Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rebuild or Replace?

By Adam Paull

Fishermen's News October 2011

The fishing season has begun. Your boat, your gear and your crew are in place for the peak of the season. Then that engine you were hoping to get one more season out of decides to let go.

What is it going to cost you?

If you are unfortunate enough to have a catastrophic engine failure, you can expect to miss a minimum of one to two weeks while you await your repower. You can also anticipate a disgruntled crew concerned about not making money, overtime for the shop doing the work to get you going again, and airfare costs (nearly $2 per pound) to fly an engine from Seattle to Alaska. It all adds up to a difficult situation that would have been a lot cheaper with some off-season attention.

This may sound like a doomsday scenario, but these types of failures occur every year.

Your boat is your business, so the financials of when and how to repower your vessel are important business considerations. When contemplating a repower, start by answering three questions:

• What is the history of your current engine(s)?
• How long do you expect your current engine(s) to provide reliable service?
• How much would unplanned downtime cost your business?
Now let’s assume you want to avoid a doomsday scenario like the one detailed above, and that you are weighing the decision to rebuild your current engine or replace it with a new engine.

Rebuild Current Engine
Rebuilding can seem to be the more frugal of the two options. It can be a good option, but only if you have a good starting point: a newer-technology engine that can be rebuilt to factory specifications with factory parts and dealer support. This option enables you to keep a familiar engine that works with all existing vessel systems.

However, there are many questions associated with rebuilding, such as:

Are parts readily available? Many service parts for older engines are nonexistent, and the quality of aftermarket parts can be questionable.

Can you rebuild back to factory specifications with new liners and pistons?

What is labor going to cost to remove, rebuild and replace?

Is a warranty available on the rebuilt engine or parts? If done incorrectly, rebuilt engines generally do not last as long as new engines.

The bottom line is that rebuilding your engine can be an acceptable option as long as you have a good starting point, take the time to restore the engine to factory specifications with factory parts, and weigh the performance and efficiency tradeoffs.

Install A New Engine
A rebuilt engine may be appealing and may appear to be the more economical solution. You probably favor your old engine, it likely does not have electronics, and you know what to expect.

However, when you compare a rebuilt engine to a new engine, you may find that a brand new replacement engine could easily pay for itself when you factor in the fuel cost savings, reliability (uptime) and electronic features.

Let’s examine the benefits of installing a new engine.

A brand-new engine may seem costly, but consider these ways to offset and minimize the expense:

Factor in fuel efficiency gains that new technology offers. New electronically controlled engines have features and controls that allow the factory to better calibrate and optimize for performance and fuel efficiency. Some John Deere customers have reported up to a 33 percent improvement in fuel efficiency with a new engine compared to their old engine. That kind of fuel economy gain is not possible with an older, rebuilt engine, and fuel cost savings can really add up over a few seasons.

Obtain funding assistance. Alaska, Oregon, and California have programs to help with offsetting some of the cost of upgrading your engine. New engines generally qualify easily for these types of programs, which are established to improve fuel efficiency and/or emissions.

Sell your old engine. Some customers have been able to make good money selling the engine being replaced.

Long-Term Reliability and Uptime
What is your productivity worth? Before new engines start production, they have gone through extensive product validation and verification (PV&V) processes to ensure that customers receive the reliability and uptime they expect. These processes get more elaborate with each engine development program to ensure that a new engine is better than its predecessor. Many marine engine components have endured the same strenuous testing as the manufacturer’s agricultural tractors and construction equipment. These types of PV&V processes make certain that you will get the best long-term reliability and uptime.

What about the electronics? Electronics on diesel engines are not new, and the electronics incorporated into new engines have undergone the same strenuous testing. Not only do these electronics offer precision controls for optimal fuel delivery – often increasing both power and fuel economy – they also provide engine protections to prevent catastrophic damage. These protections can prevent an unplanned engine swap in the middle of your prime fishing season. Additionally, when the engine requires maintenance, electronics enable precision troubleshooting to facilitate diagnostics and a quick return to normal operation. Older engines do not have such features.

Dealer support and parts availability are additional reliability and uptime considerations. If you have a problem, it is important to consider the ability to obtain parts and support. With a new engine, dealer support and service parts are generally more readily available.

New Engine Specification
Adding power costs money, while a replacement engine of similar power to your old engine can save work. Careful specification of your engine could result in significant savings.

Increasing horsepower will likely require costly upgrades to gears, coolers, exhaust, and other systems with – depending on hull form – the potential for a minimal improvement to vessel performance. However, manufacturers such as John Deere offer single circuit keel cooled ratings that are very similar to ratings of engines being replaced. A horsepower-for-horsepower exchange may allow the reuse of the exhaust system, transmission and keel cooler. Additionally, the existing controls can typically be reused with the addition of an electronic throttle position sensor. You could achieve significant savings by reusing many of the old engine systems rather than upgrading parts of the propulsion system – a requirement when significant horsepower is added to the boat.

To ensure that you get the best return on your new engine investment with increased productivity and uptime, the engine and engine systems must be specified appropriately. Let’s take a closer look at two replacement scenarios: horsepower-for-horsepower and higher horsepower.

Swapping in a new, equivalent-horsepower engine can be an economical solution. You can reap the benefits of the new engine’s reliability and fuel efficiency while having the opportunity to reuse many of the existing vessel systems. These are significant factors when comparing the return on investment of a horsepower-for-horsepower replacement with that of a higher-horsepower swap. Even if you need to replace or rework a few components, you can still achieve significant savings.

