Monday, April 29, 2013

EPA: Proposed Mine Could Affect 90 Miles of Bristol Bay Salmon Streams

By Margaret Bauman

Large scale mining at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed could wipe out up to 90 miles of streams in the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, the US Environmental Protection Agency said April 26 in releasing a revised assessment.

The document said there would be a loss of up to 90 miles of streams and up to 4,800 acres of wetlands under scenarios for the proposed Pebble mine prospect.

The report also noted that indirect effects of stream and wetland losses would include reductions of the quality of downstream habitat for coho, sockeye and Chinook salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.

The EPA noted that its revised draft assessment is not an in-depth assessment of a specific mine, but rather an examination of impacts of reasonably foreseeable mining activities in the Bristol Bay region, given the nature of the watershed’s mineral deposits and the requirements for successful mine development.

The study was initiated at the request of Alaska Native tribes and others concerned that large-scale mining at the headwaters of the watershed would adversely impact fisheries habitat, which is critical to the multi-million dollar commercial fishing and sport and hunting industries, as well as subsistence users and the region’s abundant wildlife. The watershed provides habitat for numerous species, including 29 fish species, more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, and more than 190 bird species.

Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and Trout Unlimited said they were pleased with the report, while the Pebble Limited Partnership, calling the revised document flawed and biased and urged the EPA to abandon its report.

“We are fighting to protect 14,000 American jobs and an entire industry from a risky proposal to dig the largest open-pit mine in North American in the heart of the Bristol Bay salmon nursery,” said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.”

“Pebble is far bigger and more threatening to renewable resource jobs than any other mine proposal in Alaska and it’s planned for the worst location possible,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “Clearly the time for action to protect Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act is now.”

John Shively, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, criticized the EPA for not waiting until the PLP’s detailed mine plan is available. Shively said the PLP wants the right to submit a permit application and have its plans reviewed, based on best available science and relevant federal, state and local laws.

The PLP remains committed to working with the EPA under the National Environmental policy Act when submitting its mine plan for review, he said.

The entire revised draft assessment document and details on how to submit public comment by the May 31 deadline are at

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oregon Ports Stimulate Coastal, State Economy

By Terry Dillman

Oregon’s commercial fishing industry is alive and well.

In fact, 2011 was an outstanding season with the highest landed value – about $148 million – since 1988, according to statistics from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA). Oregon’s commercial fishermen landed 285 million pounds of fish and shellfish – up from 216 million pounds (valued at $108 million) in 2010.

The industry’s superlative efforts are backed by a network of 15 ports, large and small, along Oregon’s 362-mile coastline. They feature busy harbors that play vital roles by providing a mix of commercial, industrial and recreational services. Most also provide refuge when the ocean turns temperamental.

Leaders at the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) say ports are critical to the economic survival of their communities, with international trade, commercial fishing and recreational boating “more important to the economic health of coastal port communities than ever before.”

Commercial fisheries and working waterfronts are essential sources of jobs and economic growth, according to OCZMA, which conducts studies of Oregon’s coastal economy and provides information to an extensive network of government and other agencies, aiming to improve the region’s standard of living. Fisheries also provide part of the overall ambience folks want to experience when visiting the Oregon coast or opting to live there. They help attract artists, writers and others, including a growing number of retirees, who in turn make their own contributions to an ever-changing diverse economy and culture. Travelers spend time watching and photographing the fishing fleets, and visitors often show up at the coast seeking fresh, locally caught seafood.

Oregon coast ports feature a number of working waterfronts: Astoria/Warrenton, Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport, Winchester Bay, Coos Bay/Charleston, Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings. In some towns, commercial fisheries provide 25 percent or more of total annual earned income. The seafood industry also supports associated fish processing plants, mechanics, welders, refrigeration specialists, machine shops, marine electronics sales and service firms, professional services (attorneys and accountants) and marine suppliers – mostly clustered adjacent to the waterfronts.

All Oregon ports - from larger harbors (Coos Bay, Newport, Astoria) that host international shipping and regional-scale fishing fleets to smaller, shallow-draft sites with limited capabilities (Depoe Bay, Alsea) - are integral to their communities’ lifestyles and economies.

