 11 individuals or businesses after an independent review of their cases concluded the NOAA enforcement program had in some instances “overstepped the bounds of propriety and fairness.”

Secretary Locke acted on 30 cases reviewed by the Special Master, Judge Charles Swartwood III, accepting all of his recommendations that the law allows and taking additional actions in several cases.

Among the businesses and fishermen who will receive returned penalties are the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction ($16,515) and former New Bedford sea scallop fisherman Lawrence Yacubian ($400,000), whose cases date back to the early 2000s.

NOAA will not be paying interest on the ill-gotten penalties, but will be requiring all enforcement personnel and enforcement attorneys to attend annual professional and ethics training to ensure they follow fair, effective and professional procedures.

My Other Boat is a Volvo
Fishermen’s News Advertising Sales Manager Bill Forslund made a second attempt at the trophy for the fastest boat in the 10th annual Pacific Maritime Magazine Quick and Dirty Boatbuilding competition at the Seattle Maritime Festival on May 14th.

Bill’s PVC kayak, designed by Walt Forslund and constructed with ¾-inch PVC pipe and a 20-foot tarp, was sleeker and faster than last year’s entry, and Bill handily won his preliminary heat before succumbing to a rogue wave and capsizing halfway through the final heat. While bobbing in the water after his capsize, Forslund was visibly conflicted – torn between sabotaging the other racers or swimming to a beer proffered by well-wishers on the dock. True to form, Forslund swam to the dock.

The winner of the race was Courtney Bradbury, of naval architecture firm Guido Perla & Associates. Mr. Bradbury had been browbeaten into entering the race by Mr. Forslund during the Bering Sea Fisheries Conference. We suspect Mr. Forslund regrets that decision, but we congratulate him on a race well run.

Chris Philips

Alaska Fishermen Laud Generosity in Tsunami Relief Project

A non-profit entity formed in Juneau in 2005 to help Gulf of Mexico fishing communities damaged by two hurricanes has turned its efforts to helping Japanese fishing communities hit by the tsunami following a devastating earthquake. To date the Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission, or AFIRM, has received more than $300,000 in donations from fishing vessel owners, seafood processing companies and their employees, and other firms doing business in the seafood industry, AFIRM chairman Larry Cotter said this week.

The Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers Association received contributions in excess of $70,000 in individual donations for its vessel owners. Seafood processor Unisea meanwhile matched $79,000 in donations from its crab and pollock vessels.

Fishing vessels at Kodiak have donated $13,000 so far, and Glacier Fish Co. has matched its employees’ donations to raise an additional $26,000. Clipper Seafoods is leading an ongoing employee and longline catcher-processor fleet fund drive. Aleutian Spray Fisheries meanwhile contributed $20,000 on behalf of its fleet.

Other donations include $20,000 from the Aleutians Pribilof Island Community Development Association, $5,000 from Tatoosh Seafoods, $5,000 from Northwest Farm Service Creditors and also 100 individual vessels or skippers with donations from $500 to $10,000, said AFIRM treasurer Mark Vinsel.

Apart from donations directly to AFIRM, Trident Seafoods has raised more than $250,000 and donated several containers of food. Silver Bay Seafoods donated $150,000 to a seafood industry fund organized by the Japan seafood industry publication Minato Shimbun. American Seafoods sent $26,000 to the Red Cross from its employees, and will be donating $26,000 to AFIRM, he said.

The non-profit’s board and advisors are in contact with the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC, the Japanese Fisheries Association and others, trying to find the most effective way to directly assist people and communities in need.

Harvest in Copper River Fishery Just Keeps Growing

Alaska’s famed Copper River salmon fishery is proving a strong producer so far this season, with the harvests for each of three openers so far exceeding the previous one. In fact, said Billy Green, vice president of production for Copper River Seafoods in Anchorage, it’s shaping up to be one of the best seasons he’s ever seen.

“Every one of these openings has been pretty big so far, and if this continues, it will be one of the biggest,” Green said, as salmon from the first three openings continued to move through the Anchorage processing plant. “The fish is moving pretty well, and the market seems to be gobbling up all we can spit out right now,” he said.

While Copper River Seafood is not talking about prices, retailers in Anchorage are. The prized Copper River sockeye, when available, were selling for nearly $20 a pound in the Anchorage area. A blogger in far away Hackensack, N.J. reported online that Costco Wholesale in his town was selling Copper River sockeyes for $13.99 a pound, a dollar less than a year ago.

