Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Voluntary Lowering of Lease Fees Offered By Some Crab Quota Share Holders

By Margaret Bauman

November 2011

A report of the crew work group meeting at Dutch Harbor during the October meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council notes that some current crab quota shareholders have agreed to voluntarily lower lease rates.

The report, prepared by Edward Poulsen, distributed on Oct. 4 to members of the working group who participated in the Sept. 29 meeting, notes several issues covered by those in attendance and via teleconference, including a Kodiak connection.

It does not mention electronic data reporting, a subject on which the council will take final action at its December 5-13 meeting in Anchorage. Poulsen, former executive director and now an advisor to the Bering Sea Crabbers, said he was preparing an updated report on the meeting to deliver at the December meeting.

A number of people who crew on crab boats have expressed concern since the crab rationalization legislation went into effect several years ago about loss of jobs and income, mainly because of fleet consolidation and leasing of quota shares. Some crew members also feel they should have been allocated crew quota shares because of their long-term participation in this dangerous fishery, an opinion challenged by some vessel owners who said they have invested substantial capital in the fishery, as opposed to physical effort alone.

Several people representing crewmembers also want data reports made available that show specifically how much income crew members earned annually before the federal crab rationalization program was approved.

“What we would like to see on public record is the pay from pre-rationalization,” said Steve Branson, a veteran Kodiak fisherman. “It would be nice to be able to compare what was going on before and after privatization.”

Branson said after seven years of traveling from Kodiak to attend various meetings of the federal council he is not overly optimistic about change any more, even though ”the council now is more fair-minded. I don’t think it (crab rationalization) would have passed if it had been scrutinized more closely.”

Vessel owners held the Dutch Harbor meeting to discuss progress in development of measures to address crew issues, as a precursor to the industry’s report to the council in December.

First up on their agenda was a proposal of vessel owners to provide a right of first offer to active participants on 10 percent of the quota share being transferred in any transaction. The right is intended to increase the portion of the quota share pool held by persons actively fishing. The remaining 90 percent could be subject to a similar right of first offer for either people active in the fleet or owning a fishing vessel.

Proponents of the measure are still developing the specific agreement and suggested that a written description could be provided at the next meeting.

Vessel owners also reported that a substantial portion of current quota holders have agreed to voluntarily limit their lease rates to 65 percent in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery and 50 percent in the Bering Sea opilio fishery, Poulsen said. The lower limit is intended to reduce the pressure on vessel owners that could arise under arrangements that only guarantee crew minimum shares of a vessel’s gross revenues, Poulsen said. In the absence of limits on lease rates, a reduction on the lease rates that may be charged to crew may disadvantage vessel owners that lease a substantial share of the quota that they harvest, he said.

Supporters of the limit on lease rates suggested that in the future cooperative agreements could be modified to include a limit on the lease rate percentage that may be charged to crew, Poulsen noted in his meeting report. However, it was also noted that affiliated coops would also need to implement similar changes that could be more difficult as they are not FCMA cooperatives, he said. In addition, provisions could be included in that agreement to prevent vessel owners from modifying crew contracts to pass on additional costs to crew that might offset the reduced charges on lease costs.

Before crab rationalization went into effect, crew made more money for their efforts because only a percentage of the vessel’s fuel, bait, food and pot loss were deducted before their percentage of the profit was calculated. Once crab rationalization went into effect, some vessels began fishing a great deal of leased quota shares, for which they were paying a lease fee of sometimes up to 80 percent of the harvest, and that lease fee was added to the list of vessel expenses deducted from crew pay.

Branson, who was not among those attending the Dutch Harbor meeting, said he would have made substantially more money the last time he crewed on a crab boat, had lease fees not been deducted.

Some crewmembers at the meeting expressed support for efforts of vessel owners to improve crew compensation through reduced lease fees. These representatives suggested that they would support allowing vessel owners to continue with the effort to use reduced lease rates to address the crew compensation issue.

Poulsen said meeting participants also discussed the means of evaluating the effects of the reduced lease rates on crew compensation.

Vessel owners offered to advance a list of quota holders and/or vessel owners who agreed to the arrangement, but opposed any effort to collect additional information on crew compensation.

These vessel owners expressed their opinion that the adequate information would be provided by the list of quota holders. Vessel owners said that, when available, electronic data reporting data would demonstrate specific effects on compensation.

Some crew representatives voiced concern that electronic data reporting data may not be available until more than a year after some seasons, which would limit the ability to address compensation, if the lease rate reduction measure fails to achieve its intended result. For this reason, they believe that some other means of demonstrating the effectiveness of the measure should be pursued, Poulsen said.

Vessel owners also offered to bring a written description of the agreement to limit lease rates to the next meeting for review by all participants. That description could help participants evaluate the measure, including the potential for reports to establish its effectiveness, Poulsen said.

It was suggested by staff that the group meet prior to the December meeting of the federal council, perhaps on Nov. 21, to ensure that all participants have the same understanding of the progress of discussions.

Poulsen said in an interview later that a loan program up and running since this summer allows crew to get low interest loans to purchase crab quota shares through the National Marine Fisheries service, with amortizations over a 20 year period. “The issue is the NMFS loan program is so low that there is not a lot of incentive for more programs, he said.

The federal crab rationalization program was the first and only program that gave 3 percent of the individual fishing quota shares to skippers. The quota share holders would not be supportive of reallocating quota shares, because it would be disruptive to their businesses now ongoing, he said.

Another Kodiak commercial fisheries veteran, Kodiak city council member Terry Haines, noted that efforts to get banks to offer reasonable interest rates to crew members seeking to buy into quota share did not work out well. “And you can’t blame them,” Haines said. ‘The whole concept makes the banks nervous, that crew might have rights to quota shares they have already given out loans on.”

Haines noted that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act identifies quota shares in the crab fishery as a privilege that can be taken back at any time, if there is enough reason. “It makes the banks very nervous,” he said.

Caps on leased quota share, Haines said, are on the other hand something that is quite doable.

Another issue the council has not discussed is caps on the amount of quota share that may be harvested on the same vessel, he said. When huge amounts of leased quota are harvested on the same vessel, it takes away from a crew’s ability to leverage pay. The bottom line is, what is their percentage of net profits now? Before rationalization is was 6-8 percent for the crew and the skipper got 15 percent (after expenses). Now with 80 percent lease fees off the top that leaves you 20 percent,” he said.

