Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Halibut Bycatch Limits Tightened for Gulf of Alaska

Federal fisheries officials have implemented a plan approved in 2012 by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to tighten limits on the incidental capture of halibut in commercial groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. The final rule was published Feb. 20 in the Federal Register.

Amendment 95 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Gulf modifies halibut prohibited species catch management in the Gulf by establishing halibut prohibited species catch limits for the Gulf in federal regulation and reducing Gulf halibut prohibited Species limits for the trawl and hook-and-line gear sectors.

The reduction to the trawl gear PSC limit also proportionately reduces a subset of trawl halibut PSC limits, also known as sideboard limits, for American Fisheries Act, Amendment 80 and Central Gulf of Alaska rockfish program vessels.

The regulations also incorporate three measures to minimize adverse economic impacts on fishing industry sectors. Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, said that the commission would like to see estimates of the incidental catch of halibut in these fisheries continually validated and the program expanded for broader coverage.

Leaman noted that there is not a lot of recruitment going on at this time in the halibut fishery, so that the IPHC is not expecting a rapid turnaround of stock biomass as a result of this action. From the perspective of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, in Sitka, Alaska, this action is long overdue, particularly given the dramatic reductions in the commercial catch limit, so that stocks are allowed to rebuild, said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA.

“Year classes have been below average for a decade,” Behnken said. “Fish are growing more slowly, so the biomass is down more than the numbers would indicate. There is no clear sign of a strong recruitment year, a strong year class coming,” she said. “This will help to take much pressure off that young component of the stock, give them a chance to grow and promote rebuilding.

“We would all like to see a bigger reduction in bycatch, but the council did actually adopt the largest percent reduction alternative at that June meeting and then phased it in over time.”

While the capture plan was a long time coming, it is an important part of jointly sharing and conserving the halibut resource, and an allocation in place that will allow harvesters to work together to rebuild stocks, she said.

The Great China Geoduck Ban Mystery

By Michael A. Moore

China's ban on the importation of bivalves originating from the US West Coast could not have come at a worse time for the commercial producers and harvesters of oysters, clams and geoducks – especially geoducks.

Notice of the Chinese prohibition was received by NOAA's Seafood Inspection Office in mid-December – just in time to affect the geoduck harvest intended to supply the peak Chinese New Year market in China, when prices skyrocket.

NOAA estimates it will take at least two or three months to overcome the prohibition on US origin bivalves. By that time, China's New Year celebrations will be memories.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, shellfish farmers and harvesters, scientists, and government officials are mystified by the ban and the little bit of information they have been given as justification for the action.

"While the shipments of shellfish that resulted in this ban by China were wild harvest geoduck, the ban applies to "all double-shelled aquatic animals" imported into China from US portion of "area 67," which includes Alaska to mid-California," said Margaret P. Barrette, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

"I am not aware of significant shipments of US west coast oysters being sent to China at this time, so the immediate impact of this ban falls primarily on the export of geoduck. Earlier reports indicated that geoduck from Washington and Alaska tested high for PSP and arsenic."

It turned out that Washington geoducks were not contaminated with PSP.

"We received confirmation this morning that the shipment related to our state was an arsenic concern; the shipment related to Alaska was a PSP concern," stated Jerrod Davis of the Washington Department of Health in a press release.

"The Washington product originated from Poverty Bay in Redondo," said Margaret Barrette. "The Alaska product originated from the Ketchikan region. While we are waiting confirmation, NOAA believes that the Chinese reports indicate that the Washington product tested above China's standard for arsenic and the Alaska product tested above the US standard for PSP.

"We are still trying to confirm the testing protocol used by the Chinese officials, how notification was handled, and why the entire West Coast was closed as opposed to targeting just the area from where the implicated product was harvested. One key request that we have made to the federal agencies is that, if the issue is limited to one specific growing area in each state, that the other unaffected growing areas be immediately reopened for shipment."

"The China tests results on geoducks from the Poverty Bay area said the results for inorganic arsenic were above their standard of 0.5 parts per million (500 parts per billion)," according to a Department of Health press release.

"We don't know what testing method China used, but we are trying to get that information. Until we know how the tests were performed, we can't assess China's results. To be safe, and until we know more, the harvest area that produced the geoducks China tested has been closed by the Department of Natural Resources."

Those levels reported by China are about 10 times higher than the average levels the Department of Health has seen in the Puget Sound area, where the average range is 10-40 parts per billion.

The Department of Health released the results of their own toxicology studies on January 7, 2014. The department did targeted testing in Poverty Bay in 2007 because of concerns about possible contamination from a sewage treatment outfall in the area. In this 2007 study, they tested five geoducks from each of 24 sites in the bay, and did not find arsenic levels that were a health concern.