In a horsepower-to-horsepower engine swap, one of the important factors to avoid overlooking is rated engine RPM (rated engine speed). Rated engine speed is roughly defined by the manufacturer as the highest engine speed at which power is observed and effectively utilized for the specific rating for which the engine is programmed. Generally, this is the horsepower of the engine, and the maximum speed governor is typically set around 40 rpm above this speed. This is where all power is not created equal.

Mathematically, Power = Torque x Engine Speed. What this means is an equivalent-power engine at a higher rated speed has lower torque. In simple terms, torque is the force that makes things turn, so at the same rated power the lower rated speed will have more torque and better vessel response, especially when maneuvering and operating at low speed.

This fundamental torque effect continues in lower engine speeds as well. With today’s electronic engines, low speed torque capacity is limited primarily by the air system. This is because a good turbocharger match at high speed is a poor turbocharger match at low speed. Therefore, when comparing low speed torque capacity for equivalent rated power, the lower rated speed will have a higher torque capacity.

This is a critical point to consider, as the rated engine speed is fundamental to the gear and propeller match. For fishing and other commercial applications, torque curve capacity and torque rise provide the ability to haul a load. Suffice it to say a 300-HP at 3200 RPM engine will not provide the torque of a 300-HP at 2200 RPM engine.

Higher Horsepower
Now let’s assume you want to increase the performance of your fishing vessel. Not only will you need an increase in power, you will also need to consider changing out engine systems such as the keel cooler and exhaust system along with your propeller and gear.

Also remember that the extra power means your engine will need more cold air below deck for your engine to breathe. This is probably one of the most overlooked considerations – and it is one that can have serious implications for long-term performance and efficiency.

Most often, a little more performance can cost a lot more money. Weigh your productivity gains against the cost of the performance improvements. Depending on your specific scenario, it may not be worth the extra expense.

Other Considerations
The engine is the heart of your vessel; it provides the motive force. Therefore, it is important that all components work well together. Consider your hull type, vessel weight, gear, prop, engine and engine systems together as a package. When looking to size your propeller, gear and engine together, it is critical to do so correctly. This most often requires visits to your dealer and prop shop or naval architect.

Marine engines are calibrated and components are designed to run on a prop curve. For reliability and performance, it is important that the marine gear and propeller are sized appropriately with the vessel hull type and weight to run on this prop curve. This comes into play when the manufacturer specifies an application requirement to achieve rated engine speed or higher when loaded at wide-open throttle (WOT). This is crucial because if the vessel can achieve rated speed or higher at WOT, it essentially ensures that it is running along the prop curve. The higher above rated speed you are able to achieve, the more margin you have for a payload.

If you are not able to achieve rated speed or higher at WOT, it means you are running on the torque curve, which if sustained can be detrimental to a marine engine. As the engine is designed and calibrated to run on the prop curve, this is where it performs best and where you can expect the most life. On the torque curve, firing pressures and temperatures can get much higher and continuous exposure will negatively impact engine life and durability. For these reasons, it is critical to ensure that your vessel is able to achieve rated engine speed at WOT under continuous operating conditions.

After the work is completed, the best way to make certain that you get the most out of your new engine is through a proper sea trial with your marine engine dealer. This testing process confirms that all the vessel systems are sized appropriately and meet the engine manufacturer’s guidelines. These guidelines have been developed over time with many hours of real world and lab testing to ensure the maximum life and performance of your engine.

All things considered, your specific needs and circumstances will determine the best repower solution. Your propulsion and generator engines are your livelihood. Take the time to ensure that you don’t miss an opportunity, and that you get the best return on your investment. Talk to your local dealer and distributor and weigh performance with short- and long-term expenses to determine which solution is right for you.

Adam Paull is a Senior Engineer of Marine & OEM Engine Programs for John Deere Power Systems.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Looks at Pacific Cod Proposals

Proposals on Pacific cod fisheries for Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Chignik and the South Alaska Peninsula are on the agenda for the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting at Coast International Inn in Anchorage Oct. 4-10. The first two days will be a board work session, during which ten agenda change requests will be considered, along with discussion on stocks of concern. Starting Oct. 6, the board will be considering Department of Fish and Game proposals on Pacific cod fisheries that have been submitted by the general public, fishing organizations, local fish and game advisory committees and the Alaska. The board has received more than 40 proposals for consideration during the five-day public meeting. Among the proposals is Proposal 6 from the Alaska Jig Association for the Kodiak area Pacific cod management plan to cap jig vessels 58 feet and larger to 10 percent of the state-waters Pacific cod jig allocation to their historical high harvest (10 percent) in the Kodiak area. The issue, according to the proposals, is that the large jig vessels have been taking a larger percentage of the jig guideline harvest level that has historically been a smaller vessel fishery. If nothing is done, the Alaska Jig Association said, smaller vessels will continue to lose fishing opportunity.

Proposal 14 would establish a 14-day stand down period for vessels using pot gear in a Pacific cod fishery prior to registering for the Chignik state waters Pacific cod fishery. Proponents say the absence of a local processor in Chignik that will process Pacific cod has put the local shallow draft fleet out of the federal fisheries, and as a result the federal government has taken the unused, local fishermen’s LLPs, limiting the local fleet to the state Pacific cod season. This, along with competition from the larger, non-local, deep drafted boats coming out of the federal fisheries, has brought the challenge on the local economy to a critical point, said proposal sponsors Don Bumpus and Aaron Anderson.

Agendas, proposals and other information for the meetings can be found on the web at:

Pebble Litigation

Alaska Superior Court Judge Eric A Aarseth has found that the state did not violate the Alaska Constitution in issuing mineral exploration permits for the Pebble mine project, at the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska. Aarseth also ruled in his 154-page decision issued on Sept. 26 that the state did not need to study first potential impacts of such exploration activities.

Environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, representing Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of the Land) and several individuals in the case, is considering taking the case to the Alaska Supreme Court. The plaintiffs have 30 days to decide after the court issues its final judgment. Alaska Attorney General John J. Burns, who represented the state in the case, and the Pebble Limited Partnership, an intervener in the lawsuit, applauded the decision. Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said the decision will bring some stability to those wishing to conduct mineral exploration on state lands, and that the partnership looked forward to concluding its 2011 work and outlining its work scope for 2012.

The case over mining exploration at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed dates back to 2009, when Nunamta Aulukestai and several individuals charged that the state had violated the Alaska Constitution by allowing Pebble exploration to go on for two decades with no analysis of impacts to resources and no public notice.

Trustees legal director Victoria Clark said Bristol Bay residents “want a rational, science-based look at the totality of the impacts, including impacts at the exploration stage before – not after – damage has been done.”

Trustees attorney Nancy Wainwright said there was a great deal of concern over the exploration work, which involved petroleum products that are toxic to fish. “Many of the drilling holes were made within 100 feet of streams and some right next to streams and we think that kind of discharge in that area is very, very dangerous,” Wainwright said. Bristol Bay residents, who depend on the world famous salmon run for commercial, sport and subsistence harvests, contend that development of the copper, gold and molybdenum mine poses a major threat to hundreds of salmon spawning streams in that area.

Fuglvog Investigation

A new report on the Alaska Public Radio Network says former crew members aboard the commercial fishing vessel operated by Arne Fuglvog had tried for years to turn Fuglvog in for illegal fishing but felt they were ignored. Meanwhile Fuglvog gained a good reputation in the nation’s capital as fisheries aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and was among the top nominees to head the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Murkowski has said she was unaware of such accusations and that she never would have hired anyone on her staff that was the subject of an investigation.

The report by APRN’s Libby Casey notes that Fuglvog eventually pulled his name out of consideration for the NMFS post, saying the process was taking too long, but he was in fact under investigation for the agency he would have run. He recently pleaded guilty to breaking commercial fishing laws before joining Murkowski’s staff. APRN aired an interview on Sept. 26 that said crew members tried as early as 2007 to alert authorities to Fuglvog’s illegal practices of fishing in the Central Gulf of Alaska rather than west of Kodiak, which would have cost them a lot more time and expenses. The story included comments from a former crewmember that said the practices to which Fuglvog had pleaded guilty had gone on for years. The former crewmember said he never felt that what they were doing was right, but if he had blown the whistle he would have been out of a job.

Fuglvog agreed to cooperate with authorities in the case. He faces 10 months behind bars.

Murkowski meanwhile is expected to name her new fisheries aide shortly. Top contenders include Stefanie Moreland, the state’s federal fisheries coordinator.

Register Now for the Alaska Marine Science Symposium

Registration is free and open online for the North Pacific Research Board’s 2012 Alaska Marine Science Symposium, set for Jan. 16-19 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Log on to and click on the registration option.

Abstracts for the symposium may also be submitted via this website through Oct. 3. The symposium is built around regional themes, including the Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska. Within each theme, the symposium will include talks on climate, oceanography, lower trophic levels, the benthos, fisheries and invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, local and traditional knowledge, and socioeconomic research. The 2012 conference will open with keynote speakers for all three regions on Jan. 16, and include an evening reception for the Arctic and Bering Sea at the Dena’ina Center. For Jan. 17, the focus will be on the Arctic Ocean, with an evening reception for Gulf of Alaska posters. The Bering Sea will be the focus of the symposium on Jan. 18 and the Gulf of Alaska on Jan. 19.

The NPRM also announced the appointment of three new members of its advisory panel for the Bering Sea region. They are Ed Poulsen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, in Shoreline, Washington, Gay Sheffield, Bering Strait agent for the Alaska Sea Grant marine advisory program in Nome, and Phillip Zavadil, director of the Aleut community of St. Paul Island-tribal government-general administrative services and ecosystem conservation office at St. Paul Island.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fuglvog Pleads Guilty, But Feds Likely Have Bigger Fish to Fry

By Margaret Bauman

September 2011

Veteran commercial fisherman Arne Fuglvog, former fisheries aide to US Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, faces sentencing Nov. 18 on a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act involving falsifying sablefish individual fishing quota records.

Fuglvog made a plea deal with federal authorities, in which he pleaded guilty to charges that he harvested 63,000 pounds of sablefish from an area near Yakutat in 2005, more than twice the amount of sablefish that his permits authorized him to catch there.

The plea bargain called for a 10-month prison sentence, a fine of $50,000 and a community service payment of $100,000.

The bigger news still to come about this case is who else will find themselves in big trouble over federal fisheries violations. In a sealed document, part of Fuglvog’s agreement, the former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has agreed to providing unspecified “information” to the government. US District Court Judge H. Russel Holland said that that “addendum” to the plea agreement could result in a reduced sentence for Fuglvog, who remains free, without posting any amount of bail, until sentencing.

As Shannyn Moore, a popular political blogger based in Alaska, put it, “Arne is not the biggest fish they are catching. Arne is bait, and every fisherman knows you have to have fresh bait to catch bigger fish.

“They are going to get bigger fish on the hook with this,” said Moore, herself a former commercial fisherman. “When the corruption in fisheries comes out, it will make oil corruption look like Girl Scout cookie embezzlement.”

News of Fuglvog’s plea agreement and subsequent resignation from Murkowski’s staff has sent waves through the fishing industry, making a lot of people fairly nervous about exactly what information Fuglvog might disclose to federal authorities. Some in the industry have responded by voicing their concern that the actions of this highly visible figure in fisheries politics is giving a bad name to good fisheries management everywhere. Others are at least figuratively biting their nails.