Haines and others are also eager to get the crab electronic data reporting up and running to provide data that provides more information.

Public comment submitted at the Dutch Harbor meeting by Stephen Taufen for the Groundswell Fisheries Movement urged that data collection should include reconciled fish settlement accountings, and inclusion of each crab vessel’s by-species/fisheries lay share contracts.

The reconciled fish settlement accountings should detail whose quota is consolidated on which vessel, the rents or leases charged to the vessel and portion passed along to crews by lease, as well as shared trip settlement expenses by categories, such as fuel, bait, and gear, the percentage for each crewmember by name, showing individual trip settlement costs as well as total personal deductions, Taufen said.

The electronic data collection should also include lay share contracts for all captain and crewmembers, as part of the collection of data that confirms both quantitative analysis and qualitative assessment of whether or not the Bering Sea –Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program meets the requirement that in order to hold quota rights, all applicable federal laws must be obeyed by each IFQ holder, Taufen said.

Haines said that from a community perspective, he looks at the reduced revenue going out of communities as a result of consolidation of the fleet after rationalization and lease fees. From a community perspective, vessel caps and a limit on lease fees would address capital flight form communities, he said.

Haines is a member of the Crewmen’s Association, which has been advocating for crew rights for several years, but said he is more focused at this time on Fish Heads, an advocacy group for the preservation of the vitality of Alaska’s fishing communities.

A number of people who work as crew members have been reluctant to speak out about their support of the Crewmen’s Association, led by Shawn Dochtermann, and other advocates for crew rights because if they were to put their names on a list of those groups they could lose their jobs, he said.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Salmon Virus Update

The chief pathologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says there is concern over reports that exposure to infectious salmon anemia virus was detected in sockeye salmon in British Columbia, but that people should not overreact.

There’s a good chance of false positives in those test results reported by researchers from Simon Fraser University from two of 48 sockeye salmon smolts in central British Columbia, said ADF&G’s Ted Meyers. Now those initial results are being analyzed through additional testing in a second laboratory to rule out any false positives and Alaska fishery scientists are awaiting results of those tests, he said.

“At this point we are concerned, but do not want to overreact as we await more definitive information from Canada,” he said.

There is some concern that the source of the salmon anemia virus, if indeed the additional tests confirm its presence, same from Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia, which have imported millions of salmon eggs since the mid-1980s.

Meyers noted that regulations in place in Alaska do not allow importation of any fish for aquaculture purposes. The only root of infection could be from strays from British Columbia fish farms and the British Columbia farms have been examined for the past eight years for ISA virus and have been found to be negative, he said.

Still, if the virus is confirmed present in British Columbia migratory Pacific salmon or the Atlantic salmon stocks prevalent in British Columbia fish farms, there is concern over potential impacts to Alaska salmon stocks.

Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have introduced legislation directing government scientists to determine the scope and cause of the outbreak of infectious salmon anemia that has devastated salmon farms in Chile and elsewhere, and to recommend steps to protect the health of salmon stocks along the West Coast, Canada and Alaska. The scientists would have six months to complete their report.

Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, said it was fortunate that fish farms are outlawed in Alaska, but urged Alaska officials to take steps to protect Alaska’s wild salmon stocks and the critical habitat necessary for their sustained production.

Open Doors Were Culprit In Sinking F/V Katmai

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board say watertight doors left open during a storm likely caused the 93-foot fishing vessel Katmai to sink off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in late October 2008. Only four of the crew survived. Five men died and two others were never found.

The official report notes the watertight doors from the main deck to the processing space and the lazarette (the aft most compartment in the ship’s hull) were left open by the crew at a time when the vessel was overloaded and navigating in severe weather, which allowed water to enter the vessel, causing progressive flooding and sinking. Investigators said a contributing factor to the accident was the master’s decision to continue fishing operations during the approach of severe weather rather than seeking shelter and to load twice the amount of cargo addressed in the ship’s stability report. Another contributing factor was the owner’s failure to insure that stability information provided to the master was current and that the master understood it and operated the vessel accordingly, the report said.

Investigators also noted issues with the life rafts on board. Requirements for post-1997-manufactured life rafts are more stringent for ballast and stability than previously manufactured life rafts and are manufactured with ballast pockets to resist overturning due to wind and waves. Pre-1997 life rafts remain acceptable if maintained in serviceable condition, including periodic inflation testing. The 15-person life raft, manufactured in 1980, and the 10-person life raft, manufactured in 1994, were last serviced and inspected in 2007.

The detailed narrative of the last hours of the F/V Katmai notes that at the time of the accident winds were from the east at 60-70 knots, air temperatures about 38F, water temperature 43F, and wave height at 20-30 feet, with prevailing rain with no icing.

The Katmai, constructed of welded steel, was built as a shrimp trawler in 1987 in Pensacola, Florida. Originally named the Queen of the Universe, it was sold in 1992 and renamed the Amy S, then sold in 1993 to Katmai Fisheries Inc, which renamed it the Katmai. The NTSB said that the company is no longer in business.

The complete NTSB report on the accident is online at

Exxon Valdez update

There’s a new twist in the latest multi-million dollar Exxon Valdez disaster litigation, now set for oral arguments in federal court in Anchorage on Nov. 15.

Federal Judge H. Russel Holland has denied an amicus brief from marine biologist Rick Steiner, who asked the court to order Exxon to pay an additional $92 million for environmental damages still not cleaned up more than 22 years after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound.

In 1991, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million in damages over the next decade for cleanup costs. Then in 2006, the Justice Department and the state of Alaska filed a claim seeking to have Exxon pay an additional $92 million, given evidence that habitat and species were still impacted by the spill.

Anchorage attorney Doug Serdahely, who is representing Exxon, said he felt Holland denied Steiner’s motion for an amicus brief because he wants to hear only from attorneys for Exxon, the state and federal governments during oral arguments, and feels the government’s position is adequately represented by the government’s lawyers.

Exxon wants the $92 million claim dismissed because it is not appropriate under the consent decree, Serdahely said. Under that decree, the only additional money would be for restoration work, rather than cleanup, he said.

While government attorneys have not pushed for payment, Steiner, who spent 14 years working in Prince William Sound, contends that the court should enforce that 2006 demand for payment.

