Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eight Marine Debris Projects Set for 2013
in Alaska Waters

Officials with the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation say the first of eight marine debris cleanup projects scheduled in 2013 are just now getting under way, with the arrival of more daylight and warmer weather.

Dave Gaudet, director of the foundation, said that the foundation is working with local communities and organizations to remove debris from beaches important to them and wildlife.  The cleanups collectively are expected to remove between 150,000 to 250,000 pounds of debris from approximately 100 miles of beach. This is only a fraction of the amount of debris that has accumulated on Alaska’s beaches and a very small fraction of the 44,500 miles of Alaska coastline, Gaudet said.

This year’s participants include Island Charters in Craig, Sitka Sound Science Center, the city and borough of Yakutat, Orca Adventure Lodge at Cape Suckling, Island Trials Network in Kodiak, Blue Fox Bay Lodge on Afognak, Nelson Lagoon Tribal Council, the Native Council of Port Heiden and the Aleut Community of St. Paul tribal government.

Some of the projects will occur in fall months after locals participate in other activities, including commercial and subsistence salmon fishing. Gaudet said that for the most part the debris comes from far away, including the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan, and is not being generated by local communities.

Even with the use of volunteers, the cost of removing the debris is high, involving the use of vessels and shipment of much of the debris south to suitable disposal sites, he said.

More information on the Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation program is at

Kodiak Red King Crab Broodstock
Producing in Hatchery Project

Biologists with the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology Program have added broodstock from Kodiak to their list of wild caught red king crab successfully used for larvae rearing.

The program also had been successful in its project at the Alutiiq pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward using red king crab from Bristol Bay and Juneau.

Biologists say this successful diversification is important in showing that their methods work for a variety of red king crab stocks.

In a report issued May 28, the biologists said they reared larvae in six 1,200 liter tanks, stocked at a density of 50 larvae per liter, and fed the larvae a diet of microalgae and a San Francisco Bay strain of artemia enriched with fatty acids.

Survival from stocking to the glaucothoe stage averaged 59 percent and survival from stocking to the first juvenile crab stage averaged 34 percent, they said.

Partners and supports of the AKCRRAB project include the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Chugach Regional Resources Commission, NOAA Aquaculture Program, NOAA Fisheries, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., United Fishermen’s Marketing Association, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and Alaska Sea Grant.

Copper River Sockeye Salmon Harvest
Nears 576,000 Fish

Stormy weather and icy conditions got the Copper River wild salmon fishery off to a rough start, but by the end of the third 12-hour opener on May 27, commercial fishers had harvested an estimated 575,589 reds, 5,827 kings and 5,211 chums.

Those were the preliminary calculations of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Cordova. The third opener alone yielded some 319,823 reds, 3,773 Chinook and 1,929 chum salmon, with average weights of 6.2 pounds, 14.7 pounds and 6.8 pounds respectively, biologists said.

The harvest from the third commercial opener was above anticipated, said Jerry Botz, area biologist with ADF&G at Cordova.

By weight alone, the grand total of the red, king and chum harvest was estimated at 35,885 pounds of wild fish.

In Anchorage, 10th and M Seafoods was retailing whole kings for $26.95 a pound and king fillets for $32.95 a pound, and sockeyes were priced at $7.95 a pound for whole fish and $11.95 a pound for fillets.  Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle meanwhile was offering whole Copper River kings for $35.99 a pound, king fillets for $35.99 a pound, whole Copper River sockeyes at $94.95 each and fillets for $28.99 a pound.

State fisheries officials said there are an estimated 450+ drift gillnet permits currently participating in the fishery, and no reports to date on processing capacity problems.  Ice, however, has interfered with sonar counts.

Escapement monitoring at the Miles Lake Sonar Station for sockeye and king salmon returns to the Copper River began on May 16 from the north bank of the river, but persistent river ice and low water level precluded deployment of the south bank sonar where, a larger proportion of the run typically travels.

The commercial common property fishery for the Prince William Sound purse seine fishery begins June 1 with a directed fishery targeting the enhanced chum salmon run to the Armin F. Koernig hatchery.  The 2013 pink salmon forecast for Prince William Sound is 40.7 million fish, of which 34 million are anticipated to be available for the commercial common property fishery. The Prince William Sound chum salmon forecast is for a total run of 3.99 million fish, the majority of which are coming from the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatchery.

Act Locally

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor

According to a new report, “The Economic Importance of the Bristol Bay Salmon Industry.” (, the Bristol Bay, Alaska commercial salmon fishery is the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery and in total produces an annual value of $1.5 billion.