For the first opener May 16, fishermen harvested 1,658 kings, weighing 33,494 pounds; 101,957 reds, weighing 620,876 pounds, and 6,210 chum weighing 41,449 pounds. For the second opener, May 19, 1,081 kings weighing 20286 pounds; 114,559 sockeye weighing 700,058 pounds, and 1,677 chum weighing 11,096.

In the third opener, May 23, the harvest included 2,964 kings weighing 42,311 pounds; 226,646 reds weighing 1,375,568 pounds, and 2,018 chum weighing 14,740 pounds.

AFIRM officials want to collaborate with the Japanese fishing and processing industries and help residents of the fishing communities get back to healing.

Demand, Growing Markets Bode Well for Salmon Harvest

Increasing demand for both wild and farmed salmon bode well for harvesters in 2011, with new markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, China and South America, says a University of Alaska Anchorage economist who studies the seafood industry.

The general picture is favorable for most product forms and all species except for pinks, in the event that there is a very large harvest of pinks, said Gunnar Knapp. And even if the pink numbers reduced prices somewhat, it would not be in a catastrophic way, Knapp said.

Large inventory carryovers are not a problem facing the industry this year, he said.

In Japan, in particular, a lot of product was lost as a result of the earthquake and tsunami and there is a need to make up for fish that had been there and disappeared.

Secondly, in the case of Japan, a major producer of hatchery chum salmon, it is believed that there were significant losses in infrastructure and equipment used in the Japanese chum salmon fishery, and this will help Alaska’s chum salmon markets, for both flesh and ikura, Knapp said.

Beyond Japan, there are significant domestic markets and European markets for sockeye salmon fillets. The falling value of the US dollar and rising value of the euro and yen also help the market for Alaska salmon, he said.

The main story is that for sockeye, Alaska’s most valuable species, we have seen over the past decade diversification in product form, and developed significant domestic and European markets for sockeye salmon fillets, and that demand is growing, he said.

Chile’s emergence from a dramatic decline in farmed Atlantic salmon production due to disease problems will add to available fish, but most people feel the demand has grown so much that there is unlikely to be a world market glut in salmon like the one a decade ago that contributed to the economic crisis in Alaska salmon markets, he said.

Culturing Success with Southeast Alaska Red King Crab

Biologists with the Alaska Sea Grant program say they have successfully cultured red king crab larvae from female crab collected in Southeast Alaska, in their work at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward.

Previous success in culturing was achieved by the biologists using red king crab from Bristol Bay. The goal of this experiment was to determine if broodstock origin impacts hatchery production success, said researchers with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program.

Survival from stocking to the post-larval stage was 43 percent for Bristol Bay crab and 60 percent for Southeast Alaska crab.

Researchers said the improved survival of the Southeast Alaska crab suggests that hatchery protocols for rearing red king crab can be applied to stocks outside of Bristol Bay. This is an important finding, they said, as future stock enhancement programs may require broodstock from specific areas that are targeted for releases.

The ability to culture crabs from different locations is critical for statewide enhancement, they said. In this case, they took broodstock from Southeast Alaska, which is not currently a target for enhancement, so that they might use the resulting juvenile crab in summer field studies to evaluate predation effects on hatchery-cultured juvenile crab. Juvenile red king crab cultured at the hatchery will also be used in laboratory experiments at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center Behavioral Ecology Lab in Newport, Oregon, to better understand early juvenile king crab biology.

The Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program is a research and rehabilitation project sponsored by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, community groups and industry members.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Copper River Salmon Fishery Off to Strong Start

Fishermen for the most part were all smiles fin the aftermath of the May 16 opener of the Copper River salmon fishery and processors reported a harvest of 112,979 fish.

The catch included 1,677 kings, for a total of 32,913 pounds, with the average Chinook weighing in at 19.6 pounds, according to the Cordova office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The sockeye harvest of 105,259 sockeye salmon weighed in at 615,158 pounds, with the average red at 5.8 pounds, and the chum harvest of 6,043 fish tipped the scales at 41,647 pounds, or an average of 6.89 pounds per fish.

The weather forecast had been for winds blowing southeast at 30 knots, but weather conditions were much calmer and it turned out to be a relatively nice day, fish and game officials said.