“The fact is, none of the official parties to the Exxon Valdez case have ever genuinely understood what happened here, or really cared,” Steiner said. “Not Exxon, not the state of Alaska, not the US (federal government), not the court. It’s all been a game to them.

“But the people of Prince Wiliam Sound certainly understood this disaster, and so did the sea otters and harlequin ducks and herring and scoters at Knight Island.”
In the end, said Steiner, the injured environment will continue struggling to recover, without any assistance whatsoever from the very humans who caused the damage in the first place.”

King Cove Marks 100th Anniversary of Salmon Cannery

The commercial fishing community of King Cove, on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, is celebrating on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 the 100th anniversary of a salmon cannery around which the community was built. Visiting dignitaries and other out-of-town guests will take a tour of the Peter Pan Seafoods plant, to see king crab processed, meet with many of the community’s more than 900 residents and attend a banquet where they will hear a narrative and see a photo review of King Cove’s first 100 years. A boat exhibit, basketball tournament, community barbeque and fireworks display are also on the agenda.

King Cove was founded back in 1911 when Pacific American Fisheries built a salmon cannery there. A steamship loaded with lumber, cannery equipment and 50 men to build and operate the plant left Bellingham, Wash., for King Cove on April 9 of that year and arrived in King Cove on April 21. After unloading men and cargo, the ship went south and returned again to King Cove in late May with more men and supplies. The cannery building was completed by June 1, 1911.

Photographs, letters and logbooks of those first years of the King Cove Cannery, by cannery superintendent Harold H. Smith, are now entrusted to the University of Washington Library.

During the first year alone, the King Cove cannery put up 45,000 cases of canned salmon. The city was incorporated in 1949. The cannery operated continuously between 1911 and 1976, when it was partially destroyed by fire. Adoption of the 200-mile fisheries limit spurred rebuilding and King Cove’s economy today is rooted in year-round fish harvesting and processing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NOAA Extends Comment Period on Halibut Catch Share Plan to Sept. 21

By Margaret Bauman

Federal officials have extended through Sept. 21 the comment period on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan, which was to have ended Sept. 6, to assure that everyone has their say in the public process.

The extension was announced Sept. 1, in the wake of a visit to Alaska in August by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who spent time in Homer with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, listening to comments about the draft plan from both charter and setline halibut harvesters.

Lubchenco said she wanted to make sure that everyone has a chance to give their input in this public process of shaping the final halibut catch sharing plan.”

“While many fishermen have already submitted comments, this extension will allow additional time for fishermen still out on the water to make sure they are heard,” Begich said.

Halibut stocks in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska have seen a steep decline in the past several years. NOAA officials said the proposed catch share plan is designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing overharvesting of halibut, and would introduce provisions that provide flexibility for charter and setline commercial fishermen. At present, both of these commercial fisheries are managed under different programs. The proposed catch-sharing plan was shaped through the public process at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommended the rule to establish a clear allocation between the setline and charter sectors that fish in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska.

The announcement extending the comment period through Sept. 21 came on the same day as the Alaska House special Committee on Fisheries met for several hours in Anchorage, to hear from all sides on the halibut catch sharing plan.

Among the presenters were Glenn Merrill and Rachel Baker of the National Marine Fisheries Service and David Witherell of the NPFMC staff. Witherell told the legislators that the council had recommended the new catch sharing management approach for southeast Alaska and Southcentral Alaska for three reasons.

First, said Witherell, to establish allocations of halibut for the charter and setline fishing sectors. Second, to annually implement harvest restrictions for charter anglers that are intended to limit charter harvests to the annual charter catch limit, and third, to authorize annual transfers of commercial halibut individual fishing quota to charter halibut operators to provide charter anglers additional harvest opportunities.

The catch-sharing plan, they noted, was needed for several reasons.

For one, under present regulations there is no mechanism for transfer between sectors, causing continuing conflict. For another, the halibut charter guideline harvest level has been exceeded in Area 2C in Southeast Alaska every year despite restrictions.

While the charter industry has maintained that it is a sport fishery, the setline sector maintains that charter industry is in fact another form the of commercial fishing and that the burden of conservation should be shared by all who fish for halibut.

The Halibut Coalition represents a number of commercial fishing groups, from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Cordova District fishermen to the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association, Sea Food Producers Cooperative and United Fishermen’s Marketing Association.

The Halibut Coalition maintains that the catch-sharing plan establishes clear percentage-based sector allocations that allow harvests to rise and fall with resource abundance. “The catch sharing plan is an approved and agreed upon solution to the halibut conservation and allocation issues,” the coalition states in documents presented to the legislators in Anchorage. “The catch sharing plan must be implemented as soon as possible, the coalition said in its documents. “In the interim, NMFS must effectively enforce the guideline harvest level to keep the charter industry within its GHL quota,” the coalition said in written testimony.

“To me the allocation was fair and equitable,” said Kathy Hansen, speaking for the Halibut Coalition. “The council wanted everyone to share the burden of the resource. The catch sharing plan requires both sectors to share that burden.”

The coalition’s testimony notes that more than 95 percent of all Area 2C commercial halibut fishermen operate family businesses working from vessels less than 60 feet. In 2010, about 60 percent of them were permitted to harvest 3,300 pounds or less of halibut and 90 percent less than 9,000 pounds. The average 2C commercial halibut fisherman grosses about $9,000 from halibut fishing in this area, the coalition said.

In 2009, the charter fleet sued to prevent NMFS from enforcing the GHL in a way that would limit their harvest.

“Annual revenue from the smallest of the plaintiffs was $100,000, they said. Two plaintiffs reported annual revenues of $1.6 million and $1.89 million, according to the coalition’ testimony. One charter plaintiff operated a corporate fleet of 27 vessels catching between 460,000 pounds and 763,000 pounds of halibut. Another charter plaintiff was catching between 93,000 pounds and 148,000 pounds annually. By contrast in 2010, less than 1 percent of the 2C commercial fishermen harvested 20,000 or more pounds of halibut in this area.

Over the past six years, reductions in the allowable catch for the setline fleet have totaled 78 percent, the coalition said.