There was initial reluctance from either Murkowski or United Fishermen of Alaska to comment on Fuglvog’s dilemma.

After his plea became public, Murkowski issued a statement saying:

“Prior to joining my staff, Arne Fuglvog violated a fishing regulation by misstating the location where he caught sablefish. I accepted his resignation Sunday, and he will plead guilty to this charge as part of a plea agreement. Arne served Alaskans for the past 5 years on my staff and for over a decade before that in his public service work in fisheries. I thank him for his years of service, but he knows the importance and value of our fisheries, and he also knows what all fishermen understand: fishing laws and regulations must be followed. Arne has cooperated fully with the authorities, taken responsibility for his actions, and accepted the consequences.”

Murkowski said she did not learn of his plea agreement until June 29. According to public salary records, Fuglvog earned $89,000 in 2009 and $91,000 in 2010 as a member of Murkowski’s staff.

United Fishermen of Alaska, which had backed Fuglvog for appointment as assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, also initially declined comment on the plea deal, then said in a letter to members, prompted by a journalist’s questions, that UFA had not received any emails or phone calls or other communications regarding the investigation of Fuglvog other than from a source they did not find credible.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Ballots In the Mail on Pebble Mine Issue

Ballots sent out in mid-September to 1,192 registered voters in Alaska’s Lake and Peninsula Borough are asking them to decide by Oct. 4 whether they favor or oppose a campaign to halt development of the Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska. The initiative on the ballot, if approved by voters, would change borough law to forbid granting of permits for any large mine that would have “significant adverse impact” on salmon streams. While the initiative does not mention Pebble, its sponsors in the “Save our Salmon” campaign are clear that Pebble is the focus of the initiative.

To be counted in this mail-in only election, the ballots must be properly completed and postmarked by Oct. 4, and returned to borough offices by Oct. 14. Borough officials plan to count them on Oct. 17 and release unofficial results on that day.

Borough Clerk Kate Conley said 469 ballots were returned in the borough’s last election, of which only 384 were declared eligible, and 85 declared ineligible because they were either filled out improperly or returned after the deadline. Conley declined to speculate on what the turn out would be for this highly publicized election, but many expect that the number of ballots returned would greatly exceed the number returned in previous elections, since the battle over whether the Pebble mine should be developed now extends far beyond Alaska.

Both sides have spent large amounts of money encouraging voters to pass or defeat the initiative, in a daily advertising campaign. Pebble proponents say mining and fishing can co-exist in Bristol Bay, home of the world famous wild sockeye salmon run, and that the mine would bring a major boost to the area economy. Opponents say the mine stands to destroy fisheries upon which the region’s people have relied on for generations, for subsistence, sport and commercial use.

In one of the latest challenges against the mine, the Alaska Public Offices Commission ruled last week that the Pebble Limited Partnership was not required to report court expenses in an unsuccessful effort to keep the initiative off the ballot. Supporters of the initiative said funds provided by Anchorage businessman Bob Gillam in support of the initiative included money spent on that issue.

Cantwell Joins in Pebble Mine Battle

Washington State Sen. Marie Cantwell is asking the US Environmental Protection Agency to block any large development project in Bristol Bay if the EPA finds that such development would harm salmon and the livelihood of those who depend on salmon.

Cantwell sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson expressing her support of the EPA’s decision to conduct a thorough scientific analysis of the effect of a large-scale development project on the Bristol Bay watershed. Cantwell said Bristol Bay salmon populations are “economic lynchpins” for commercial fishermen not just in Alaska but also in Washington State.

She said thousands of Washington state jobs, from processing to the restaurant industry, depend on healthy, sustainable salmon populations. In 2008 alone, Bristol Bay yielded over $113 million in total value for Washington State commercial fisheries, while recreational salmon fisheries yielded an additional $75 million for Washington State businesses alone, she said.

According to a review of the mine by London-based Anglo-American, PLC and Vancouver, British Columbia-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the mine “would produce over seven billion tons of waste rock, a toxic stew that would be deposited in massive new artificial lakes,” Cantwell said. “Seepage into the groundwater could adversely impact the Bristol Bay watershed, which is the main outflow for the rivers and streams in the proposed mine area,” she said.

Community Participation in Catch Shares

Kodiak fisherman Terry Haines told participants in the 27th annual Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium in Anchorage this past week that an entity is needed for community participation in catch shares.

Haines, representing a group known as Fish Heads, an advocacy group to preserve the vitality of Alaska’s fishing communities, said that Kodiak would be the perfect community to take the lead. Processors, fishermen, communities and local businesses could all be members of the regional fisheries association, which would report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on issues related to specific fisheries and propose rules and regulations, Haines said.

“Everyone has legitimate things to bring to the council,” he said. “There are ways we can sit down and talk to each other like human beings so that the communities are not bled dry by the catch share programs.”

If the regional association’s members could not come to agreement on the issues, they could recommend to the council that they not allocate catch shares for that year to anyone, he said. “We need a pass through the entity that allocates directly to harvesters but that makes it tougher for the crew and the rest of the community to get their share,” he said.

“We have to connect the owner of the resource with the resource and the resource with the community,” he said. “We have to learn to trust each other and not be dogs in the pit.”

The structure for such regional fisheries associations is contained within the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act but it’s just a shell right now, he said, and leadership on this issue needs to be taken by communities.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Okays Fish Funds

(revised Sept. 22, 2011)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says the state’s fisheries benefitted from funding decisions and a number of cost-effective adjustments made in language in an appropriations bill that cleared the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee on Sept. 14 in a bipartisan vote. The CJS Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2012 is now before the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

Murkowski said the measure includes $9.6 million to fund Pacific Salmon Treaty-related activities and compliance with the 1985 accord with Canada. Those funds will help maintain stock and monitor fishery activities, and also ensure compliance with treaty conservation and harvest sharing commitments.