Six Oregon ports ranked among the top 27 Pacific fishing ports in 2010 for landings and landed value, according to statistics from the Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the National Ocean Economic Program (NOEP): Astoria (4th in landings at 100 million pounds, 5th in value at $30.5 million); Newport (5th at 57 million pounds and 4th at $30.6 million, respectively); Coos Bay-Charleston (7th in each with 31 million pounds valued at $24 million); Brookings (16th with 6 million pounds and 21st at $5.2 million); Tillamook (24th with 1 million pounds and 26th at $2.6 million); and Port Orford (25th in each with 1 million pounds valued at $3.4 million). Combined landings for those six ports reached 196 million pounds valued at $96.3 million.

Newport and Astoria, two of Oregon’s three deep draft ports, are prime examples of what ports can do in socioeconomic terms, not only for their commercial fishing fleets, but coastal communities and the state.

The Newport-Depoe Bay-Toledo connection
About 248 commercial fishing vessels make Oregon’s central coast their home port – most of them in Newport, with a few each in Depoe Bay and Toledo, according to information compiled by Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy FINE), a Newport-based 16-member committee of mostly commercial fishermen.

“We have at least double that number of commercial fishing vessels in our county, which represents vessels that are home ported elsewhere, but spend time fishing off of Lincoln County,” notes Bob Jacobson, a retired commercial fisherman and Oregon Sea Grant extension agent, who chairs the committee. “A few of these vessels are distant water vessels that spend most of their fishing year in Alaska, returning to Lincoln County for maintenance and repairs, and in some cases, to participate in the Dungeness crab and whiting fisheries.”

Vessels from British Columbia to central California ply the waters off Oregon’s central coast, periodically selling their catch in Newport or occasionally Depoe Bay. Newport-based vessels participating in the crab, salmon and tuna fisheries sometimes sell their catches in other ports in Oregon, Washington or California.

“Most of the commercial fishing fleet fish locally and sell their catch to buyers in the area,” noted Jacobson.

Appointed by the county commissioners in 2007 to focus on the potential impact of wave energy sites on fisheries, FINE’s members represent the salmon, albacore tuna, Dungeness crab, pink shrimp, groundfish, long line and distant water fisheries, charter and sports fishing, and seafood processors, as well as the small Depoe Bay fleet, and a non-fishing charter business. The group was forged in the wake of the realization that looming wave energy interests could threaten commercial fishermen’s livelihoods, opting to proactively counter what they viewed as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s willy-nilly surge to license wave energy sites. County and Oregon Sea Grant officials backed the effort, providing administrative support and acting as liaison between FINE and wave energy researchers and developers.

Jacobson said FINE believes in “an open approach and cooperation” between fishing communities and wave energy researchers and developers. It derives from the general attitude of the central coast commercial fishing industry, which he said “traditionally works very cooperatively with each other and with outside entities.”

That attitude bodes well for an industry seemingly under siege from all directions and various sources, including nature itself at times.

To varying degrees, the ports of Newport, Depoe Bay and Toledo provide services to commercial vessels of all sizes, ranging from 18 feet to 126 feet long and valued anywhere from $5,000 to $3 million apiece.

Newport Evolving
The Port of Newport features 206 commercial vessel slips, 54 waterway related businesses, and a distant water fleet that annually brings in between $14 million and $32 million to the local economy.
The port is also home to US Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Marine Operations Center-Pacific, which opened in 2011 under a 20-year lease after the port took on a $38 million project to build the facility. When the 22-month effort reached what Port General Manager Don Mann called “the transition from construction to commissioning and operation,” and NOAA signed the initial 20-year lease and took over the facility in July 2011, it marked a major turning point for a port that celebrated its centennial in 2010. At the time, Lincoln County Commissioner and long-time commercial fisherman Terry Thompson said he looked forward to “a new cooperation” between the fishing industry and the research NOAA’s fleet performs, noting that it was something he had always hoped to see within his lifetime.

According to an economic impact analysis released by the Economic Development Alliance (EDA) of Lincoln County, the move could mean as much as a $32 million influx – the equivalent of 800 full-time family wage jobs in Lincoln County – within the next decade.

But while local, state, and federal officials focused on the much-anticipated economic boost, the heart of this project was and is marine science, research, and education, with Newport – in particular the South Beach peninsula, where Oregon State University (OSU)’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) and Oregon Coast Aquarium are already located – as a pivot point. They believe the NOAA facility’s presence could help take South Beach to the next level, transforming it into an international hub for research and development on ocean health, which is a key component in climate change. Even without factoring in the value of attracting additional marine science research, the impact still eventually pencils out to about $20 million annually in the local and regional economy, the EDA study noted.