Presenters for the Southeast Alaska Guides association testified that due to a lack of current economic analysis that ”the devastating impact of the catch sharing plan to the sectors or coastal communities has not been properly understood. “The loss of jobs and charter fishing related revenue should be projected prior to the implementation of this rule, SEAGO maintained.

SEAGO also said the catch sharing plan circumvents the public process by placing the authority of settlement annual management measures with the International Pacific Halibut Commission, rather than with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“The IPHC is not subject to the Administrative Procedures Act, which mandates public involvement in the rule-making process, SEAGO said. “In essence, this change removes United States citizens from management decisions over domestic allocation. Convenience and expediency should never justify preventing public involvement in significant policy decisions.”

“Somebody has to make a decision,” said Richard Yamada of the Alaska Charter Association, in his presentation to legislators, “how does the fish generate the most revenue for the state. The IFQ fishery has declining participants. In the charter industry there is all kinds of room for growth,” he said.

While the House Special Committee on Fisheries is unlikely to take much, if any action on this matter, that didn’t stop legislators from asking a lot of questions and voicing opinions on the setline and charter sectors.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, a commercial fisherman, noted that he has seen his individual allocation of halibut fall without a compensating rise in price. Thomas said he has constituents who can’t afford to go fishing anymore. While the commercial fishermen have been willing to stand down from fishing to protect the resource, “I’m not hearing that from the other side,” he said.

Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, another member of the fisheries committee, said he felt allocation of the halibut resource had to be based on good information, both economic and biological. “I don’t think we have either to make the kind of decisions that this group is planning on making, that’s going to affect the lives of Alaskans, and possibly the fish,” he said.

Comments should be identified by RIN 0648-BA37, and may be submitted electronically, by regular mail, by fax or hand delivered to the Juneau Federal Building. Submit comments electronically via the federal eRulemaking Portal via

For more information, go to

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Initiative to Bar Permitting of Large-Scale Mining Passes

Voters in Southwest Alaska’s Lake and Peninsula Borough have approved by a vote of 280-246 an initiative that could bar permitting for large-scale mines that would have a significant adverse impact on existing salmon streams.

The initiative, aimed at halting development of the Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed had been the subject of extensive campaigning on both sides.
Borough manager Lamar Cotten said this was the largest number of votes ever cast in a borough election.

Proposed development of the Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine has been a hot topic in Southwest Alaska for several years.

Mining firms like London-based Anglo-American, which has invested millions in mine exploration along with Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, have maintained that they can operate the mine in harmony with the salmon fisheries.

Mine opponents contend that the project threatens spawning streams critical to the diverse salmon populations whose combined strength return millions of salmon to Bristol Bay annually.

Now that the election is completed, Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock is expected to again review on Nov. 7 motions for summary judgment on whether the initiative should have been placed on the ballot in the first place.
Lake and Peninsula Borough Manager Lamar Cotten said that if Suddock comes down in favor of the Pebble Limited Partnership that the borough will take the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.

“We held the election. The people voted and that was the outcome,” and the borough intends to defend the vote of its residents,” Cotten said.

Of at least equal importance to the future of this battle over mining are a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed now in progress by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a case before the Alaska Supreme Court challenging the legality of the state’s 2005 Bristol Bay area plan.

The EPA’s study will determine how large-scale development would affect water quality and habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed. The EPA is focusing its study primarily on the Kvichak and Nushagak river drainages, the primary areas in the watershed open to large-scale development. Once the study is completed and independently reviewed, the EPA has the option of imposing Section 404© of the Clean Water Act, which would prohibit or restrict certain mining activities.

The Alaska Supreme Court, meanwhile, is expected to decide soon whether litigation over the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan may be heard in the Alaska Superior Court. In that case six federally recognized tribes are seeking to throw out the plan by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and declare it unlawful. The suit alleges that the 2005 plan, which replaced a 1984 version, drastically altered, without legal justification, the land-use designations, classifications and acreages assigned in the 1984 plan. The suit alleges that the new plan fails to adequately protect subsistence, sport hunting and fishing, wildlife habitat and other renewable resources it purports to manage for public benefit.

Frankenfish Watch

Senators Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have introduced two new pieces of legislation aimed by stopping production of genetically engineered fish. Each senator co-sponsored the other’s measure.

Begich introduced the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the Unites States (PEGASUS) Act to ban the interstate commerce of genetically modified fish. PEGASUS would make it unlawful to ship, transport, offer for sale, sell, or purchase genetically altered salmon or other marine fish, or a product containing genetically altered salmon or other marine fish, in interstate or foreign commerce, or to have the same in custody, control or possession of for those purposes.

Violations would be subject to penalties under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Murkowski filed an amendment to the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would prohibit funds from being used by the federal Food and Drug Administration to approve the application for genetically modified fish.

The controversy stems from efforts of AquaBounty, developer of the AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon, to get FDA approval of the fish. AquaBounty wants the FDA to analyze whether their salmon are safe to eat, safe for the environment and nutritionally the equivalent of other salmon.

Murkowski said that the genetically engineered fish, which the senators have dubbed “Frankenfish,” could pose serious risks to wild populations of many fish. “While these modified fish are supposed to be sterile, 5 percent of the fish could remain fertile, and escaped stock could breed with wild stocks, introducing hazardous mutations to a currently health and hygienic wild stock,” Murkowski said.

“What’s more, an estimated 100,000 farmed fish escape their pens every year. Escaped genetically engineered fish could out-compete wild stocks, turn on other species, and wreak havoc on the ecosystem,” she said.

Begich noted that damaging impacts of other invasive species released into the environment are well known.

Begich said that despite the manufacturer’s contention that the fish will be raised in closed rearing facilities, opportunities for escape exist through water circulation, handling accidents or unauthorized releases.

Begich chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard. Murkowski chairs the Oceans Caucus and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Salmon Fishery Management Plan

Final action is set for the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage on the council’s revised salmon fishery management plan.

This comes in the wake of the council’s review of the initial review draft analysis of options to revise and update the plan during its fall meeting at Unalaska. The council chose to retain alternative 3 as its preferred preliminary alternative, which it adopted in April of this year. That preferred preliminary alternative modifies the plan to exclude from its scope the three historical net commercial salmon fishing areas in the west area excusive economic zone, and to maintain the prohibition on commercial salmon fishing in the remaining west area. The sport fishery in the west area would also be removed from the scope of the plan. The plan would remain in effect in the east area exclusive economic zone, and the state would continue to manage the commercial salmon troll and sport fisheries in federal waters under delegated management authority, the council said.