Processors were busy getting fish ready for transport to fresh markets far from Alaska., and at 6 a.m. the next morning, a planeload of 24,000 pounds fresh Copper River salmon arrived with ceremony at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle , as an Alaska Airlines pilot carried a 45-pound king off the plane, into the arms of a seafood processor who proceeded to kiss the fish.

The cargo load of salmon was from Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods.

A 45-pound fresh king salmon carried off of the plane with ceremony by Alaska Airlines Captain Bob Porter was divided up between executive chefs from three Seattle restaurants competing in a Copper Chef Cook-off. Pat Donahue of Anthony’s Restaurants, challenged by executive chefs Robert Spaulding of Elliott’s Oyster House and Jeff Maxfield of SkyCity at the Space Needle, won top honors for the second year in a row.

Last year Alaska Airlines few more than 25 million pounds of fresh Alaska seafood to the Lower 48 states and beyond.

Gulf of Alaska Bottom Trawl Survey Underway

Stock assessments of Gulf of Alaska groundfish get underway May 18 aboard the fishing vessels Ocean Explorer and Sea Storm, chartered by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the 12th biennial survey.

Each vessel is identified with clearly visible “NOAA Research” or “US Research” signs posted on either side of the vessel’s superstructure, indicating that it is permitted specifically for scientific surveys, NOAA officials said.

Guy Fleischer, deputy director of Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Resource Assessment and Conservation Division, said NOAA wants the public to be aware of the survey. These chartered trawlers sometimes show up only occasionally along the coast and many communities are caught unawares and may be concerned until they realize it’s just us NOAA fisheries biologists doing our regular survey, he said.

Both vessels will leave Dutch Harbor May 18 and begin sampling operations near the Islands of Four Mountains, about 180 miles southwest of Dutch Harbor. Sampling will continue as the vessels move eastward along the continental shelf and slope to the U.S. –Canada border near Dixon Entrance.

The voyage will last about 90 days and will be split into four legs, with breaks at Sand Point, Kodiak and Seward to exchange crews, re-provision and take on fuel. Both vessels are to complete their charters and offload in Ketchikan between August 10th and August 15th.

Once the survey is complete, scientists will finalize the data they collected on fishing effort, catch rates and biological characteristics of the fish populations and generate fishery-independent estimates of geographic and depth distribution, abundance and population size and age composition by the end of September.

The stock assessment modelers will then combine that information with data from the fishery and results of previous surveys to update the stock assessments produced annually for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to manage fish stocks in the Gulf of Alaska. The council determines each year in December the allowable groundfish harvest quotas for the Gulf of Alaska, as well as the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Seafood Exports from Alaska on the Rise

Alaska’s annual exports hit their highest market yet in 2010, including seafood valued at $1.8 billion, up 12.2 percent from a year earlier, and buoyed in part by the best salmon harvest in 18 years.

The record performance was announced May 12 from Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell.

The governor said Japan and China accounted for more than $1 billion in seafood exports. Japan has long been Alaska’s largest seafood export market and once again in 2010 was the largest market, with purchases of $523.4 million, followed by China at $516.9 million. China’s purchases alone were up 23.1 percent over the previous year.

Korea accounted for $255.3 million of Alaska’s seafood exports. Germany’s purchases were valued at $128.9 million, the Netherlands, $110.4 million, and Canada, $90.4 million. Asian markets in total accounted for 73.1 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports in 2010. Exports to the European Union markets totaled 19.9 percent.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has representatives in Japan, China and the European Union – all markets that have generated significant increases in the state’s seafood exports over the past decade.

NIOSH Video Aims to Prevent Deaths at Sea

A new safety training and awareness video available free from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health aims to help prevent work-related deaths from drowning in commercial fishing. The video is the work of the Alaska Pacific Regional Office of NIOSH.

Falls overboard are the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. From 2000 through 2009, 155 commercial fishermen died after falling overboard. None of the victims were wearing a personal flotation device.

The video was filmed in Alaska in cooperation with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association and Alaska Sea Grant. It contained solutions for reducing commercial fishing fatalities due to falls overboard, including demonstrations of man overboard drills and proper man overboard recovery techniques.

The video also features realistic rescue scenarios and interviews with commercial fishermen who have survived a fall overboard, pus a brief overview of NIOSH research into evaluating PFDs with commercial fishermen.

NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. The NIOSH Alaska pacific Regional Office is located in Anchorage and since 1991 has worked to reduce the high rate of occupational fatalities in high-risk injuries such as commercial fishing. Jennifer Lincoln and Ted Teske of the Anchorage staff spoke recently in Kodiak with commercial fishermen about the importance of wearing personal flotation devices while at work on fishing vessels.