During the competitive lease process, Port of Newport officials touted the city as having “the best working waterfront on the West Coast.”

Mann said they continue to work on enhancing the port’s diversity, without neglecting traditional uses.
Another major project to renovate the port’s international terminal is expected to wrap up by the end of this year. The 17-acre site features 1,000 feet of deep draft waterfront, docks and storage facilities, and several acres of industrial land. Factoring in that project, which port officials say has already drawn intense interest from timber exporting ventures and cruise lines, Newport is standing on the cusp of economic prosperity forged from a diverse mix of traditional and emerging industries.

Commercial fishing remains a viable and visible part of that mix.

Inland But Vital
Located about an hour’s journey up the Yaquina River, the Port of Toledo offers moorage for only a few commercial vessels, but its main contribution is the boatyard at Sturgeon Bend.

Port officials purchased the 20-acre site after a private owner shut it down in 2008, ending a decade of service to commercial fishermen. Port Manager Bud Shoemake said they oversee the facility as a public boatyard operated by private industry under contract with the port. As a result, the port offers fishermen a do-it-yourself facility with access to “the best service possible” through its group of preferred and approved independent contractors. Shoemake calls the open yard a “one-stop shop” for maintenance and vessel preparation, offering a full range of services, including a 300-ton dry dock capable of handling vessels up to 100 feet long and 46 feet wide.

Fishermen say they like having the option on the easily navigable, well-marked Yaquina River.

Small But Serviceable
Depoe Bay – a six-acre harbor promoted as “the world’s smallest” – can’t accommodate larger vessels. The harbormaster says anything longer than 50 feet requires prior notification to the US Coast Guard Station there before entering.

For years, the tiny bay served as a safe harbor for commercial vessels taking refuge from storms, and today it acts as home port for only a handful of commercial vessels, along with a limited number of charter boats and private launches. Fishermen say navigating the stone entrance – often referred to as “shooting the hole” – requires strategy and caution. With an entry less than 50 feet wide and 300 feet long, the harbor managers require a standard procedure when entering or leaving.

Skippers are asked to go to VHF channel 80 and announce their intentions. If they get the “all clear,” they know they can safely avoid disastrous consequences. Most crews know to give one long horn blast on the way out, two long blasts on the way in. Inbound vessels get priority.

Diverse Capabilities
Located at the northwestern tip of Oregon where the Columbia River feeds into the Pacific Ocean, the Port of Astoria manages a combination of commercial and recreational marine, marina, industrial and aviation facilities, and leases property for industrial and commercial services, including fish processing plants.

Home to 138 commercial fishing vessels, the port provides commercial berthing, seafood processing and fleet support. Pier 1 and Pier 2 are its primary deep water piers, with most commercial fishing services offered at Pier 2, with three fish processors, a 71,800-square-foot multi-tenant warehouse, fish off-loading and net haul-out areas, and a dock that can accommodate vessels as long as 1,100 feet. Maintenance, repair, active and inactive services are available at the Pier 3 haul-out boatyard at Tongue Point, which features an 88-ton travel lift.

An economic impact study commissioned by port officials in 2009 showed that the port and its tenant generated about $110 million in direct revenue, including $59 million at the piers and associated upland areas, and $17 million at the marinas and boatyard. Since 1999, commercial landings at Astoria have eclipsed 100 million pounds every year except 2008, when it dropped to 99 million pounds, according to stats compiled by NOEP and CBE. Fishermen had banner years for overall landings in 2005 (164.7 million pounds), 2006 (164.2 million) and 207 (152.6 million). Landed value, however, has remained rather steady during that time, ranging from $20.6 million to $32 million.

Port officials said the port would continue to play a key role in supporting commercial fisheries.
A strategic business plan developed in 2010 focuses first on enhancing the central waterfront and Tongue Point facilities. Improvements could include as many as three multi-tenant industrial buildings, cold storage and cannery facilities, and acquiring a 250- to 300-ton capacity mobile crane and standby tug service. The business plan noted that Oregon’s commercial fishing industry “has fared well, especially in comparison to neighboring Washington and California” and that Astoria would remain “a focal area” for Oregon’s commercial fisheries.

A Socioeconomic Network
Collectively, Oregon’s ports forge “an important regional network of maritime infrastructure,” says Onno Husing, former executive director of OCZMA.