In addition, the Pacific Salmon Treaty Fund saw a nearly $1 million increase in funding level support from White House suggestions, she said.

The subcommittee also agreed with Murkowski’s suggestion that the $65 million in restoration funds for Pacific salmon not strictly be allocated to threatened salmon or steelhead populations, but to all Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries, continuing revenue streams to states that are implementing successful fishery policies.

Also included in the measure is $67 million for fishery stock assessments to be disbursed nationally to provide for the most timely and accurate data possible to provide for informed decisions such as quota numbers, she said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Astoria Commercial Fishermen's Festival, September 17 – 18, 2011

Come and Celebrate Astoria's Bicentennial at the Astoria Commercial Fishermen's Festival at Tongue Point, in Astoria, Oregon this weekend.

Come cheer your favorite fisherman at the Viking Safety Equipment Survival Suit Races and watch the Snagagim Axasniikangin "Dream Dancers" perform.

Bring your family and take part in the family Dover Sole Relay Race or the Pacific Seafoods Oyster Spitting Contest. Watch the Captain Phil Harris Highliner Competition, where the highliner of the year will take home a $1,000 cash prize, trophy and industry prizes.

Or, enter the Crab Line Coiling Competition, get an autograph from the Deadliest Catch stars and watch the Crab Pot Stacking Contest, first annual Fisher Girls Competition and the Alaska Airlines AxMen vs. Fishermen Tug-o-War Challenge.

The festival starts at 10 am on Saturday, and runs through the weekend. Get more information at

Applications Due Nov. 1 for Debris Cleanup Program.

Applications are being accepted through Nov. 1 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program, which engages communities in debris prevention and cleanup operations.

Typical grant awards range from $15,000 to $150,000, and may be used for prevention and debris removal projects that benefit coastal habitat, waterways and wildlife, including migratory fish. Up to $2 million is expected to be available for community-based marine debris removal projects in fiscal 2012.

NOAA officials said these projects involve removal of marine debris and derelict fishing gear, plus activities that offer social benefits for residents and their communities, and long-term ecological habitat improvements for NOAA trust resources.

Spokesmen for the Marine Conservation Alliance, with offices in Juneau and Seattle, said their efforts in protecting coastal habitat important to marine life and sea birds last year resulted in cleaning up over 400,000 pounds of debris from the shoreline of Alaska. That brought the non-profit organization’s total cleanup effort achievement since 2003 to over 2 million pounds of debris removed from Alaska’s shores.

More information on these grants can be found at the NOAA Restoration Center’s marine debris web page,

Sea Grant Program Offers to Train Future Seafood Industry Leaders

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program and the Fishery Industrial Technology Center announced plans Sept. 14 to cohost the Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute from October through March of 2012. The program is designed for mid-level managers, production foremen, plant supervisors and quality assurance leaders who want to advance their careers in seafood processing. Large and small processors are welcome.

The application deadline is Sept. 20.

The Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute is accepting up to 20 students for the three training sessions, each in a different location.

Hands-on technical training in seafood processing and visits with local processors will take place at Kodiak from Oct. 31 through Nov. 10. Leadership training, human resource development, business management and marketing are scheduled for March 5-9 in Anchorage. In addition, there will be a guided trip to the Boston Seafood Show and field trips to secondary processors on the East Coast from March 10-14.

More information is at the ASPLI website,
The 2011–2012 ASPLI comes in the wake of similar institutes offered in 2006 and 2008. Sea Grant spokesmen said that most former ASPLI trainees have continued their careers in seafood processing, with at least one has become a plant manager and while others are working their way up the ladder.

Salmon Harvest Settles In at 170 Million Fish

Alaska’s wild salmon harvest for 2011 stands at just over 170 million fish of all five species, no small accomplishment for the harvesters, but far below the preseason forecast of 203 million fish. The pink salmon harvest alone was predicted to be especially large at nearly 134 million fish, but as of Sept. 9, the preliminary harvest count showed the pink harvest total to be 112,249,000 pinks. The commercial catch of the famed sockeye salmon had been forecast at 45 million fish, but to date stands at 39,893,000 reds.

The Chinook harvest to date stands at 404,000 fish, up from 378,000 kings in 2010.
Commercial harvesters also have netted 15,038,000 chum salmon and 2,590,000 silvers, for a total run of 170,174,000 wild salmon. The robust harvest in the Lower Yukon through Sept. 9 included 495,000 chum, some 69,000 silvers and fewer than one million kings, bringing that run to 575,000 fish.

The salmon harvest in Southeast Alaska has reached 70,373,000 fish, including nearly 58 million pinks, 9,293,000 chums, 1,611,000 silvers, 1,218,000 reds and 283,000 kings. Kodiak harvested nearly 20 million wild salmon, including 16.5 million pinks, 2,218,000 reds, 817,000 chums, 167,000 silvers and 31,000 kings.

The Alaska Peninsula total harvest as of Sept. 9 stood at 9.4 million fish, including 2.8 million reds, 5,116,000 pinks, 1,274,000 chum, 171,000 silvers and 9,000 kings.

Discussion Abounds on Who Will Be Next Murkowski Fisheries Aide


The article below posted on Septemeber 14th about a replacement for Arne Fuglvog, former fisheries advisor to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, stated: "Murkowski’s office has declined to offer names of any of those being considered, but industry sources expressed concern that the Washington State-based Freezer Longliner Coalition in Seattle had been asked to provide a list of potential candidates for the job."