The report says the fishery supports a significant number of jobs in the four West Coast states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and the total value of Bristol Bay salmon product exports in 2010 was $370 million, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total value of all US seafood exports. The report, produced by researchers at the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, marks the first time the full value and impact of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery has been measured.

The report comes while the US EPA is conducting a comment period of its own recent report that shows the proposed Pebble mine will destroy up to 90 miles of salmon streams and up to 4,800 acres of wetlands in the best case scenario, without accounting for potential leaks or a catastrophic failure.

The salmon report, which was commissioned by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, notes, among other data, that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery supports 12,000 jobs in fishing and processing industries; including 4,369 fishing and processing jobs in Alaska; 3,227 in Washington state; 2,143 in Oregon; 553 in California and 1,629 in other states. The fishery also creates an additional 7,800 jobs across the country due to the multiplier effects of retailing in grocery stores, restaurants, etc ., and developing value-added products.

The Bristol Bay commercial fishery also provides about $500 million in direct income to workers across the country every year.

Some other interesting facts from the report:

About one-third of Bristol Bay fishermen and two-thirds of Bristol Bay processing workers live in West Coast states.

Almost all major Bristol Bay processing companies are based in Seattle.

Most of the supplies and services used in fishing and processing are purchased in Washington State.

Significant secondary processing of Bristol Bay salmon products occurs in Washington and Oregon.

Of the report, US Senator Patty Murray of Washington said, “I am pleased a study has been done to detail the economic importance of the salmon industry in Bristol Bay. This report confirms what we have known for years – that it is not just Alaskans who depend on Bristol Bay for their personal income and livelihoods. Over 3,000 Washingtonians make their living off Bristol Bay’s salmon runs.

Representative Jim McDermott, also of Washington, said, “There are few issues that are more black and white than protecting Bristol Bay. EPA’s draft assessment and this economic impact study both confirm that the proposed Pebble mine would be bad for fish and bad for fishermen. With 3,000 Washington state jobs at stake, we can’t afford the ecological or economic risk.”

This hugely successful fishery is entirely a gillnet fishery, with citizens of Washington State making up 34 percent of the drift gillnet fleet and almost 14 percent of the setnet permit holders. While Washington Congressional representatives Murray and McDermott are right to point out the benefits of the Bristol Bay gillnet fishery, It would be more appropriate for them to lend their voices to the Washington gillnet fishery, which is successful in its own right but under attack by the environmental and sport fishing lobbies, as well as the governors of both Oregon and Washington. The coalition has managed to secure the closure of the Columbia River commercial gillnet fishery with nothing more than campaign contributions and spurious claims of environmental disaster. If the Washington and Oregon executives and their contributors are able to close the Columbia to commercial gillnetting, where will they stop? The same groups that pour money in to local Oregon and Washington campaigns will no doubt set their sights on Bristol Bay.

For further information on the Bristol Bay fishery, contact Bob Waldrop: To keep gillnetting a legal, viable and healthy fishery, contact your local representative.

NOAA Plans Review of Observer Program

Concerns over the safety of fisheries observers have prompted a review of training and related politics involved in monitoring domestic fishing fleets.

Officials within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Office of Law Enforcement say the review, prompted by concerns over increasing incidents of attacks on observers, is to be completed in October.

NOAA officials are responding to complaints from fisheries observers filed through the Association for Professional Observers and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

But according to Matthew Brown, acting special agent in charge for NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement in Alaska, such attacks on observers are rare in Alaska.

In any case, Brown said, all crimes against observers are investigated quickly as a highest priority.  The Alaska division takes a proactive approach to workplace crimes against observers, through outreach to industry and training to prepare observers for possible conflicts at sea, Brown said.

Observers are instructed to report every conflict and potentially hostile interaction.

“We do not want observers to ever be considered enforcement,” he said. “Their role is to report observed activity that may be a violation, just as they report biological data for fisheries management.”

It is NOAA’s role to review, interpret, identify and follow up on potential regulatory violations, he said. NOAA provides enforcement training to new and veteran observers, and observers are provided with agents’ cell phone numbers, and also with the national enforcement hotline number, he said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Washington Fishing Ports: Keeping Pace with Today's Commercial Fishermen

By Kathy A. Smith

Westport Marina, located in the Port of Grays Harbor, Washington boasts the state’s largest fish landing port. The marina is currently home to 285 annual boaters, two-thirds of which are the commercial fleet, including several tribal commercial fishing vessels. During the fishing seasons, transient commercial fishing boats arrive from California, Oregon, Alaska, other Washington ports and Canada, with a modest-sized charter fishing fleet still operating out of the marina.