The announcement further stated that geoduck harvesting in Poverty Bay is closed until more information is available about the Chinese test results.

"These test results confirm our expectation that it's safe to eat geoducks harvested from the Poverty Bay area of Puget Sound," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. "We've given the test results to our state partners and to the federal partners that are working directly with China."

These findings have been conveyed to authorities in China by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seafood Inspection Program.

The Department of Health announcement does nothing to clarify the anomalous test results from China – the mystery remains.

"There are two questions I would like answered by the Chinese," said Rosalind Schoof, a PhD toxicologist working with the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association to assist on the arsenic issue.

"One, did they test the whole animal? The Chinese standard specifically applies to the edible portions of the animal," she said. If they tested the skin, there is a possibility that the results showed higher levels of inorganic arsenic than the edible portions of the geoduck.

Another factor that could affect the results would be if they tested for whole arsenic and extrapolated the amount of inorganic arsenic present.

"The value they reported is much higher than what we've seen in prior testing of Puget Sound geoducks. It's unclear as to why there should that discrepancy," Schoof said, mentioning a 2007 study done by the Suquamish Tribe's Fisheries Department and the Washington Department of Health.

"Tissues from 60 geoducks collected from the Richmond Beach tract were segregated into three parts: viscera, siphon/mantle, and the outer skin of the siphon," reported the study.

"Viscera and siphon/mantle tissues from each geoduck were separately analyzed for total arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. Composites of viscera and siphon/mantle tissues were analyzed for inorganic arsenic. A subset of tissues from the outer skin of siphons was also analyzed. In general, trace metal concentrations were highest in the outer skin, and lowest in the siphon/mantle. The results from this study have helped to explain inconsistent results among past studies and suggest some considerations in future studies or health assessments of geoduck tissues."

"My second question is if the tests are of wet or dry samples," said Schoof. "It's an important distinction. Shellfish are between 85 to 90% water. Some labs dry fish out and the results are approximately ten times higher than the same weight wet."

The mystery deepens further with the fact that China has not placed any restrictions on bivalves and geoducks from British Columbia – which raises questions, considering that Area 67, the harvest area restricted by the Chinese, goes from California to Siberia.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is still issuing certifications for geoduck exports to China," said a NOAA official off the record.

One independent observer has speculated that the geoduck ban and its timing could be due to factors more political than scientific.

"It is possible that it could be retaliation for something," said Tabitha Mallory, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, in an interview with Ashley Ahearn of EarthFix.

"That has happened in the past. There's an example regarding Norway a few years ago," said Mallory. "China has banned salmon imports from Norway and that coincided with the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the political activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

"So, the Norwegians have said that the Chinese have found problems with pathogenic microorganisms in the fish and high levels of veterinary drugs, but the timing is really interesting, that the ban was put in place right around the same time as the prize being awarded.

"With regard to the geoduck ban, it took place right around the time of the WTO ministerial meeting in Indonesia. And I'm not sure if there's any connection there, but there might be."

Rumors are also floating around that the ban and its timing may have more to do with disgruntled distributors in British Columbia who previously marketed Washington and Alaska bivalves to Hong Kong and China. That situation changed a few years back when Washington shellfish harvesters started their own direct marketing efforts to Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Whatever the reason behind the great geoduck ban mystery, Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish would like to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

"I don't blame the Chinese," said Taylor. "We are still exporting to Hong Kong, but the real market, especially for the New Year season, is Mainland China."

Industry Lends Support to Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Legislation

Legislation incorporated into the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 now before Congress has gained substantial support from commercial fisheries groups from Florida to the Pacific Northwest.

They are rallying around the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2013, introduced by Rep, Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ, which was incorporated into the legislation before the House in mid-February. The coalition said that without this legislation they would be exposed to yet another layer of permitting and regulation, a layer they say is unwarranted and would impose an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on an already overburdened fleet.

LoBiondo’s legislation would exempt commercial fishing vessels as defined in Section 2101 of Title 46 from requirements of the Clean Water Act, which as the result of a lawsuit in 2006 would otherwise apply to them. Such an exemption has already been allowed for recreational vessels, regardless of their size, the coalition said. Without the discharge reform legislation, routine and environmentally benign activities such as deck washing could be prohibited, and fines potentially reaching $25,000 a day could be levied for non-compliance, the group said in a statement.

What the legislation does, they said, is extend a regulatory exemption originally granted by the Environmental Protection Agency 30 years ago. A 2010 report ordered by Congress and published by the EPA confirms that continuing this exemption will not contribute to pollution of inshore or coastal waters, they said.