Heading north to south, Oregon’s coastal ports and harbors are Port of Astoria (, Port of Garibaldi (, Port of Nehalem (no website), Port of Tillamook Bay (, City of Depoe Bay (, Port of Newport (, Port of Toledo (, Port of Alsea (, Port of Siuslaw (, Port of Umpqua (, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay (, Port of Bandon (, Port of Coquille River (no website), Port of Port Orford ( and Port of Brookings Harbor (

Alaska Cod Joins Ranks of RFM Certified Seafood

Alaska’s cod fishery has joined the ranks of seafood certified as sustainable via an Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute third party certification program, in a growing competition over who will certify the state’s fisheries as sustainable.

The Certification for Responsible Fisheries Management, announced April 22, provides additional value for Alaska cod producers and processors selling in markets where independent third-party certification is desired, said Randy Rice, technical director for ASMI.

“Alaska cod joins the other RFM certified fisheries in Alaska and adds to the growing list of fisheries, such as those from Iceland and the US Gulf of Mexico that recognize RFM as a credible, independent and efficient certification,” Rice said.

ASMI announced on April 16 that about 80 percent of Alaska’s 2013 wild salmon harvest would be certified through the same program.  

A limited supply of Marine Stewardship Council certified Alaska salmon may also become available, pending completion of the MSC assessment process estimated to be finished in July, ASMI said.

ASMI contracted several years ago with Global Trust, an Ireland-based third party certification program, for these RFM certification services. 

The effort began several years ago when processors of Alaska seafood became concerned that wild Alaska seafood might lose its distinction of coming from well-managed, sustainable Alaska fisheries.  That concern was prompted by growth of the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable fisheries certification program, itself a rigorous process, which gives the same stamp of certification to all fisheries that meet its criteria. According to MSC’s website, there are more than 11,000 MSC-labeled products on sale around the world, from prepared meats to fresh fish.

MSC’s website also lists by species where shoppers can buy seafood that the organization has certified as sustainable. For cod shoppers, the site lists cod from the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, as well as cod from several European fisheries.

Alaska salmon was first certified as sustainable by MSC back in September 2000, and recertified in November 2007, according to the MSC website.

Since then, said ASMI’s Tyson Fick, a number of suppliers backed out of that program.  The whole fishery will be certified under the Global Trust’s United Nationals FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) based Responsible Fisheries Management Program. In order to make the certified claim, however, a supplier must have chain of custody verified as is required by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, he said.

More information about ASMI’s certification program is at

More information about MSC’s certification program is at

Pebble Mine Backers Budget $80 Million For 2013 Work

A revised scientific assessment of how large-scale mining could potentially affect water quality and salmon ecosystems in the Bristol Bay watershed is due out this spring from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The study of the watershed, home of one of the world’s largest salmon populations, was launched in response to petitions from federally recognized tribes and others worried about how large-scale mining could impact Bristol Bay fisheries.

The mining industry, meanwhile, with an eye on the area’s significant mineral resources, has continued to attack the EPA study. In its latest bulletin, the Pebble Limited Partnership alleges that the EPA actions are targeted on the Pebble deposit 

through an unlawful reading of section 404c of the Clean Water Act. If successful, writes PLP chief executive officer John Shively, in the Denver Business Journal, “the effort by the EPA, fueled by activist groups, to radically redefine the established permitting process poses a threat to Colorado’s mining industry and could trigger a regulatory crisis across the country.”

Four days later, on April 22, the PLP announced an $80 million budget for 2013, for ongoing environmental studies with a focus on fish habitat and water quality, continued engineering analysis and workforce and business development initiatives to finalize a project description. The focus of this year’s work plan is to complete a comprehensive, multi-year development plan with the goal to initiate permitting before year’s end under the National Environmental policy Act, the PLP said.

The majority of residents of the Bristol Bay region in Southwest Alaska are opposed to the mine, as are a number of fisheries biologists, environmental groups, and others representing commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters.

Their concern is that the mine will adversely affect fish habitat, which is critical to thousands of people employed in or otherwise dependent upon these fisheries.

The PLP maintains that it can develop and operate the mine without doing damage to the watershed.
In a continuing effort to educate people about the importance of Alaska’s wild salmon, the Renewable Resources Foundation this week announced that tickets are on sale for Salmonstock 2013, a three-day music festival at Ninilchik, Alaska, to celebrate Alaska’s wild salmon and the people who depend on them. Salmonstock, a fund raiser to protect salmon habitat, will run Aug. 2-4 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds. Information on Salmonstock is at

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