“We have 550 slips and can accommodate vessels in size from five feet up to 180 feet,” says Marina Manager Robin Leraas. The marina has two processing plants that process Dungeness crab, Pacific Whiting, anchovies, sardines, salmon, Albacore tuna and other fish products processed by Washington Crab Producers and Ocean Companies, as well as Westport Seafoods, Merino Seafoods, The Seafood Connection, D&M Live Crab and RPMM. The marina has a 95,000-square-foot cold storage facility, one of the largest on the West Coast, operated by Ocean Gold Seafoods, and one fueling dock owned by Masco Petroleum.

Leraas says over the years, the needs of commercial fishermen have changed, especially due to the increasing size of vessels. “Our facility was built to accommodate commercial fishing vessels that were under 40 feet but we do have a limited supply of berths over 50 feet up to 128 feet.”

Additionally, she reports that the marina is looking for funding opportunities in order to construct a work dock, haul-out and boat repair yard. “The Westport Marina Master Plan identified that fishermen do need these support facilities, and the development of these facilities are dependent on private grant or port funding availability, which we continue to seek funding for.”

On the environmental side, the Port of Grays Harbor encourages the fishing fleet to recycle and is looking into a recycle program for commercial nets and crab pots. Last year, the Port upgraded their facility with a $180,000, 18-piling creosote replacement project. “We continue to upgrade our facility as each year goes by,” says Leraas.

Up the coast, the Port of Port Townsend offers approximately 45 slips to commercial fishermen with a small commercial rafting area and heavy haul-out yard. Their marine Travelift can lift 330-ton vessels up to 150 feet long with a 31-foot beam, and their 150-foot hull washdown facility follows current environmental standards. A concreted-deck work pier can handle cranes and other heavy equipment and there is also a 10-acre dry-land storage area.

Area marine trade businesses are ready to help with repairs and refits. “We get a lot of fishermen who come down for the winter from Alaska because there are a lot of trades that work on the boats,” says Harbormaster Tami Ruby.

Ruby says the Port sees a wide variety of catch coming through including salmon, halibut and crab, and New Day Fisheries processes crab, shrimp, salmon, and more. A fuel facility is also available.

In Bellingham, Both Blaine and Squalicum marinas are certified Clean Marinas, and have 5-Star Enviro-Star ratings. Blaine has 100 slips that can accommodate commercial fishing vessels from 30 feet to 65 feet and a couple of end ties that will handle up to 100-foot boats. Additionally, they offer approximately 800 to 900 feet of side-tie storage that can accommodate any size of boat up to 80 feet, plus some limited rafting options.

There is a crab fleet, treaty and non-treaty, that operates out of the harbor, says Blaine’s Harbormaster Andy Peterson. “September through April, we have the commercial crab openings and then usually short openings for sockeye and pink salmon in August and September,” he says, noting that when the State did the buy-back program in 1999, with salmon permits, the fleet sizes shrank at both facilities but there has been a healthy resurgence in activity.

“In Blaine, we also have about a half-dozen Seine boats and at least twice that number in Squalicum that go up to Alaska every year for the salmon season,” says Peterson. “They homeport out of our facilities. We also get a bunch of boats that come through every year to load gear and get work done.”
Three seafood processor facilities are located in Blaine Harbor where crab, salmon and dogfish are processed as well as sea urchins and sea cucumbers. The harbor is also home to two boat yards, one of which operates a 30-ton travel lift and 250-ton marine ways that can haul out anything from a 90-foot King Crabber down to a 24-foot pleasure sailboat.

“They still have a regular clientele of Alaska Seine boats that come through to get a haul-out and get ready for the season,” says Peterson. “We also have another boatyard with a hydraulic trailer that can haul out up to about 50 feet.”

A 4,000-lb forklift is also available at Blaine Harbor, which fishermen can rent hourly to allow them to move their crab gear around, as well as a hydraulic net reel. “It’s a giant Seine drum mounted onto a trailer, so when they bring their boats down, they can pull the net off their boat and work right on the deck or move it to our net repair area. I think we’re one of the only ports I know of that actually has a piece of machinery like that,” says Peterson. For fueling, commercial fishermen can access the harbor’s fuel dock, which Peterson says has a very good reputation with the industry, and optionally, fuel jobbers will do bulk deliveries on an as-needed basis.

