Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Today's Catch: Big Deals

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor

This month marks several milestones for Fishermen’s News. When my brother Peter and I purchased the paper in 2001, we inherited an experienced staff that immediately retired, leaving us to hire an editor, a sales manager, and accounting manager and a circulation manager. Over the years, we have assembled a staff of talented individuals, and the paper you see today is the result of their hard work.

Our first editor left in June of 2005, and I took over the editorial duties. In August of that year, Jim Cole, who had been a friend and professional colleague of my father’s for decades, approached me about a project. Jim is an industrial designer and draftsman who has worked for the country’s leading naval architecture firms for more than 50 years, and he has always wanted to write a book on the historical fishing vessels of the Pacific Northwest. He finally came to the conclusion that the best way to get started would be to write a series of columns for Fishermen’s News. I wholeheartedly agreed, and Jim submitted his first column of the new series, Drawing on Our History, for the December, 2005 issue.

After several years of submitting columns, Jim’s real work began in earnest in September 2010 when he and our lead book designer Marilyn Esguerra started crafting Drawing on Our History: Fishing Vessels of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, along with editor Petyr Beck, of Documentary Media.

Jim Cole’s magnum opus is a gorgeous showcase of Jim’s life’s work, and includes descriptions of the boats, from the earliest Native American canoes to the most modern freezer longliners, with line drawings, pen and ink sketches and beautiful watercolors. Anyone interested or engaged in the West Coast commercial fishing industry should see this amazing book. Jim Cole will be on hand at the Fishermen’s News booth (220) at the Pacific Marine Expo on Thursday, November 21st, between 2 pm and 4 pm, to sign copies of his new book.

About the time we started working with Jim Cole, we found a talented salesman, Bill Forslund, who has contributed greatly to our current success. His hard work over the years has helped us grow in size and circulation, and we remain the most widely circulated commercial fishing publication on the West Coast.

With the help of our staff, our talented contributors and our loyal advertisers, as well as the continued support of our subscribers, we have grown to the point where it makes sense to have the circulation of Fishermen’s News audited by an independent auditor, as our sister publication, Pacific Maritime Magazine is audited. This new audit simply confirms that the subscribers who read Fishermen’s News are indeed the people we say they are. The subscription forms you have been filling out for years, with a box to check your industry affiliation, will be checked to confirm that we are indeed sending the paper to the industry. This will allow us to better serve our advertisers.

More importantly, I’m excited to announce that, after 68 continuous years of publishing a tabloid newsprint publication,Fishermen’s News is upgrading to a four-color, glossy magazine, starting with the January 2014 issue. Peter and I have been publishing magazines for 25 years, and we’ll put our production staff up against any competitor’s staff in terms of style, efficiency and quality of work – especially those who outsource their production overseas.

We hope you’ll like the new format, and we hope you’ll give us feedback on what we can do better (and what we’re doing well). While the format will change, we’ll keep all of our established contributors and continue to provide the best coverage of the West Coast fishing industry, from San Diego to St. Paul Island.

ASMI Opts For High Tech Marketing to Boost Sales of Wild Alaska Seafood

Seafood industry insiders are in Anchorage this week for an update from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute on its progress in promoting wild Alaska seafood to international markets, food service and retail outlets.

ASMI board members will get reports today from operational committees working to increase sales in all three areas.

During presentations Oct. 29 at the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage, several ASMI presenters emphasized the use of social media and high-tech websites and programs used to spread their message to millions of people worldwide.

ASMI”s Alexa Tonkovich presented a slide show on a broad range of efforts the agency is using to increase demand for wild Alaska seafood from Europe to Asia to South America. Tonkovich spoke of collaborating with cooking specialists and chefs to develop a fish burger appealing to Asian consumers, online promotions with leading retailers in China and a variety of promotional campaigns employed in cooperation with seafood businesses from Europe to Asia to Brazil.

Randy Rice, who is ASMI’s seafood technical director, noted that Europe is still the big battleground for discussions on sustainability certification issues.

“There is a need to put a lot of information up on the website,” Rice said. “One of the great issues in the sustainability debate is transparency, and the need to meet that transparency… head on, particularly with the chain of custody interest,” he said.

To that end, ASMI is posting news releases as each participating company complies at a new level in meeting ASMI’s regulations for responsible fisheries management, he said.

“Everyone wants certification to be simple and it’s not,” he said. “It’s challenging to communicate something very complex and technical in a simple format.”

Efforts Increase to Provide Great Seafood Variety Year-Round

For lovers of wild Alaska seafood, there are new options in Anchorage this winter to purchase a wide variety of fresh, refreshed and frozen fish in a mall market also featuring fresh herbs, vegetables, honey and baked goods.