Kenny Down, Executive Director of the Freezer Longline Coalition in Seattle, says his group has never been asked to provide a list of potential candidates for the job as the story suggests.

Down says the story of Arne Fuglvog’s resignation was widespread, and the Freezer Longline Coalition, like many if not most industry representatives with large percentages of Alaskan Members, urged qualified Alaskan candidates to apply for the position. He notes that the high-level position requires extensive knowledge of the Alaskan fisheries, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Alaska’s Board of Fish among other things, and that it will be a difficult position to fill, but that his group has not been asked to provide a list of names.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor, Fishermen's News

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska has yet to announce who will fill the vacancy left by the departure of her fisheries advisor, Arne Fuglvog, following his plea agreement after breaking federal commercial fishing laws. An aide to the senator said that the search for the right person was expedited during the recent congressional recess and that they were working on a short list.

Murkowski’s office has declined to offer names of any of those being considered, but industry sources expressed concern that the Washington State-based Freezer Longliner Coalition in Seattle had been asked to provide a list of potential candidates for the job. According to those sources, Stefanie Moreland, federal fisheries coordinator and right-hand lady to Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Core Campbell is on top of the list. Also reportedly on the short list are Sarah Melton, a fisheries analyst with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, and Kevin Adams, a commercial fisherman and board member of United Fishermen of Alaska. Moreland and Adams did not initially respond to messages left for them, Melton, who holds a natural resource manage, environmental law certificate from the Lewis and Clark Law School, said she had not been contacted by Murkowski’s staff but that she was approached by those in the industry about the job. Melton spoke with enthusiasm about her role in crafting analytical documents for the federal council needed for decision making, and applauded what she described as the balance of conservation and progressive development taken in the council’s approach to fisheries issues. She expressed particular enthusiasm for her opportunities both at the council and in teaching a business law course at the University of Alaska Anchorage in helping commercial harvesters become more effectively active in the business and politics of fisheries.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crustacean Science

By Doug Schneider

University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) scientists are working with fishermen, the seafood industry, state and federal researchers and coastal communities to raise king crab in hope of rebuilding once-lucrative fisheries.

Inside the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, an otherwise nondescript warehouse on the south end of the fishing and tourism town of Seward, Alaska, thousands of recently hatched red and blue king crab larvae have started to look like crab.

Just a few weeks earlier these king crabs were embryos within eggs tucked neatly beneath their mothers’ abdominal flap.

The baby crab have so far grown through the major steps of larval development, collectively called the zoeae stage. At the moment, they are well into the next stage, called glaucothoe, during which they take on features common to all crab. They brandish tiny claws on their front legs. Large, beady black eyes sit atop their heads. In a few more weeks, these crabs will have armored shells and be instantly recognized as Alaska’s biggest crab.

“They start out small,” says biologist Jim Swingle, a crab research biologist with Alaska Sea Grant. “It’s amazing to see them develop.”

For each of the past five years, Swingle and fellow Sea Grant biologist and UAF graduate student Ben Daly have carefully cared for and watched over the adult female king crab and the growth of their numerous offspring.

The efforts are part of a UAF partnership with fishermen and trade associations, coastal communities, and state and federal scientists, to develop the biological understanding and technology to hatch and raise large numbers of king crab from wild broodstock. The project also seeks to learn more about the ecology and biology of wild crab and how hatchery crab might fare if released into the ocean.

“Overall, the research is aimed at learning whether raising red and blue king crab in hatcheries is feasible to help low numbers of wild king crab stocks recover in places like Kodiak Island and the Pribilof Islands,” said Dr. David Christie, director of Alaska Sea Grant.

Like many large scientific research programs, this one has a catchy name – the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology, or AKCRRAB, program.

King Crab Boom, Then Bust
For decades, Alaska crab fishermen from Southeast to the Bering Sea happily rode what seemed to be a tidal wave of king crab. Beginning in the late 1950s, Alaska crabbers hauled in seemingly bottomless boatloads of red king crab. At the peak of the fishery in 1965, fishermen caught 94 million pounds of the colossal crustacean, valued then at $12.2 million. At today’s price paid to fishermen, the value would be $500 million.

Scenes of huge crab catches played out in Bristol Bay, too, where fishermen in 1980 hauled in 130 million pounds of red king crab, worth $115 million. (That’s $650 million for fishermen in today’s dollars.)

Fishermen eagerly hunted blue king crab as well. At the peak in 1981, fishermen in the frigid Bering Sea around the Pribilof Islands and St. Matthew Island filled their boats with 14 million pounds of blue king crab.

But the boom was not to last. In 1983, after years of plummeting harvests, Kodiak fisheries managers finally pulled the plug. The closure was a huge economic blow to the island’s economy. And even though commercial red king crab fishing has been closed around Kodiak for more than 30 years, the stock has not recovered. Around the Pribilof Islands, blue king crab have not fared well either. After years of erratic catches, the blue king crab fishery closed in 1999. Officially, the blues there are classified as overfished.

Grassroots Call Spurs UAF Research
In the decades following the collapse, fishermen called for a hatchery program to rebuild king crab stocks around Kodiak and the Pribilof Islands. In 1992, Kodiak residents convened a workshop on Kodiak crab crash and what might be done to help the stocks recover.

The hatchery idea came up again in early 2006 during conversations between Arni Thompson (then with the Alaska Crab Coalition), Heather McCarty of the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, and Gale Vick with the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition.

“We were all talking and I asked some totally naive questions about the possibilities of enhancing the wild king crab stocks, and from there Arni arranged for us to meet with several scientists,” says Vick. “From there, it picked up steam with the communities and other fishermen’s groups. The beginnings were truly grassroots.”