At Squalicum Harbor, there are approximately 102 slips set aside for commercial fishing vessels, as well as a sawtooth dock that is available at a daily rate which can handle up to 20 boats, depending on size. Harbormaster Chris Tibbe says the real benefit of that is not only does it have a stiff-legged crane at the end of it, it conveniently allows fishermen to drive their vehicles right out to the stern of their boats.

“We also have a gillnet loading zone with a stiff-leg crane and a hydraulic net roll trailer as well as a sizeable number of web lockers that are reserved entirely for the commercial fishermen,” he says. “Additionally, there is a fence-secured storage area so if fishermen need to change out a drum or gear from one fishery to another, they can put it in this area without worry.”

Squalicum Harbor has two fuel docks as well as bulk fuel providers who are all certified fuel-over-water operators. Local seafood buyers and processors include Bornstein Seafoods and Bellingham Cold Storage. There are a number of different companies using the space at Bellingham Cold Storage, which Tibbe says is well organized and efficiently used.

The harbor also has two boatyards, one called Seaview North that is located right inside the harbor as well as Landings at Colony Wharf and the Fairhaven Shipyard in Fairhaven. The Faithful Servant dry dock at the Fairhaven Shipyard can be pulled into Bellingham Bay and sunk so large vessels can utilize the heavy lift. Additionally, marine supplies are available at both Redden Marine Supply and Lummi Fisheries Supply, which are both located within walking distance of the commercial fleet.

Both Peterson and Tibbe say there are several marine trade businesses located right along the waterfront, which can cover most any work that commercial fishing vessels might need. And the Commercial Fisherman’s Association of Whatcom County is an active association, helping to promote the area commercial fishing facilities and marine trades.

Recent expansion work at both harbors has included, for Squalicum, a complete rebuild of their sawtooth pier, a major power upgrade to accommodate 220-volt power systems, new overhead lighting, new water systems for year-round water availability and the main deck has been newly-overlaid with asphalt. Blaine Harbor is working on redesigning their master plan for the part of the harbor that includes the processors and shipyards adjacent to their sawtooth pier.

Attracting commercial new fishing vessels and keeping those that already homeport here are priorities for the Port of Bellingham’s Board of Commissioners according to Peterson. They established a reduced moorage rate for active commercial fishermen and worked to market local marine trades businesses to the region.

This rate is in place through the end of 2013. Vessels from 0-79 feet are charged $5.90 per foot plus Washington State leasehold tax, and any boat over 80 feet is charged $6.92 per foot plus the Washington State leasehold tax. “The program is very simple to administer,” says Tibbe. “Fishermen just have to bring in their active and current fishing license and they’re good to go.”

Copper River Salmon Fishery Off to Solid Start

Nasty weather deterred some of the fleet from the first opener of Alaska’s popular Copper River salmon fishery on May 16, but much improved weather on May 20 brought out enough harvesters to catch 190,000 reds, 1,400 kings and 2,300 chums.

That brought the total harvest to 272,000 sockeyes, 2,100 Chinook and 3,500 chum salmon, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will announce the time and date of the third opener today, May 22.

First of the season Copper River wild salmon were greeted with gusto in Seattle on May 17, with the Copper Chef Cook-off on the tarmac at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, after delivery of sockeye and king salmon from three seafood processors: Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods. Pilots from Alaska Airline carried a large king salmon provided by Ocean Beauty Seafoods for the cook-off down the red carpet after their jet landed.

In Anchorage May 16, Copper River Seafoods celebrated the start of the season with a gala of its own at the Bridge Seafood Restaurant, but had to serve up gourmet entrees of last year’s salmon when weather delayed the arrival of fresh fish.

Scott Blake, president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, was undeterred, noting that the demand for Copper River salmon is strong, with increasing interest from retail customers who want to know who is harvesting the fish they eat. With increased customer demand for frozen meal solutions, the company is also focusing on more new products in that line, he said.

Demand for first of the season Copper River salmon was strong in Seattle, where Pike Place Fish Market was offering whole fresh Copper River sockeye salmon for $99.95 per fish, and fish Copper River sockeye fillets for $28.99 a pound. Prices for Copper River Chinook salmon were not yet posted at Pike Place, but in Anchorage,  retail prices on the first opener were $16.95 a pound for whole sockeye and $22.95 for whole kings at 10th and M Seafoods. Sockeye fillets were going for $21.95 a pound, while king fillets were $35,95 a pound.

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