Among the supporters of the legislation are the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, At-sea Processors Association, Columbia River Crab Fishermen’s Association, Coos Bay Trawlers, Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Freezer Longline Coalition, Groundfish Forum, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Monkfish Defense Fund, National Fisheries Institute, Oregon Trawl Commission, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, United Catcher Boats, Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, Washington Trollers Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association and the Western Fishboat Owners Association.

Fishing Line Used to Create Artificial Muscle

Fishing line isn’t just for fishing any more.

Medical researchers in Canada are experimenting with fibers from fishing line and sewing thread in an effort to create inexpensive artificial muscles that could be used in medical devices, humanoid robots, prosthetic limbs and woven into fabric.

In a study published Feb. 20 in the journal Science, researchers detail how they created inexpensive artificial muscles that generate far more force and power than human or animal muscles of the same size.

“In terms of the strength and power of the artificial muscle, we found that it can quickly lift weights 100 times heavier than a same-size human muscle can, in a single contraction,” said John Madden an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of British Columbia. “It also has a higher power output for its weight than that of an automobile combustion engine.”

Artificial muscles have been made in the past out of materials like metal wires and carbon nanotubes, but researchers and device makers found them expensive to fabricate and difficult to control.

Madden and his colleagues used high-strength polymer fibers made from polyethylene and nylon, common materials used in fishing lines and sewing thread.

The fibers were twisted into tight coils, like the twist of a rubber band for a model toy airplane, to create an artificial muscle that could contract and relax.

Researchers said the artificial muscles contract and relax in response to changes in temperature, which can be controlled by an electrical heating element.

The system has been demonstrated by using such muscles to manipulate surgical forceps, and researchers say the artificial muscles may also find use in robots and low cost devices to help those with impaired mobility.

Iditarod Rookie Dedicates Race
to Protecting Wild Salmon

A rookie musher from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula who fishes commercially with her partner, a veteran of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, says she is dedicating her run to Nome to protecting wild salmon habitat in Bristol Bay. Monica Zappa, with partner Tim Osmar, have already participated in several “Mushing for Bristol Bay” races in the Midwest and Canada to raise awareness about their concerns that a proposed large-scale copper and gold mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed would adversely affect critical salmon habitat.

Zappa, who grew up in Wisconsin, came to Alaska four years ago to try her hand at dog mushing. Two years later, she and Osmar kicked off their campaign to stop development of the Pebble Mine, with help from Trout Unlimited. They have also teamed up with Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay for some fundraising efforts to help cover the big cost of participation in the Iditarod race.

Zappa said she has sent information packets to all the villages along the Iditarod Trail where she will be passing through en route to Nome. Her sled, gear and dogs will be decked out with “No Pebble” stickers, and she plans to speak out about their campaign to protect Bristol Bay to spectators, villagers and media covering the race as often as she can, Zappa said.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, in Anchorage, which has spent millions of dollars on exploration in Southwest Alaska, has yet to file applications for the many state and federal permits they would need to build the mine. The PLP maintains that the mine and the world famous Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run can co-exist in harmony.

The final report assessing effects of large scale mining on the Bristol Bay watershed, issued in January by the US Environmental Protection Agency, concludes that there would be a number of adverse effects from the footprint of such a mine, including substantial loss of salmon-supporting streams and wetlands, and altered stream flows that would likely affect ecosystem structure and function.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cold Smoked Sockeye Salmon is the Big Winner in Alaska Symphony of Seafood

For the second time in three years, a small, family owned fish smoking contestant from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula has won the grand prize in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood. Back in 2012 it was Fred West of Tustumena Smoke House ( in Soldotna, with his Kylee’s Alaska Salmon Bacon. This year, in the 21st competition organized by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, it was Tilgner’s Ruby Red Ole World Scottish Style Cold Smoked Sockeye Salmon, a recipe developed by former Cordova family doctor Art Tilgner and just now getting its start as a commercial venture. Tilgner has been cold smoking sockeye salmon for more than three decades, along the way acquiring a host of aficionados who urged him to try marketing it commercially. Tilgner’s Specialized Smoked Seafood Products ( already has steady customers as far away as Brooklyn, NY.

At the Symphony’s Anchorage gala on Feb. 13, the Tilgner family won the Anchorage People’s Choice Award, first place for smoked products and the event’s grand prize too. First prize in the food service competition went to Trident Seafoods’ Trident Redi Grilled Pollock, while Ocean Beauty Seafoods won the retail competition with Ocean Beauty Salmon Jerky-Black Pepper.

Orca Bay Seafoods was the People’s Choice award winner at the Symphony’s Seattle gala with Cod Fillets with Sundried Tomato Pesto.