Soon after, the group asked UAF’s Alaska Sea Grant College Program to examine the hatchery idea. In March 2006, Alaska Sea Grant hosted a workshop with fishermen, state and federal biologists, community leaders, seafood processing companies, and fishing organizations, to discuss the status of red and blue king crabs and the prospect for hatcheries to help rebuild the stocks. Former Alaska Sea Grant Director Brian Allee recalls the mood of the people in the workshop.

“The consensus was that enough time had passed, that nature needed a little help,” says Allee, who now works for NOAA helping rebuild salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest. “The fishing industry wanted a research and development program to test the feasibility of hatcheries as a way to rebuild the crab stocks.”

Taking cues from this meeting, Alaska Sea Grant pulled together university and federal biologists, fishermen, Alaska coastal community leaders, and the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery to form the AKCRRAB program, and begin research.

That was five years ago. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hatchery Research Progress
In 2007, hatchery research began in earnest, thanks to fishermen who provided scientists with 36 adult female king crab whose abdominal flaps were stuffed with eggs.

“The exact number of eggs varies with the species and size of the female crab but it is usually between 150,000 and 200,000 eggs for each red king crab, and fewer for the blues we have this year,” says Alaska Sea Grant’s Swingle.

Scientists at the Alutiiq Pride hatchery monitored the expectant female crabs, making sure water temperatures, salinity, flow rates, and other factors in the hatchery’s seawater tanks were just right.

Then, around the end of March and early April, the eggs reached the hatch-stage, and the larvae began to wiggle free from their eggs. In all, some four million red and blue king crab larvae hatched in that first year.

“Getting the first hatch back in 2007 completed was great, but at that time, we didn’t know that much about how to take care of the larvae; what they ate, the exact combination of water temperature, light, food, and other critical needs,” Brian Allee, the Alaska Sea Grant director at the time. “We were learning as we went along.”

The early problems resulted in the loss of nearly all the larvae that first year. Although a setback, no one expected a flawless first year.

“No one had tried this before with Alaska crab,” said Allee. “We learned a lot and we made adjustments.”

With new equipment that enabled researchers to maintain optimum water temperatures, and having learned valuable lessons about how to handle and feed the crab larvae, researchers made steady progress during the following years.

“The key to being successful in the hatchery has been trying to get all the different elements dialed in,” explained Swingle. “You have to get the feed, seawater flow rate, aeration, temperature, and other factors just right. A lot of things have to come together to be successful. So over the years we have improved these things.”

The improvements paid off. In 2008, Swingle and Daly and the staff of the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery were able to get 31 percent of newly hatched larvae to the glaucothoe stage. Of these glaucothoe-stage crabs, 10 percent survived to the first juvenile stage – the animal has fully formed legs, shell, mouth and internal organs, and has settled out of the water column to the bottom of the tank. Most importantly, the crabs looked like a crab – albeit miniature ones.

“In 2009 and 2010, our methods allowed us to increase glaucothoe survival to 50 percent, and juvenile survival to 20 percent” says Daly. “In all, some 100,000 crab reached the juvenile stage in each of these years. We consider that to be reasonably good, but there is always room to improve.”

This year’s egg-bearing female crabs included 20 red king crab from Bristol Bay, 20 red king crab from Southeast waters, and 19 blue king crab from the Bering Sea around Saint Matthew Island. Local fishermen and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game collected the crab for the research program.

While Daly and Swingle continue to perfect techniques for hatching and raising red and blue king crab in the Seward hatchery, UAF scientists and graduate students in Seward and Juneau, and federal researchers in Kodiak and Newport, Oregon, have begun studies aimed at learning how hatchery crab might fare in the wild. Such studies include understanding the roles of habitat, crab body size, prey density, predator density, water conditions, and predator types on the survival of juvenile crab. Lab experiments are being done at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, and the NOAA Fisheries Lab in Kodiak. Small scale field experiments are being conducted in Yankee Cove, near Juneau, Alaska.

And while a combination of state and federal grants have paid for most of the research to date, there is growing interest by industry in supporting the program.

“Fishermen and fishing organizations have supported this effort all along with substantial financial contributions, and by helping collect broodstock animals,” says McCarty.

In 2010, Santa Monica Seafood, one of the largest west coast seafood distribution companies, donated $10,000 to the research effort as part of their commitment to sustainable Alaska seafood.

And this year, a group of fishing industry interests donated $25,000 to the AKCRRAB program. They include the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation; the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association; the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and the Groundfish Forum.

“The industry funds are especially important right now as we complete efforts to raise the king crab born this past spring to the first juvenile stage,” said David Christie, Director of Alaska Sea Grant. “This is the point at which the crab are shipped to various researchers for their experiments to learn more about crab habitat preferences, predator relationships and avoidance, and genetics, among other things.”

“These donations are all significant because these groups are key players in the Bering Sea crab fishery,” says Arni Thomson, who for years was the executive director of the Alaska Crab Coalition, but recently signed on as president of the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA). UFA is the umbrella group that represents 37 commercial fishing associations that engage in fisheries harvests in Alaska’s state and federal waters.

There remains a great deal of research to be done before state and federal fisheries managers might consider a pilot program to release hatchery born crab into the wild.

Alaska Sea Grant Director David Christie said three key components of the research program must show progress before responsible management decisions can be made about launching a large-scale hatchery effort.

“Hatchery scientists need to continue work to expand the limited production techniques they use now to successfully and economically produce very large numbers of crab that would be needed to enhance the low wild populations,” explains Christie.