Oral Arguments Set for Nov. 15 In Exxon Valdez Reopener Case

Oral arguments are set for Nov. 15 in U.S. District Court in Anchorage in the latest multi-million dollar litigation of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster.

ExxonMobil is seeking to have dismissed efforts to make the oil giant pay an additional $92 million for additional cleanup of the oil spill in Prince William Sound.

ExxonMobil argues in its brief that a 1991 agreement and consent decree handed down by the court precludes the governments of the United States and the state of Alaska from demanding additional funds for cleanup pursuant to the court’s reopener for unknown injury. ExxonMobil attorneys said that because the consent decree released ExxonMobil from obligations to conduct further “cleanup” and that the parties explicitly limited the scope of the reopener litigation to “restoration projects,” that the court may enter an order that any attempt to base a reopener claim on a cleanup plan violates the consent decree.

Back in 1991, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million in damages over the next decade for cleanup costs. The deal allowed the government to reopen the case, in the event there remained issues not adequately addressed in the cleanup.

Then in 2006, the Justice Department and the state of Alaska filed a claim seeking to have Exxon pay an additional $92 million, given evidence that habitat and species were still impacted by the spill more than 22 years ago.

Exxon has declined to pay any additional monies. The Justice Department meanwhile has not pushed for payment, but Rick Steiner, a marine biologist who spent 14 years working in Prince William Sound, has been urging Exxon to pay up.

In documents filed on Oct. 11, Steiner urged the court to enforce the 2006 government demand for payment under the reopener provision. He said that governments must retain sovereignty over environmental offenses and be entitled to collect “even if improperly presented by government agents, any and all damages necessary to remediate environmental damages caused by offending activities as stipulated in an approved consent agreement.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Oral Arguments Orders In Exxon Valdez Reopener Case

The U.S. District Court in Anchorage has ordered oral arguments in the Exxon Valdez in mid-November in litigation aimed at making Exxon Corp. pay up an additional $92 million for additional cleanup of the oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound. Back in 1991, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million n damages over the next decade for cleanup costs, in a deal that allowed the government to reopen the case, in the event there remained issues not adequately addressed in the cleanup.

Five years ago, in 2006, given evidence that habitat and species were still impacted by the spill more than 22 years ago, both the Justice Department and the State of Alaska filed a claim asking that Exxon make an additional $92 million in payments.

To date Exxon has declined to pay any additional monies, and the Justice Department has not pushed for payment, but Rick Steiner, a marine biologist who spent 14 years working in Prince William Sound, is pushing for Exxon to pay up.

Steiner was in Cordova following the spill in 1989 when Exxon executive Don Cornett told residents of that town “You have had some good luck, and you don’t realize it. You have Exxon, and we do business straight. We will consider whatever it takes to keep you whole.”

Steiner said in documents filed with the court on Oct. 11, urged the court to enforce the 2006 government demand for payment under the reopener provision. He argued that governments must retain sovereignty over environmental offenses and be entitled to collect “even if improperly presented by government agents, any and all damages necessary to remediate environmental damages caused by offending activities as stipulated in an approved consent agreement.”

Initiative Election Results Expected Oct. 17

Election officials in Southwest Alaska’s Lake and Peninsula Borough plan to release results Oct. 17 on an Oct. 4 election initiative that could bar permitting for large mines that would have a significant adverse impact on salmon streams.

The Save Our Salmon initiative’s aim is to halt development of the Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery.

Mine proponents maintain that available technology would allow the mine to operate without disrupting the fisheries, which are critical to the region’s commercial, sport and subsistence fishing economies.

Mine opponents, including biologists who have studied salmon habitat in the region for decades, contend that the project threatens spawning streams critical to the diverse salmon populations whose combined strength return millions of salmon to Bristol Bay annually.

When the Pebble Limited Partnership challenged the legal right of the borough to put the initiative on the ballot, Trustees for Alaska filed a friend of the court brief stating in part that Pebble “would have this court disenfranchise hundreds of votes of Alaska Natives protected by the Voting Right Act by denying them the ability to cast a vote on an initiative that has been lawfully certified by the borough clerk.”

Once the election results are announced, Alaska Superior Court Judge John Suddock is expected to again review motions for summary judgment on whether the initiative should have been placed on the ballot in the first place.

Lake and Peninsula Borough Manager Lamar Cotten said that if Suddock comes down in favor of the Pebble Limited Partnership that the borough will sue and take the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.

If the people enact a law through the initiative process, the borough assembly has a duty to defend the action of the people, said Cotten.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Repowering for Emission and Noise Reduction

By Bob Links

October 2011

When the time comes to decide whether to rebuild your old engine or replace it with a newer model, there are several factors that should come to mind. The condition and age of the existing engine, overall price of overhaul compared to new, environmental concerns, including working environment and how your engine treats nature, are all things that should be carefully thought about before jumping into a decision half-heartedly.

The condition of your old engine should be your first consideration. Has it been overhauled before? Are parts still readily available for the model engine you have? How much downtime will you have waiting for your engine to be rebuilt? Is there a reliable mechanic available to rebuild your engine?

All of these things can severely and expensively affect your decision to overhaul instead of replace. If your engine has been overhauled before, you need to see if it is even possible to rebuild it again. If during the last rebuild they had to bore the cylinder walls, you may not even be able to rebuild the engine. While some engines have liners in them that can be replaced and brought back to factory tolerance, not all engines have this feature. If your engine is a parent bore engine this means there are no liners. With no liners in the block if a piston ring, piston pin or trash in the cylinder scratches the liner wall, the engine will have to be bored. This will reqire you to completely remove the engine from the boat and strip it all the way down to the block so it can be brought to a machine shop and bored. After this boring is done you will have to decide if you want to use oversized pistons & rings or, if available, install an aftermarket liner. If you go with oversize pistons and rings the engine will no longer be to the original factory specifications and can only be overhauled again if there is enough metal to bore the cylinder again.

Parts availability is another concern that should be carefully analyzed. If you have an older model engine you need to think about how parts availability is, not only right now for your overhaul but how will it be in another 4 or 5 years. It really doesn’t pay to overhaul an old model engine only to find out in 5 years that parts are no longer available for that model. While it is rare for a manufacturer to completely stop building parts for most of their engines they do tend to raise the pricing on the parts as the engines get older.