AquaCuisine placed second in smoke product competition with its Little Sammies in a Blanket and Ocean Beauty Seafoods earned third place with its Ocean Beauty Salmon Jerky-original flavor.

Second and third places in retail competition went to Trident Wild Alaskan Beer Battered Cod and Copper River Seafoods’ Fisherman’s Favorites: Wild Alaska Salmon Portions.

No second or third prizes were awarded in food service.

Awards to each of the first prize winners include air fare and booth space at the Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America show in Boston in March. The event, which attracts thousands of people, was formerly known as the International Boston Seafood Show.

Major sponsors for the 2014 Symphony included the Alaska Seafood Marketing Association, Northwest Fisheries Association, Marine Stewardship Council, At-Sea Processors Association, Marel, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Norton Sound Economic Development Association, Copper River Seafoods, Alaska Air Cargo, Trident Seafoods, the city of Unalaska, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Bowhead Transport, Kwik’Pak, and Alaska Brewing Company.

Alaska Senate Resolution Urges Additional Damages in Exxon Valdez Disaster

A resolution introduced in the Alaska Senate urges the state and federal government to compel ExxonMobil Corp to honor its commitment to pay additional damages in a 1989 oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 was introduced Feb. 18 by Sen. Berta Gardner, D- Anchorage, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SJR 25 urges the Alaska Department of Law and the federal Justice Department to file a motion in the U.S. District Court to compel ExxonMobile to honor a commitment to pay additional damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill under the “reopener for unknown injury” provision of the 1991 agreement and consent degree, and to collect the full demand for payment the state and federal government submitted to ExxonMobil in August 2006. The lengthy resolution also urges the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council to initiate subsurface lingering oil restoration work.

Rick Steiner, a conservation biologist who was a University of Alaska marine advisor for Prince William Sound at the time of the spill, said many Alaskans are profoundly disappointed in Exxon for not living up to its commitment made in the 1991 settlement, and not paying the government claim made in September 2006 for an additional $92 million, plus about $35 million in interest since then. “Every day the governments delay taking action to collect this claim and remediate this lingering Exxon Valdez oil is another day that nearshore vertebrates – sea otters, birds fish—are exposed to toxic Exxon Valdez crude oil,” Steiner said.

Steiner has filed several court motions since 2010 asking the court to order Exxon to pay the government claims, but the court said it can’t and won’t intervene until the parties place a motion before the court to resolve the claim.

The lengthy resolution notes that state and federal studies have confirmed that a substantial amount of oil from the spill remains on beaches in substrates, that the oil is “nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill,” that “the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely,” and that enzyme markers in birds, fish and mammals in the spill region “indicate a continuing exposure to oil.”

No Early Chinook Runs for Taku, Stikine Rivers

In-season terminal run estimates are still to come, but at this point there will be no directed king salmon fisheries in early May in Southeast Alaska for either the Taku or Stikine rivers.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists at Sitka said Feb. 18 that the preseason terminal run forecast of 26,800 king salmon was not large enough to provide for an allowable catch for either the U.S. or Canadian harvesters in the transboundary Taku River.

A December preseason king salmon forecast released in December, said the same for the waters of the Stikine River.

The last directed fishery on the Taku was in 2012, when there were two extremely limited openings, said Dave Harris, a department spokesperson in Juneau. The poor return last year came in as anticipated, and this year the department expects the king run to be better, but not enough for a directed fishery, he said.

The Taku runs have cycled down a bit, but not as bad as some other runs around the state, he said.

The ADF&G forecast for Stikine River king salmon said the 2014 preseason terminal run size forecast for large Stikine River kings was 26,000 fish, not sufficient to allow for harvest for either the U.S. or Canada.

Bag limits for sport anglers on these rivers, which will depend on what the abundance index forecasts is, come out in April, said biologists in the agency’s sport fishing division.

Getting Your Boat Ready for the Season

By Kathy A. Smith

From the engine room to the hull paint, proper maintenance extends the life of the vessel and on-board equipment throughout the season and beyond. No one knows this better than the West Coast repair facilities that see the results of both good and bad vessel maintenance. Here are some tips from repair yards to help owners get their boats in shape for the next season.

Regular Maintenance

One of the best ways to save money is to plan for regular maintenance. Vessel owners should work with shipyards to prepare a work plan to maximize time spent out of the water. A proper plan and long-term maintenance program helps the shipyard get more done with less time in dock. If owners wait too long to book their maintenance time, they could end up having to dock during peak operational times.