Christie also said research is needed to answer questions about when, where, and how best to release hatchery crabs. Such research has already begun, he says, but it needs to grow and to gradually expand from the lab into the field. Also underway is research to answer questions about the genetics and distribution of wild crab stocks to ensure that any breeding program will not adversely affect the viability of wild stocks.

They are questions for which university and federal biologists in Fairbanks, Seward, Juneau, Newport, and Kodiak, are eager to find answers.
To learn more about the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology program, please visit:

Doug Schneider is the Science Writer and Information Officer with the Alaska Sea Grant College Program at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Pink Harvests Boost Wild Alaska Salmon Catch to 171,432,000 Fish

Commercial wild Alaska salmon harvests haven’t come close to the forecast of 203 million salmon of all species for 2011, but they are continuing to climb. As of Sept. 2, a total of 171,423 salmon of all species had been harvested, quite a jump from 124 million reported through Aug. 12. The harvest included 403,000 kings, 13,678,000 chum, 2,308,000 silvers, 115,168,000 pinks, and 39,875,000 sockeye.

The Southeast Alaska harvest alone included 61.6 million pinks, and is being heralded as one for the record books, for volume and prices. The value of the seine catch in northern districts of Southeast Alaska has reportedly surpassed a record $100 million.

Fish and Game regional biologist Bill Davidson was quoted on public radio saying that the 2011 harvest is going to surpass the preseason forecast of 55 million pinks. “The combination of the record return on the north end and good average weights and best ever prices have probably blown away any previous value record, and it’s still going,” Davidson said in an interview with public radio station KFSK in Petersburg. Davidson said that he expected that the season would continue into early September. Along with the pinks, harvesters also brought in chum, sockeye and coho salmon. Prices have been strong, with the fat pinks earning seiners42 cents a pound. KFSK radio reported that seiners were also getting $1.50 a pound for sockeyes, 82 cents a pound for chum and 50 cents a pound for coho salmon, which have been exceptionally small.

Comments on Halibut Catch Share Plan Extended Through Sept. 21

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has extended from Sept. 6 to Sept. 21 the deadline to receive public comments on the proposed halibut catch-sharing plan. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco made that decision in the wake of a visit to Homer, Alaska, last month, where she heard extensive comments from both commercial halibut setline harvesters and charter boat operators. Lubchenco said she wanted to be sure that anyone who wants to participate in this public process has a chance to do so.

Both commercial setline and charter operators also offered extensive testimony on Sept. 1 at a hearing called by the Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries in Anchorage. Charter operators told legislators that the setliners get the lion’s share of the allocation. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, himself a commercial halibut fisherman, noted that commercial harvesters had seen their allocation diminish without a compensating rise in the price they got for fish. He called for all harvesters to share in protecting the halibut resource. Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, questioned those testifying on how the proposed plan would affect the charter industry.

Halibut stocks have seen a steep decline over the past several years both in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska. NOAA officials said the proposed catch-sharing plan was designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing overharvesting of halibut, and would introduce provisions that provide flexibility for charter and commercial harvesters. The fisheries are currently managed under separate programs.

All comments should be identified by RIN 0648-BA37. They may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at

More information is at

Fall Chum Run On Yukon River Projected At 930,000 Fish

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, using the latest assessment information, are projecting the fall chum salmon run on the Yukon River at nearly 930,000 fish.

In an announcement released Sept. 4, biologists said the estimated number of fall chum salmon having entered the river through Sept. 2 was 918,000 fish, above the historical average of 739,000 fish for that date. Biologists also said the estimated total number of coho salmon having entered the river as of Sept. 2 stood at 164,000 fish, slightly below the average for that date of 166,000 fish. The estimates are based on run reconstruction using the Pilot Station sonar project counts and harvest below Pilot Station.

Commercial fishing on the Lower Yukon opened for a nine-hour period on Sept. 5, with gillnets restricted to a maximum mesh size of 7.5 inches.

Biologists put the total preliminary harvest for the Yukon area for fall season at about 230,000 fall chum salmon and 69,000 coho salmon. The commercial harvest was not expected to negatively impact fall chum or coho salmon escapement or subsistence needs.

Commercial fishermen delivering to Kwik’Pak Fisheries, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association with facilities at Emmonak delivered some 376,000 summer chum through Aug. 12. At the time, state biologists were projecting the fall chum run size at over 800,000 fish.

Much of the fall harvest is destined for headed and gutted markets in Japan, while other chum will be filleted and flash frozen for markets in Europe and the United States.

Kwik’Pak employs some 225 area residents at its processing facilities and purchases fish from another 250 area residents of the Lower Yukon.

Coast Guard In Alaska In Line for Millions in Federal Funding

Legislation headed for the US Senate Appropriations committee includes $10.351 billion to help fund Coast Guard operations nationwide, including two separate allotments of $18.3 million for aircraft replacement. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who serves on the Homeland security Appropriations subcommittee, requested funds for two H-60 Jayhawk helicopters, one to replace the HH-60 Sitka aircraft lost in a crash last year, and another to give Kodiak the full fleet the Coast Guard indicates it needs. The choppers are often used in rescues at sea.

The measure also includes $39 million for the Coast Guard’s Ice Breaker Program in polar regions. Murkowski said the Coast Guard’s Alaska responsibilities dwarf those of most other bases nationwide, and that they deserve all the support the nation can provide.

The Gulf of Mexico has six different Coast Guard air stations spread from Texas to Florida, compared to the Coast Guard in Alaska, which has two air stations to cover the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Pacific and Arctic oceans, she said.

The bill includes $1.477 billion nationwide in state and local training/equipment grants, from which Alaska will also receive grants from funds earmarked for state and homeland security, port security, assistance to firefighters and SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) firefighter grants.

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