Pricing is always a consideration when looking at overhauling or replacing your existing engine. While the price of the parts and labor to rebuild your engine is one thing that needs to be compared to the price of a new engine, there are other factors that will affect the price.

Downtime should be considered a pricing question; how much downtime is it going to cost you to rebuild your engine? While most fishermen don’t keep an exact record of the hours they work and how much money they make per hour, their time is still valuable. If you miss a couple of days fishing when the fishing is really good how much will that cost you in lost money? Most overhauls are done in the off-season while there is no fishing. While this is a good idea, you need to also consider how long is the warranty on the overhaul? There are a lot of engine shops that only offer 90-day warranty on repairs or rebuilds. This is usually sufficient if you are running the engine during these 90 days. But if you do the rebuild in the offseason, when does the warranty start? Is your entire warranty gone before you even make your first day of the fishing season?

Most new engines will have at least a two-year/2,000-hour warranty and will cover pretty much all of the parts on the engine. If you rebuild your old engine you will only have warranty on whatever parts were changed or rebuilt. After the rebuild you will still have a block, crank and other parts that are as old as the engine was before you overhauled it.

As was discussed earlier, you also need to look at the parts pricing question. If your engine is a model that has been replaced by a newer model 1 or 2 times since it came out, there is a good chance that the parts prices will start increasing. The older the model the engine and the less of them in the field, the more a manufacturer will have to charge for the replacement parts. This is not because manufacturers are greedy. It is simply because the higher the quantity of a part they sell the less expensive it is to build it. So conversely if they are building fewer of a part the price of that part will be higher.

The last but certainly not the least aspect of price should be to compare the fuel consumption of your old engine to a newer model engine. With the newer technology that most engine manufacturers are using today fuel consumption has really been improved – in some cases by huge amounts. If you have an old heavy engine with older technology, a new engine may pay for itself in only a few fishing seasons. One note to think about when comparing fuel consumption is the weight of the engines. When fuel consumption charts are made the engine is run on a dynamometer. While this gives you accurate HP, torque and fuel consumption readings, you need to remember that when the engine is in your boat it also has to carry its own weight. In other words the heavier the engine is the more fuel you have to burn just to carry it. This weight issue will also limit how much moneymaking load you can carry in the boat. If you carry less paying load you are making less money.

While making money and taking care of your family are the main reasons for fishing, we also want to leave the environment as close to the way we found it. All of the new marine engines available on the market today must meet very stringent EPA standards. Today’s marine engines are cleaner running, quieter and in most cases have very limited vibration. When you begin to compare a new engine to your older technology engine you will find a lot of differences.

Exhaust emissions on the new engines are almost completely invisible today. You don’t see the black smoke coming out of the exhaust like there used to be. This actually has more advantages than helping to keep the air clean. Without all of the soot and black smoke coming out of your exhaust you won’t have to work as hard to keep your boat clean and looking nice. The days of the stack being covered in soot or the transom being black are gone. If your boat looks nice you and your deckhands will not only have a cleaner boat to work on you will just feel better and prouder of your equipment.

Today’s marine engines are also a lot quieter than older engines. Many models can barely be heard running if they are below deck. Combine the quiet running and much less vibration of the newer engines and the overall comfort on the boat is improved drastically. Wouldn’t it be nice to work on the deck without having to yell or feeling like you are standing on a vibrator all day?

One of the newer technologies on today’s marine engines is the electronic engine control. While these controllers were a bit scary to fishermen when they first came out, they do offer several advantages over mechanical controls.

One feature of some of the newer controllers is the ability to track fuel consumption while running. While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, most owners of new engines have found that they can find a spot where they are getting the speed they need but are burning considerably less fuel. They are finding that if they back off the throttle by, say, 100 rpm they may lose less than one knot of speed but save 2-3 gallons of fuel per hour. When you are paying over $3.00 per gallon for diesel this can really add up quickly.

The new controllers also give off a failure code that you can give to your service technician when you call him. This will allow him to know what the problem is before coming to the boat. With this knowledge beforehand he can bring the parts he needs to fix the boat in one trip.

So when you’re considering rebuilding or replacing your existing engine, think about the condition and age of your old engine, the complete pricing issue and how you want your work environment and the world around you to be affected by your decision. ]

Bob Links is the Commercial Marine sales manager for Isuzu Motors America. With nearly 30 years of experience in the marine business and marine engines of all types, he has been with Isuzu for almost 6 years and worked with an Isuzu Distributor for 23 years.

Crab Fisheries Begin Oct. 15

On the eve of Alaska’s commercial crab fisheries season, prices for Bristol Bay red king crab in particular were still unknown but expected to be high, considering the demand and reduced allowable harvest. University of Alaska fisheries economist Gunnar Knapp noted that the combination of limited supply and the growing strength of the yen against the dollar indicated higher prices, while the quota on the red king crab had been slashed by 47 percent. “Any time you have that kind of cut in the quota you will have a price squeeze that will drive the price up,” he said. Rob George of “The Crab Broker” in Las Vegas said he’ll be happy to lock in on 450,000 pounds of red king crab clusters this year, as opposed to just over one million pounds a year ago.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has set total allowable catch for Bristol Bay red king crab this year to a total of 7.8 million pounds, including 7,050,600 pounds for individual fishing quotas and 783,400 pounds for community development quota participants. A year ago the total allowable catch included 13.4 million pounds for the IFQ program and 1.5 million pounds for the CDQ program.

Preseason registration showed 81 vessels signed up for king crab and 83 for snow crab, compared to 84 last year for king crab and 85 for snow crab.

The individual fishing quota catch for snow crab is 80,004,600 pounds, up from 48.9 million pounds a year ago. The community development quota share is 8,889,400 pounds, up from 5.4 million a year ago, with the total standing at 88.9 million pounds, up from 54.3 million a year ago.