Schedule maintenance well in advance and put it on the calendar. If maintenance is not planned appropriately with enough lead time – even a year or two ahead – vessel owners may find there isn't dock space and have to delay maintenance or go further away from their home port, both of which increase costs. Additionally, to help the yard prepare, it is wise to provide drawings and vessel details to the shipyard ahead of time, which helps them prepare for the work. If work is to be done in or around fuel tanks, it's best to come in with low fuel so the yard doesn't have to remove it, adding to the time/cost. Emptying the stores is also advised so that any perishable food does not spoil during haul time. If other work is to take place at the same time, for example, engine work, make sure the shipyard is aware of other contractors who will have to be cleared.

Expect the Unexpected

Weather can always be an issue in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska so finding a yard with indoor facilities and outdoor vessel covers will help protect vessels as they're being worked on. One of the goals of regular inspections and maintenance is to identify and fix problems in drydock so vessel owners don't have to deal with them at sea during the fishing season. In order to ensure boats get to sea on time, leave as much time as possible between scheduled maintenance and the start of the season in order to address any unexpected issues.

Adam Beck, President of Vigor Alaska and Director of Regional Operations, says: "Whether it's accidental damage or unexpected wear and tear discovered during a scheduled inspection, repairs cannot all be planned in advance. That's why "Be Flexible" is a guiding principle of Vigor's company culture. With the most drydocks and locations in the Pacific Northwest and a responsive mobile workforce, we're able to meet the vast majority of customer demands for unexpected, time-sensitive repair work in Oregon, Washington and Alaska."

The company also has a "travel corps" of mobile ship repair experts. The travel corps team can often fix problems on the spot, and if not they can reduce turnaround time by preparing a vessel for drydock on the way to port.

Bryan Nichols, Vigor Industrial's Sales & Marketing Manager adds: "Beyond regular maintenance and repair, we're seeing more major refits and upgrades to fishing vessels," he says. "As the fishing fleet ages, we are seeing more companies upgrade existing vessels to combine existing quota or purchase new quota, catch fish more efficiently and more efficiently process their catch."

For all vessels, regardless of construction, proper application and maintenance of the exterior substrate and coatings is essential. The following are key points, tips and recommendations from Phil Riise, President of Seaview Boatyard, located in Seattle and Bellingham, on how best to maximize the longevity of commercial fishing vessels, whether they're constructed of wood, fiberglass, steel or aluminum.

Wooden Vessels

Above the water line: For wood vessels, one-part alkyd enamel or one-part urethane enamel is recommended. Pettit and Interlux are the most popular manufacturers of these enamel-based systems. To protect the hull, enamel coatings should be renewed annually or every other year at minimum. As these coatings deteriorate, moisture can get into the wood substrate of the hull. Once coatings begin to fail, strip removal of the hull down to bare wood must be considered. This process, known as "wooding" the vessel is typically done on a 10- to 15-year cycle. Once complete, it should be followed by inspection of seams and fasteners, sanding to the proper surface profile, application of two to three coats of primer and two coats of enamel topcoat (proper millage is key). Any time paint starts to fail, there is a good reason. Ensure topside coatings are tight/well-adhered to the surface in order to prevent water intrusion and rot. Awareness of the condition and adhesion of coatings and the caulking at guards and seams will reduce the potential for damage to a vessel's hull.

Below the water line: Most wood vessels should be hauled out annually and have a soft copper-based bottom paint applied. The typical lifespan of these paints is a single year, so annual renewal is key. There are several different anti-fouling paints to choose from and budget is an important factor in selecting the right paint. Regardless of product, adhesion is key and good surface preparation is essential. The recommended cycle for wooding underwater surfaces is the same as that above the waterline. Every 10 to 15 years the hull coatings should be removed and re-applied. Once the hull has been stripped to bare, application of two coats of soft copper anti-foulant – (1) soaker coat and (1) full strength coat will provide sufficient anti-fouling protection for wood vessels.

FRP Vessels

Above the water line: The care and maintenance of gelcoat is vital to the longevity of these coatings. Gelcoated surfaces should be waxed on an annual basis to maintain both condition and appearance. Use a liquid wax from 3M, but there are many good products on the market to choose from. Depending upon the oxidation level of the gelcoat, the use of a rubbing compound like 3M Imperial Compound may be required prior to application of a liquid wax in order to fully restore the appearance of the gelcoat. At some point, gelcoat will reach the end of its lifespan and begin to fail. Instead of re-applying gelcoat, use a two-part linear polyurethane paint such as Awlgrip or Alexseal. Alexseal is the superior product given its longevity – up to 10 years with proper care. It is also easier to repair than most other products on the market. The key to a successful LP urethane application is, again, surface preparation and millage. Ensure that all wax residue has been neutralized prior to application of primer and topcoat (two to three coats each). LP urethane coatings are versatile and can be applied to both the hull and the house. An additional benefit of these products is that they require no maintenance other than washing with a non-abrasive cleaner. Check with the paint manufacture for care recommendations, but these products are typically very easy to maintain in like-new condition.