To learn more about the efforts of NIOSH and get your free copy of the video, visit

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Alaska Fishing Fleet Getting Older, Richer

By Bob Tkacz

May 2011

The Alaskan fishing fleet, including resident and outside harvesters, is getting older and earning more, state lawmakers were told in a data-heavy presentation. That good news (financially at least) could be somewhat deflated because costs of permits and gear that are also rising are making it difficult for young men or women to enter fisheries.

Tracked from 1975 to 2008, the mean age of the fleet went from 43 years old to 41 through most of the 1980s then began a steady increase to almost 50 by 2008, according to analyses presented by Glenn Haight, the fishery development manager in the state Div. of Economic Development, at a March 29 session of the legislature’s “Fish Caucus.”

“It’s not going down. The fleet’s getting older,” Haight said.

Among 21 salmon fisheries selected by Haight, the Bristol Bay setnet fishery had the youngest participants with an average age in 2008 of 43.4. The oldest were Upper Yukon gillnetters at 59.9 years, well senior of the Southeast power trollers who were second oldest at an average of 53.9 years.

Lower Yukon gillnetters were third youngest at 45.3 years; Bristol Bay driftnetters were eighth youngest at 47.9. Cook Inlet drifters ranked 11th at an average age of 48.5 with Cook Inlet seiners 12th at 49.1 years.
Southeast drifters and Kodiak seiners tied for 14th youngest at 50.4 years.

Among all fisheries Haight said participants in the Southeast brown king crab fishery are the youngest on average at 41.5 years.

The number of active permit holders fell from 11,441 in 2000 to 9,763, according to Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission data. Geography had no impact on the 15 percent shrinkage, which included a 14 percent reduction to 7,024 among Alaska residents and 16 percent, to 2,739, among all others.

Alaska resident harvesters also enjoyed a larger percentage increase in earnings over the same period at 90 percent compared to 66 for nonresidents, but Outsiders’ actual pay was consistently and significantly higher, said Glenn Haight, the fishery development manager in the state Div. of Economic Development.

Average gross earnings for Alaska residents went from less than $50,000 in 2000 to just below $100,000 in 2010. Harvesters from all other states started the decade with an average gross of roughly $185,000, peaked in 2008 around $310,000 and tallied around $250,000 in 2010.

Looking specifically at halibut and black cod quota shares, Haight said the portion held by Alaska residents was unchanged over the long term, but moved substantially within the state. Alaskans held 52 percent of total IFQs in 1995 and in 2011. Among individual communities South Central and Interior towns enjoyed huge percentage increases while ownership declined by 33 percent among Gulf of Alaska coastal communities and 46 percent among those in Southeast.

Delta Junction, 80 miles southeast of Fairbanks and closer to the Yukon Territories border than any saltwater port, saw an 80,341 percent increase in local IFQ ownership from 1,987 “Qs” in 1995 to 1.5 million in 2011.

The more traditional fishing town of Dillingham followed with a 31,667 percent increase from 14,809 to 4.7 million over the same period.

Eagle River, a far north Anchorage suburb, increased its shares by 131 percent to 2.5 million over the period. Palmer, just slightly farther north, and Cordova and the City of Kenai were the only other communities to see triple-digit increases of 116, 109 and 100 percent, respectively.

Still farther north from Anchorage, Big Lake was the biggest percentage quota loser at 100 percent or with 779,061 shares. Mostly likely a single harvester left the town.

Most of the other biggest losers were in Southeast including Port Alexander at 91 percent, losing just over one million shares; Angoon at 85 percent or 1.5 million shares and Pelican, down 69 percent or 3.98 million shares.

Beside its value as a chronological curiosity, the data illustrates the impact the loss of even a few permits can have on the economy of small Alaskan villages.

Based on what he described as a typically diversified fishing operation Haight projected total revenues of $125,041 annually including $59,684 in the Southeast driftnet fishery, $34,107 from a smaller, 225 pot, Dungeness crab fishery and $31,250 in earnings from 5,000 pounds of halibut quota.

That income was stacked against a total cost of entry of $393,100, with estimated annual debt service of $30,000. Haight counted $150,000 for a vessel and gear, $68,800 for the driftnet and $39,300 for the crab permits and $135,000 for the quota shares.