Legislative Fisheries

The Alaska House special committee on fisheries will meet Oct. 19 at the Dena-ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage to discuss salmon management in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of western Alaska. Committee chairman Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, have scheduled two and a half hours for the session, which will be teleconferenced, at the request of constituents with concerns about management of those fisheries. Herron said information gathered would be provided to appropriate legislative subcommittees in the Alaska House and Senate to possibly implement management and funding changes. Herron said there are a number of concerns, from changing ocean conditions to high seas intercepts of salmon and international salmon treaty obligations voiced by constituents related to management of both commercial and subsistence fisheries. The anxiety level is particularly high because of the economy, and ever increasing cost of fuel for residents who need to make sure they have the resources to feed their families over the winter months, he said. The agenda calls for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to present an overview of its management and funding for the region’s salmon fisheries, followed by constituent comments. Community involvement in management decisions and monitoring and cooperative research and monitoring are also on the agenda.

Rat eradication is continuing on a stateless fishing vessel

A private contractor is continuing eradication of rats in waters off of Dutch Harbor on a stateless fishing vessel seized by the U.S.Coast Guard in the North Pacific Ocean. The Bangun Perkasa must be determined to be rat-free for 48 hours before it can be hauled into port at Dutch Harbor by the Coast Guard and turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement. NOAA officials said Oct. 12 that they had determined the 22 crewmembers were from Indonesia, China and Vietnam. The crew was brought into Anchorage for questioning but it was unclear whether they have been returned yet to theircountries of origin.

The vessel owner has 30 days to come forward to claim the ship. NOAA officials, who are the final authority on what to do with the vessel and seafood on board, said NOAA must wait until the USCG turns it over to us once it comes to port. Once that happens, a survey will be done to determine what value the vessel has, and only then will a determination be made as to its disposition.

The Bangun Perkasa was seized some 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, after the Coast Guard was notified of its presence by the FisheriesAgency of Japan. Coast Guard officials said the crew reportedly abandoned their fishing nets and attempted to leave the area after being spotted by the helicopter. The vessel had more than 10 miles of drift net on board, plus an abundance of squid and shark carcasses.

Lingering Questions on Exxon Valdez

A marine conservation expert based in Anchorage says that more than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, unexpected discovery of lingering oil raises environmental questions requiring additional study and restoration.

Rick Steiner made his commends in court filing posted online on Oct. 10 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Exxon is seeking a federal court to free the company from any further financial responsibility for the 1989 spill.

Twenty years ago, Exxon, the state of Alaska and the US Department of Justice reached a $1 billion settlement that called for an added payment of up to $100 million for environmental injuries unknown at the time of the settlement. In August 2006, the federal and state governments submitted a demand for Exxon Mobil to pay $92 million to implement a restoration plan for the unanticipated eco-damage. ExxonMobil has never paid that money.

Steiner, a PEER board member and now retired University of Alaska professor, is participating in the case. He filed a lengthy supplemental submission in the form of an amicus motion on Oct. 11 in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Steiner said the coastal ecosystem injured by the Exxon Valdez spill is still a long way from full recovery.

For the past two years, Steiner and PEER have pressed the federal and state governments to move forward in collecting the $92 million. The Justice Department maintained that it is awaiting the outcome of further studies.

Steiner said the reopener for unknown injury provision is intended to address unanticipated, long-term injuries, precisely as government-commissioner scientific studies have identified, but that the restoration cannot take place with out the funding.

ExxonMobil contends that it has paid for cleanup under terms of the settlement and that any lingering oil is cleanup not restoration environed by the reopener claim.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Value of Domestic Seafood Landings Jumps to $4.5 Billion

By Margaret Bauman

For the 22nd year in a row, Dutch Harbor is back on top again as the number one port in the nation for quantity of seafood landed.

Fisheries of the United States 2010, released Nov. 7 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, confirmed that commercial fishermen at Unalaska unloaded 515.2 million pounds of fish and shellfish at the Dutch Harbor port in Unalaska in 2010, an increase of nearly 10 million pounds over 2009 and a rise of $3.4 million in dockside value, to $163 million..

It was all good news, albeit no surprise to Frank Kelty, a fisheries industry veteran and natural resources analyst for the city of Unalaska, who said the ranking as the nation’s number one fishing port by volume is very important to Unalaska.

“It shows the sustainability of the Bering Sea fisheries that Unalaska depends on, and we look forward to continuing to be the nation’s number one port into the future,” Kelty told Fishermen’s News on Sept. 8. “We are pleased that for the 22nd year we are the number one port,” said Kelty, who attributed that success to sustainability and good management of the fisheries.

The port of New Bedford, Mass. Took top place for value of landings, bringing in $306 million in 2010, a 22.8 percent increase over 2009, and the highest landing values in 30 years for that port.

While there was a substantial increase in value, the total amount of seafood landed in New Bedford decreased by 36.6 million pounds to 133.4 million pounds, NOAA officials said.The increase in value was driven by a 28 percent increase in the per-pound price of sea scallops, which account for 22 percent of the volume and 77 percent of the value of landings in New Bedford.

Sea scallops were declared overfished in 1998. As a result of a cooperative effort of fishermen and a rebuilding plan that temporarily reduced fishing effort, restricted some gear and closed some areas, the population was fully rebuilt in 2001, and is now the top-valued fishery in the country.

“New Bedford has widened their lead on us in value,” mused Kelty, noting that in Dutch Harbor, where the harvest volume is mainly Pollock, there are no lobsters or scallop fisheries.

Fishermen at Gloucester, Mass also landed their top value in the last 30 years, with landings valued at $56.6 million, up 11 percent from 2009.

The port of Kodiak, Alaska, ranked fifth in poundage at 325.3 million pounds, up from 282.9 million pounds in 2009, and third in the nation for fishery value, at $128.1, up from $103.8 million a year earlier. Cordova had 147.7 million pounds of seafood landed, up from 45.5 million pounds in 2009, ranked eighth nationally in poundage, and fifth nationally in value, with its harvests worth $84.3 million, up from $32.8 million the previous year. Sitka ranked 10th for fishery values, with the harvest delivered fetching $62.2 million, up from $51.3 million in 2009.

NOAA officials said that all coastal regions in the country saw increases in total value of fisheries landings in 2010. The Gulf of Mexico region, which suffered the nation’s worst marine oil spill in 2010, saw landings drop by 19 percent, but achieved a modest two percent increase in total landings value.

The report also shows that the average American ate 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2010 a slight decrease from the 2009 figure of 16 pounds.