Below the water line: Regardless of whether a vessel is new or old, barrier coat systems are strongly recommended as a proven preventative measure and the best means of protection against the possibility of osmotic blisters. Barrier coat may be applied prior to the first application of bottom paint or following the removal of anti-foulant build-up, typically done every 10 years. For FRP boats, anti-foulant choices include copolymers for displacement boats and hard base paints for semi and planing hulls. As new anti-fouling technologies emerge, many paint manufacturers have introduced copper-free and metal-free paints to their product lines – Sea Hawk Smart Solutions, Pettit Hydrocoat and Interlux Pacifica, for instance. While not required on commercial vessels, these new paints align with environmental concerns and wild fisheries, an ideal combination of performance and eco-consciousness.

Aluminum and Steel Vessels

Above the water line: Unlike steel vessels, aluminum vessels do not require a coating system above the water line. However, if painting is opted for, the process is essentially the same as that for steel hull vessels. Ameron, International and Alexseal are the product lines of choice for these types of vessels. In both cases, proper surface preparation – blasting or sanding – is essential. The hull surface must be clean and dry prior to application of Hi Build epoxy primer and subsequent application of topcoat. Follow cure times and recoat schedules provided by the manufacturer, along with millage recommendations for primer and topcoat to ensure proper application and adhesion. Applied correctly and with periodic maintenance, the lifespan of the above mentioned products can be in excess of 8 to 10 years. Ameron's Prep 88 water-based degreaser is recommended as a surface preparation for maintenance re-application of steel and aluminum hull coatings. This one-step product reduces repainting costs by eliminating sanding, solvent wiping and blasting from the recoat process and extends coating lifespan by ensuring good adhesion of paint to the hull surface.

Below the water line: For both aluminum and steel vessels, the same coating system process applies through the primer phase. Copper-free and metal-free coatings are a good alternative for both steel and aluminum hulls as they eliminate potential issues that arise with dissimilar metals. Anti-foulant coatings can typically require a minimum of two coats in the initial application and a single renewal coat if your vessel is hauled and painted annually. As with the above the waterline coating systems, lifespan of these systems is approximately eight to 10 years.

Follow Directions

Many of the coating systems today have moisture-cure primers. If work is being done outdoors, weather will be a critical factor. Choose the best times of the year; either spring or fall to ensure optimal conditions for specific applications. Each manufacturer has specific instructions on re-coat times so follow their guidelines to the letter. If the application of coatings is rushed, it will lead to future unexpected costs because solvents will become entrapped in between the coats. In some cases, the solvents can attack prior coats, forming blisters that will release the coatings from the surface and cause them to detach from the hull. If this occurs, it may require a complete redo of the coating system.

The most important factor is to know your product. Weather and temperature constraints, recoat schedules and millage requirements are all central elements of a successful application. Proper care and maintenance as dictated by the manufacturer are critical to ensuring the longevity of that application.


The marine industry continues to move from zinc to aluminum anodes. These cadmium-free aluminum anodes are more cost-effective, provide better cathodic protection and are better for the environment. All vessels should be hauled annually as part of a regular maintenance routine that includes inspection and replacement of sacrificial anodes. This small preventative measure can significantly reduce the need for costly repairs or replacement of underwater metals including props, shafts and struts.

Aside from the critical operating systems, the single most significant factor in promoting longevity and cost savings is proper care and maintenance of a vessel's hull and substrate coatings. Choosing the right products, ensuring proper application and a commitment to routine maintenance have a significant impact on how a vessel performs and how much time and money is invested in repairs.

Norton Sound King Crab, Pink Salmon Go Gourmet

Norton Sound king crab and pink salmon weren’t among the entries in the 2014 Alaska Symphony of Seafood, but two Alaska celebrity chefs were there to tempt guests with samples of tasty recipes made from each.

Norton Sound king crab, a niche market for seafood aficionados, was presented by Anchorage chef Rob Kinneen as mini crab oscars, crab noodle salad and crab gazpacho.

While not a competitor in the seafood competition itself, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., a community development quota entity at Nome, contributed the Norton Sound king crab for the event sponsored by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.

The Norton Sound crab itself is smaller than the Bering Sea red king crab, but the meat is delicate and a little sweeter to the taste, said Kinneen.

The bite-size mini crab oscars combined Norton Sound king crab, reindeer sausage, asparagus and Bearnaise aioli, a traditional Provencal sauce.