Bob Tkacz can be reached at

Copper River Salmon Fishery Opens May 16

Alaska’s famed Copper River salmon fishery, the harbinger of springtime in the 49th state, opens on Monday, May 16, with a harvest projection of 1.2 million sockeye, 293,000 coho and 9,000 chinook salmon. That’s the maximum harvest that could be achieved and still meet the minimum escapement goal of 24,000 fish given the total run projection, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists.

Such a harvest would be a step up from last year, when gillnetters on the Copper River harvested 635,968 reds and 9,654 kings, according to season summaries.

It’s generally hit or miss coming into the season, so far as the first opener, according to one industry observer affiliated with a processing firm who says he’s seen tremendous first openings and others with almost no fish available.

For this year, the weather forecasts currently indicate there won’t be any big problems weather-wise, but then this is Alaska. Gale warnings were posted several days in advance of the first opening, but the forecast was for them to die down by the weekend.

State biologists say that initial management strategy will be based on anticipated weekly sockeye and king harvests for the Copper River District and additional assessments of river conditions, fishing effort, harvest location, and consistency of harvest. When river conditions allow the deployment of the Miles Lake sonar, the attainment of the desired in-river escapement range for the upper Copper River becomes the main factor in deciding management strategy.

Two evenly spaced commercial fishing periods per week will be the preferred management approach, but the fishing schedule may be adjusted in-season as situations dictate, biologists said.

The maximum drift gillnet mesh size in Copper River District is 6 inches until July 15 when larger mesh gear will be allowed. All salmon that are harvested but not sold by commercial permit holders in Alaska waters must be reported on a fish ticket at the time of landing

Southwest Alaska Fisheries Are Subject of 30-Year Analysis

The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference has a new report out on Southwest Alaska fisheries resource allocations over a 30-year period. The report says that the absolute number of permits held by residents fell from 14,085 to 9,258, a factor of 34 percent from the peak to present. Graphs included in the report show that the number of permits for crab, herring and salmon declined, permits for shellfish and halibut are about the same and groundfish and sablefish have increased over the 30- year period of study.

Groundfish, sablefish and halibut fisheries experienced an increase in permits in the years prior to rationalization and a sharp drop after programs were implemented. Crab fisheries did not follow the increasing trend, although there was a sharp fall after program implementation, the report said.

The most drastic increase in licenses can be seen leading up to the individual fishing quota system instilled in the halibut fishery in 1995. Similar trends can be identified in groundfish during the comprehensive rationalization program discussion from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, leading to the inshore/offshore allocations in 1992 and raising again prior to the actual implementation of the American Fisheries Act in 1999, which rationalized the Bering Sea Pollock fishery. “These fisheries appear to be trending downward, post rationalization, as the industry consolidates toward fewer, more efficient operations,” the report said.

While the number of permits fell, every permit by species became more valuable in terms of nominal gross earnings per fishery. This is expected since resource allocation allows for the number of licenses to be reduced to remove less productive operations, the report said.

SWAMC announced the report this week in its online newsletter, noting that the information was compiled to offer an understanding of the period. Aggregate data on each sub-region of Southwest Alaska has been analyzed in the report for various resource access categories, along with the entire region as a whole.

Alaska Pacific Halibut Certified for Responsible Fisheries Management

Wild Alaska Pacific halibut are now certified by the independent third-party United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization based on Responsible Fisheries Management criteria.

Assessment in late April came after a 12-month independent assessment of the fishery performed at the request of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

ASMI officially announced the certification during a reception at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, Belgium on May 3.

The certification covers Alaska Pacific halibut fished with benthic longline within International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B and 4CDE.

The global trust certification committee, including fishery, certification and accreditation experts, was tasked with qualitative review of the formal processes, assessment reports and recommendations provide by the fishery assessment team and peer reviewers appointed to assess this fishery. The certification committee agreed unanimously with the assessment team’s findings that the Alaska Pacific halibut commercial fishery is responsibly managed, using robust fishery management plans based on good science.

The management systems are certified as being in line with those recommended by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The certification lasts for five years and involves annual surveillance assessments of the fisheries. The certification means the Alaska pacific halibut commercial fishery has met the criteria for certification of responsibly managed fisheries at the time of the assessment, but does not certify that the fisheries will remain responsibly managed in the future.