It’s the South Anchorage Winter Market, at the Dimond Mall, where wild king salmon fillets, both red and white, are for sale along with halibut, cod, oysters, sablefish and other varieties of seafood harvested in Alaska waters. In addition to seafood from Arctic Choice, the marketplace offers vegetables, herbs, honey and loaves of fresh bread – all Alaska grown or made – to compliment the seafood entrees, as well as meat products.

The idea for the indoor winter market stemmed from the desire of the South Anchorage Farmers Market customers to continue purchasing fresh and frozen Alaskan products after summer ends, rather than wait seven months to shop there again. So managers of the farmer’s market picked up and moved at summer’s end to the warmth of an indoor market venue. Upcoming events will include having a celebrity chef demonstrate with seafood, meats and produce ideas for shoppers to use while cooking at home.

Elsewhere in Alaska’s largest city, seafood promotions are picking up speed as the holiday season approaches, and seafood businesses are preparing for the usual high demand for holiday gifts for friends, family and business associates nationwide.

Shipments of Alaska red king crab, harvested in the Bering Sea, are expected to begin arriving in early November, and the big box store Costco has freezer and refrigerator sections well stocked with a variety of salmon- fresh, frozen and smoked, cod, halibut, shrimp and shell fish, including assorted ready to heat and serve items. Food demonstrators this past week were offering shoppers a taste of Trident Seafoods’ new Salmon Bites.

Progress of Electronic Monitoring Program Scrutinized

An electronic monitoring program aimed at keeping fish harvesters in compliance with catch limits, incidental catch rules and other marine regulation is under fire from a national non-profit group dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values.

“Cost-effective electronic systems that meet both regulatory and scientific demands are nowhere near deployment,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Ruch noted in a statement released on Oct. 28 that earlier this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a series of white papers cataloging an array of obstacles and options on electronic monitoring, but provided no definitive guidance. “Grafting 21st century technology onto the decks of an 18th century industry is no simple task,” Ruch said.

At the same time, NOAA has vowed to adopt a number of reforms by the end of 2013 to address safety and enforcement concerns raised by fisheries observers, he said, and if implemented, these reforms will give individual observers greater autonomy and may further increase industry pressure to replace them.

Currently, fishing fleet compliance with NOAA-administered rules is monitored by fisheries observers. Heightened accountability requirements imposed on fleets will increase the number and scope of observer coverage, leading to industry lobbying for cheaper alternatives, PEER contends.

NOAA Fisheries officials asked to respond to PEER’s comments said that NOAA and the fishing industry share a common goal of getting the appropriate amount and quality of data most efficiently in terms of time and money.

“Right now, the agency is working with a variety of stakeholders, including the councils and industry, to identify the best way to gather the data needed to manage federal fisheries effectively, said NOAA spokesperson Fionna Matheson.

“Electronic monitoring is one approach that’s been identified,” she said. “And while electronic monitoring will be a good tool, it’s not going to replace or eliminate the need, in some fisheries, for human observers.

“Moving forward, the agency is looking at an approach that may use a mix of electronic monitoring/electronic reporting and existing methods, such as human observers,” to collect data,” she said.

NOAA plans to identify by the end of 2014 which fisheries would be good candidates for this technology, and in 2015 and beyond, challenges associated with electronic monitoring will be addressed in additional discussions, she said.

NOAA Releases New Statistical Snapshot of 2012 Fish Landings

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today released its statistical snapshot of 2012 fish landings, noting that America’s commercial fishermen landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.1 billion.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and New Bedford, Massachusetts remain the top commercial fishing ports.
The top five states by volume were Alaska, 5.3 billion pounds; Louisiana, 1.2 billion pounds; Virginia, 461.9 million pounds; Washington, 420.1 million pounds, and California, 358.2 million pounds. Alaska also ranked first among the top five states in value of landings, at $1.7 billion, followed by Massachusetts, $618.2 million; Maine, $448.5 million; Louisiana, $356.6 million, and Washington, $302 million.

Beneficiaries ranged from fish processors, icehouses, restaurants, grocery stores, bait and tackle shops, fuel stations and many other businesses related to commercial and recreational fisheries.

Still, to meet consumer demand, the United States continues to be a major importer of seafood. Over 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, measured by edible weight.

NOAA officials said this measure has been rising in recent years, reflecting an increase in imported seafood. However, the report noted, a significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then reimported to the United States.

While seafood imports do appear to be rising, the exact figure and the significance of this figure is difficult to know, the report said. NOAA is investigating better methods to report consumption and imports, to better understand the significance of imported seafood

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