Kinneen ( also prepared a king crab gazpacho and a crab noodle salad for sampling. Kineen, who is of Tlingit heritage, has a reputation for loyalty to Alaska product, incorporating Alaska greens into his recipes for events all over the state.

Dave Thorne, ( who works as a private chef, and offers culinary classes in the home, prepared a trio of pink salmon treats using pink salmon purchased by the host Alaska Seafood Development Foundation for the event. His offerings included pink salmon and yellow curry corn cake with cucumber caviar, zucchini stuffed with feta cheese, harissa (a fleshy red pepper), baby spinach and pink salmon; and candied pink salmon with vermicelli noodle and a star anise broth.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Market Demand Looking Strong for Snow Crab Harvest

Alaska’s 2013-2014 snow crab fishery, which got an early start late last year with harvesters trying to avoid sea ice, harvested 54 percent of its 53,983,000 quota through mid-February, with no sea ice problems.

“It’s been really warm and the ice is up around St. Matthew,” said Melissa Good, an assistant area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Dutch Harbor. St. Matthew, a remote island in the Bering Sea, lies 183 miles west-northwest of Nunivak Island.

The 59 vessels registered for the individual fishing quota fishery, which had harvested 55 percent of its 48,584,700-pound quota as of Feb. 11. Harvesters for Alaska’s community development quota groups had harvested 45 percent of their 5,398,300-pound quota.

At the same time a year ago, crews had harvested 27 million pounds of IFQ snow crab, or opilio, which was 29 percent of the 59.7 million pound IFQ quota. After stock surveys, this year’s quota was reduced by 19 percent.

The snow crab is being processed by Trident Seafoods at St. Paul and Akutan, and Unisea Seafoods, and Westward Seafoods in Dutch Harbor.

While price negotiations were not expected until after the harvest was completed, likely in May, industry spokesmen said there appeared to be a strong market for this year’s supply.

“We’re expecting higher prices because of the quota, the world supply and market demand,” said Jake Jacobson of the Intercoop Exchange in Seattle. “The demand is very strong this year and we are looking at a price increase.”

Last year harvesters with the Intercoop Exchange were paid an average of $2.28 a pound for their snow crab.

Eric Donaldson of The Crab Broker’s office in Florida said he agreed that prices are strong right now, but cautioned that some buyers would be waiting for the harvest in the huge snow crab fishery in eastern Canada, a primary producer for domestic markets.

Pollock, Cod and Salmon Dishes Compete in 2014 Alaska Symphony of Seafood

Winners in the 2014 Alaska Symphony of Seafood, sponsored by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, will be announced tomorrow night at an Anchorage gala where processors vie for prizes including booth space at the International Boston Seafood Show.

This year’s entries include Trident Redi Grilled Pollock, Trident Wild Alaskan Beer Battered Cod, and Trident Wild Alaskan Salmon Bites, all from Trident Seafoods; Cod Fillets with Sundried Tomato Pesto, from Orca Bay Seafoods; Ocean Beauty Salmon Jerky, Black Pepper, Original Flavor and Teriyaki Flavor, from Ocean Beauty Seafoods; Wild Alaska Salmon Portions (Keta Salmon) from Copper River Seafoods; Little Sammies in a Blanket from AquaCuisine, and Tilgner’s Ruby Red Ole world Scottish Style Cold Smoked Sockeye Salmon, from Tilgner’s Specialized Smoked Seafood Products, in Ninilchik.

Judging in the new products contest, as well as a “People’s Choice” competition voted on by participants in a Seattle gathering, was completed on Feb. 5, but the list of winners won’t be revealed until the Anchorage gala.

In addition to the overall grand prize, there will be first, second and third place awards for retail, foodservice and smoked seafood competition.

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation since 1994 has organized the event to celebrate creative and innovative seafood products, judged by a panel representing various market segments related to the seafood industry.

Major sponsors include the Alaska seafood Marketing Institute, Northwest Fisheries Association, the At-sea Processors Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and Copper River Seafoods.

The Economics of Ergonomics – Making Safety Pay

By Michael A. Moore

Sitka salmon troller Eric Jordan may have discovered the secret to make fishing more fun, profitable and injury free. It's one word – ergonomics.

"Fishing is way more enjoyable because of how smoothly everything goes," said Jordan. "There is a significant economic advantage to having a more ergonomically efficient operation," said Jordan. "Production and safety have improved because of efficiency and ease of work."

OSHA defines ergonomics as the fitting of a job to a person – which helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

"Ergonomics is the science of adapting workspace, tools, equipment, and work methods for more efficient, comfortable, and error-free use," said Jerry Dzugan, the director the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA).