The Alaska Pacific halibut fisheries assessment to the FAO-based program meanwhile has entered the peer review stage. Peer review is a technical review of the evidence documented by the assessment team that demonstrates the level of conformity of the fishery to the FAO code and guides. Ultimately the peer reviewers provide a critical evaluation of the consistency in the recommendation made by the assessment team as to whether the fishery is recommended for certification.

The first of Alaska’s commercial fisheries, Alaska salmon, was certified on March 11. The importance of sustainability is so important in Alaska that authors of the state’s constitution in 1959 included in the document wording mandating that “fish … be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.”

ASMI Marketing Efforts Going Everywhere in May

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is all over the map in May, promoting the state’s seafood produce.

ASMI staff were on hand at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, Belgium, in the first week of May to work with buyers and sellers from more than 140 countries at the exposition, along with some 1,600 other exhibitors. The ASMI pavilion itself featured 21 companies.

On the domestic scene, the ASMI Foodservice staff is touring college and university campuses to promote seafood. Events in early May included the first Alaska seafood dinner at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where over 3,000 meals featuring Alaska salmon, halibut, king and snow crab and cod were presented, along with information on these fisheries. ASMI officials said that university personnel were very encouraged by the turnout and looking forward to working with ASMI again next year to expand that promotion.

ASMI is working with the Winn Dixie supermarket chain in Florida to create an Alaska section in their stores, and with Lund Byerly’s, a Minnesota based grocer, on a campaign to promote sustainable Alaska seafood.

In Japan, ASMI will be collaborating with the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office Tokyo to support an upcoming American Fair at Aeon supermarkets. Some 350 outlets across Japan will be involved in the promotion of Alaska sockeye salmon during the fair, and ASMI Japan will provide point-of-sale materials, merchandising tools and in-store demonstration staff to sample the fish.

Back in Alaska, ASMI was partnered with the Juneau Economic Development Council for the Juneau Maritime Festival coming up May 14.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rulemaking Changes in Magnuson-Stevens National Standard 10

US Coast Guard officials are reminding the public that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking public and industry comment on a proposed rulemaking regarding chances to Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act National Standard 10. That standard requires management councils to take into consideration the safety of human life at sea when developing fishery management plans. The comment period will close on July 20. Coast Guard officials said they would like to see this notice distributed as widely as possible to the commercial fishing industry in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

A public meeting on the matter is set for May 19 at the NOAA Science Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. For information on submitting comments contact Debra Lambert NMFS, at 301-713-2341.

Internet links to the matter are at and in the Federal Register/Vol . 76, No. 77/ Thursday, April 21, pages 22342-44.

The Federal Register entry notes that current National Standard 10 guidelines are 13 years old, and that fisheries management and fishing vessel safety science in general has evolved over that time period. The Federal Register item goes on to say that NOAA has new fishery management requirements and policies in place and that implementation of these measures will lead to changes in the way fishing operations are managed. Major changes in fisheries management that change the way fishing operations are conducted, including catch share programs, could impact the safety of fishermen at sea, and those impacts should be assessed during the management process, the document says.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama last October, authorizes the Coast Guard to examine at dockside at least once very two years fishing vessels that operate beyond three miles from shore, to ensure that they meet safety standards. IT also authorizes and requires a training program for operators of those fishing vessels and establishes design and construction standards for all new vessels. Current National Standard 10 guidelines do NOT contain any guidance on analytical methods to evaluate safety. Recent work by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Coast Guard has shown that the fishery management process can more explicitly address safety at sea by analyzing fatalities and calculating fatality rates for the fishery and understanding the overall trend in fatality rates.

Pebble Issues Update

Backers of the Pebble mine prospect in Southwest Alaska are anticipating the likelihood that a major mining company will take over Northern Dynasty’s assets in the deal at some point, but meanwhile the Pebble Partnership has budgeted $91 million for 2011 operations. Partners in the prospect spent a record $140 million in 2008 alone. Their stated objective is to complete a prefeasibility study for the Pebble project in 2012, in hopes of initiating permitting under the National environmental Policy Act. Northern Dynasty President and chief executive officer Ron Thiessen made the announcement May 2 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company plans to release within the next couple of months a 20,000-page environmental baseline document.

Another topic of discussion has been the emergence of a new nonprofit corporation calling itself itself Nuna Resources Inc., described by its board as an entity established to advocate for sustainable economy in Bristol Bay. Abe Williams, president of Paug-Vik Corp. in Naknek is the president of Nuna Resources.

Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwold acknowledged that the partnership is a contributor to Nuna Resources, which he described as “an important voice to be heard in the discussion of Pebble.” Nuna Resources board members include Trefon Angasan, chairman of the Alaska Peninsula Corp. and a long time paid consultant to the Pebble Partnership. Another board member is Lisa Reimers, chief executive officer of the Iliamna Development Corp. at Iliamna. The Pebble Partnership has a business relationship with the Iliamna Corp. to provide services at the mine exploration site, including housekeeping, food services and other site support, and an environmental monitoring contract through the Alaska Peninsula Corp., Heatwole said.

Nunamta Alukestai, Caretakers of the Land, is a regional entity representing nine village corporations, tribes and the Bristol Bay Native Corp., all of whom oppose the mine. Nunamta Alukestai has responded to Nuna Resources’ efforts to contact opponents to the mine by reminding the public that 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose development of the mine.

Salmon Bycatch Issues on the Table for Nome Meeting.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has set aside 32 hours of its June meeting at Nome to deal with salmon bycatch issues. That includes 12 hours aimed at final action on reducing the number of king salmon caught incidentally to the Pollock fishery in the Gulf of Alaska, plus 20 hours for an initial review of chum salmon bycatch analysis in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

At its April meeting in Anchorage, the federal council adopted a preliminary preferred alternative that identifies a combined prohibited species catch limit of 22,500 Chinook salmon for the western and central Gulf of Alaska Pollock fisheries. The limit would be apportioned between the two areas based on a combination of the proportional historic Pollock total allowable catch and historic average king salmon bycatch, using the time series 2001-2006 and 2008-2009.

The preliminary preferred alternative would also implement an interim observer requirement of 30 percent coverage for trawl vessels of less than 60 feet while directed fishing for Pollock in the central or western Gulf. That interim requirement would expire once the observer restructuring program is implemented because that program also provides for observer coverage on vessels of less than 60 feet.

All vessels fishing for Pollock in those areas would be responsible for full retention of king salmon caught incidentally to their groundfish harvest. National Marine Fisheries Service would work with the industry to improve observed and extrapolated Chinook salmon estimates and their timeliness.

The federal council is scheduled to spend 20 hours on discussion of its initial review of the chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock fishery. Council staff will have an analysis to work from to develop management measures to manage chum salmon bycatch in this groundfish fishery, in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The tentative schedule calls for final action by the council of preferred alternatives in December in Anchorage.

Seafood Industry in Spotlight at Global Food Alaska

Four Alaska seafood industry leaders are contenders for top awards at the biennial industry conference for Global Food Alaska, coming up June 8 at Soldotna.

Semi-finalists for the manufacturer/processor award, given to an individual who has demonstrated leadership in the processing or manufacturing of Alaska foods, beverages or bio products, include Scott Blake of Copper River Seafoods and John Lowrance of Leader Creek Fisheries. Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, a seafood donation program, and Dennis “Skip” Winfree, president of 10th and M Seafoods are contenders for the Alaska Champion award, for playing a significant role in putting Alaska foods, beverage or bio products into the local, national or international marketplace.

Fish processors have figured prominently in past competition for creating a successful business through commitment, dedication, hard work, ingenuity and innovation while meeting Alaska’s challenges of remoteness, geography, weather, technical know how, limited population base and infrastructure.

Blake partnered with three fishermen in 1996 to establish Copper River Seafoods. Blake’s leadership over the past 15 years as led to the success of the firm, which now has operations in Cordova, Anchorage, Togiak and Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.

Lowrance led a major paradigm shift in how wild salmon is harvested and processed in Bristol Bay. Leader Creek has since developed premium market channels in Europe and the US, with a nearly flawless, consistent wild product and a vested fleet now benefiting from a profit sharing plan. Leader Creek’s techniques have helped raise grounds prices in Bristol Bay from 40 cents in 2001 to over $1.30 a pound in 2010.

Under Harmon’s leadership, SeaShare has donated more than 150 million meals. SeaShare is a seafood donation program that solicits and collects seafood from Alaska and Pacific Northwest harvesting and processing industries to distribute through established food bank channels to hungry Americans, including Alaskans.

Winfree purchased 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage in 1980 and went on to change Alaska’s supply chain by influencing FedEx to develop a new method of transporting seafood from Alaska. His company today is one of the largest direct-to-consumer shippers of seafood in Alaska – to European, Japanese and domestic markets.

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