The US continues to be ranked third for consumption of fish and shellfish, behind China and Japan. Americans collectively consumed 4.878 billion pounds of seafood, slightly less than the 4.907 billion pounds they consumed in 2009.

NOAA officials noted that while seafood consumption remains fairly steady, the amount of imported seafood consumed by Americans continues to rise. About 86 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, measured by edible weight, up four percent from 2009. However, a portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then re-imported into the US.

The US exports 63 percent of its domestically produced seafood, measured by live weight, which represents an increase of four percent over 2009, according to NOAA.

Nearly half of imported seafood comes from aquaculture, or farmed seafood. Aquaculture outside the US has expanded dramatically in the last three decades and now supplies the world with half of its seafood demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. America’s aquaculture industry currently meets less than 5 percent of US seafood demand.

Nationwide, commercial harvesters in domestic waters landed 8.2 billion pounds of seafood nationwide in 2010 with a value of $4.5 billion, up from 200 million pounds and more than $600 million in value in 2009, NOAA’s report showed.

The statistics compiled by NOAA show that US fishermen continue to be competitive in the dynamic, fast-paced global seafood marketplace, said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service.

In NOAA’s most recent economic report, commercial and recreational fisheries generated $166 billion in sales impacts, contributed $72 billion to the gross national product and supported 1.4 million jobs in the fishing sector and across the economy.

“While we are turning a corner on ending overfishing on wild stocks, this report shows the need for US aquaculture to grow and complement wild fisheries,” Schwaab said. “Sustainable domestic aquaculture creates jobs in our coastal communities, helps meet the demand for healthy seafood, supports exports to global markets and helps us narrow the trade gap.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at

Moreland Is New Murkowski Aide

Stephanie Moreland, federal fisheries coordinator, extended jurisdiction program manager and economist for the state of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, is the new fisheries and Arctic matters aide for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. She fills the post vacated by the resignation of Arne Fuglvog. Murkowski announced Moreland’s appointment on Oct. 4, saying that Moreland’s expertise and Alaska focus will be a great addition to her staff. Murkowski noted in the announcement that Alaska fisheries are one of the state’s largest economic drivers, employing more people in Alaska than the oil and gas and mining industries combined.

Moreland holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and a master’s degree in resource and applied economics from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Prior to her current post, she worked for the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. She will join the Murkowski staff in Washington D.C. in early November. Fuglvog, who pleaded guilty to federal fisheries violations, faces 10 months in prison, but has agreed to cooperate with authorities in the case. Former crew members aboard Fuglvog’s vessel told the Alaska Public Radio Network in late September that they tried for years to turn him in for illegal fishing, but felt their efforts were ignored.

Apprenticeships at Copper River Seafoods

Copper River Seafoods is off and running with new four-year apprenticeship programs for construction equipment repair, mechanical repair industrial and quality control. Graduates of the program will earn a federal apprenticeship certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor, and earn from 16 to 30 college credits. The processing company’s goal is to create a culture of stability and opportunity within Copper River Seafoods that allows opportunity for growth for all employees, said Scott Blake, company president. CRS’s Ben Eveland, a veteran vocational education teacher, introduced the apprenticeship program at a train-the-trainers meeting Oct. 4 in Anchorage. Eveland said that program would later expand into other occupations needed in the fisheries industry, possibly accounting and marketing. He is working with state labor officials, who are involved in the program with federal officials, to explore what occupations are needed statewide. Fisheries veteran Dick Tremaine, asset manager for Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., applauded the effort, saying it would add value to the industry by filling the chronic shortage of skilled labor. John Hakala, who heads the U.S. Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program in Alaska, told the group the apprentices would be learning skills that are transferable across the company. The CRS apprenticeship programs will be designed for that company, but based on industry standards, he said. Participants in the event were given a 23-page document outlining apprenticeship policies and procedures that all participants must follow.

Stateless Vessel at Dutch Harbor

A stateless fishing vessel infested with rats and loaded down with squid and shark is now anchored off the coast of Dutch Harbor, and its crew has been taken to Anchorage for questioning by federal authorities. The country of origin of the fishing vessel Bangun Perkasa has yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile the US Coast Guard has a bid out to eradicate the rats on the ship, which the Coast Guard said had more than 10 miles of drift net, plus the squid and shark carcasses. Use of driftnets is universally condemned as a significant threat to ocean ecosystems, and to the food and economic security of nations relying on seafood resources. The Bangun Perkasa was seized by the Coast Guard some 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, after the Coast Guard was tipped by the Fisheries Agency of Japan, whose maritime patrol spotted the vessel on Sept. 7. The vessel was determined to be without valid flag state registration and seized as a stateless vessel for violation of US law.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, proposed that the Bangun Perkasa be towed out to sea and sunk because of the rats, who pose a threat to waterfowl and other native wildlife species, but the Coast Guard said any decision on what to do with the vessel would rest with the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Coast Guard said that this point eradication of the rats appeared to pose less risk to the environment than sinking the vessel.

Trident Fined

Trident Seafoods Corp. will pay a $2.5 million civil penalty for violating the Clean Water Act and has already begun investing millions of dollars in plans for fishmeal plants and waste management to prevent future violations. The agreement, two years in the works, was announced late last month and the US Environmental Protection Agency says some progress has already been made. According to EPA compliance officer Christ Gebhardt in Seattle there has been marked improvement in the seafloor waste pile at Akutan since negotiations began. The EPA and the US Department of Justice said unauthorized discharges of seafood processing waste on the sea floor create oxygen-depleted conditions that make the habitat unsuitable for fish and other living organisms.

As part of the settlement, Trident will build a fish meal plant at Naknek with a capacity to handle at least 30 million pounds of seafood processing waste annually, including Trident’s fish waste and potentially that of other processors with facilities at Naknek. Trident also agreed to reduction of the amount of seafood processing waste discharged at its facilities at Akutan, Cordova, St. Paul and Ketchikan and to monitor seafood processing waste discharged into Starrigavan Bay in Sitka.

Joe Plesha, Trident’s chief legal officer, said that Trident’s corporate philosophy is to maximize recovery and value of each pound of fish and that these projects would significantly further enhance the value derived from Alaska’s seafood resources.

Plesha said the violations notification came as a surprise, and that Trident wants to set the industry standard for compliance and that learning of these violations caused a critical examination of what it will take for the company to achieve that position.

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