There are serious consequences if those workplace adaptations are not made.

"Experienced fishermen know it's a problem," said Dzugan. "They spend a lot of money on doctors and have a lot of pain – they lose work, and their efficiency is reduced.

"Younger guys think it's not a problem for them because they're young and supple and strong. I know two fishermen not even 30 years old who have musculoskeletal problems."

When Dzugan shows experienced fishermen how properly done ergonomic adaptation can help them avoid injuries and increase their productivity, the comment is always "I wish I had known about this a long time ago," he said.

Dzugan and Jordan approach ergonomics from two different angles – but the final goal is the same – eliminate or reduce avoidable injuries due to inefficient and poor workplace design and setup, and increase productivity and profitability.

Jerry Dzugan's wake-up call to the importance of ergonomics aboard a fishing vessel happened on his first trip halibut fishing in 1980 – he was hit with carpal tunnel syndrome.

"The Alaska Fishermen's Fund reports that 40% of all claims are due to musculoskeletal injuries," he said. "The other 60 percent are bruises, cuts, broken toes, etcetera.

"The Fishermen's Fund data is the easiest to collect and most reliable snapshot of most reported injuries. No one tracks that information except the Fund – they have good data on what people claim. It's hard to get injury numbers from Workmen's Comp – they guard that information."

One problem with obtaining an accurate picture of the number of workplace-related MSD's is that injuries are accumulative over time. Many injuries remain under the radar until they become too painful too ignore.

"Any one single injury may not be reported to the emergency room," said Dzugan. "It's the big ones that get counted."

The cumulative nature of many ergonomically related MSD injuries also makes it more difficult to determine who pays for treatment.

"Say I've been fishing for 20 years – my hands are getting worse. Finally, I have to go back to the last vessel or skipper and say I need to be covered – it's difficult to determine responsibility," said Dzugan. The fact that fishermen who are working for a percentage of the catch are not covered by Workmen's Comp makes the situation even more difficult, he said.

Prevention of musculoskeletal injuries is the best cure, Dugan emphasizes. He carries a pocket card with 13 points for reducing MSD injuries, but recognizes that some are more difficult to follow than others when it comes to working aboard a commercial fishing boat.

AMSEA has produced information-laden Power Point presentations that graphically illustrate the consequences of not following proper ergonomic movements and procedures. It is filled with photographs of actual back and hand surgeries resulting from not following good ergonomic practices in the workplace.

Another presentation emphasizes the positive side of efficient ergonomic organization aboard commercial fishing boats – with plenty of photos of innovative fish handling mechanisms and procedures.

"Many small operators may not connect their injury claim with the work layout on the boat," said Dzugan. "You have to do an analysis of how to reduce lifting and movement. Make your workplace fit you, don't try to fit you to your workplace."

There is a direct economic benefit in workplace movement analysis and modification.

"You want to limit as much as possible how many time you touch the fish," Dzugan said. "The fewer times you touch the fish, the higher the quality when you get to market – and you increase the time you keep your gear in the water. You become more efficient and can catch more fish with less effort. You make more money and have fewer medical expenses."

Eric Jordan's boat, the 38 foot F/V I Gotta, is one of the examples AMSEA and Dzugan use to show how the on board workspace and work flow can be modified to achieve ergonomic efficiency.

Jordan credits his young son with calling his attention in 1989 on ways to improve the workflow and workspace on the I Gotta.

"One of the smartest things I ever did was listen to that eight year old boy on my back deck when he pointed out better ways we could handle the gear and moved fish – his observations made a lot of sense, so we started making changes," said Jordan.

"Back in the early 90's we pioneered using slush tanks with Nomar brailer bags," said Jordan. "Before that we were handling the fish between 8 and 12 times. We ended up with a system where we bring the fish onboard directly into a trough, put a bungee cord on its tail, slip the knife in to let it bleed, then slide it into the ice cold slush tank.

"We only handle the fish once before it goes into the tank. The next time the fish is handled is in port when a hook is used to lift the brailer bag out of the tank."

Jordan has continued to make modifications to his workspace and workflow that both improve the efficiency of the fish handling process and reduce the risk of MSD injuries.

"We've set up the deck to eliminate bending over as much as possible," he said. "It's arranged so that you can work between the waist and the shoulders. It's really important to set up everything so it is safe and efficient for the body of the person doing the work.

Jordan says he is always open to new ideas and how other fishermen improve the ergonomics of their boats.

"I am always walking down the docks to see what everyone's doing," he says. "Always looking for ideas."

Jordan's son Karl is a little older now – in his 30's – and has his own boat, but he is still an ergonomic innovator and helps his dad with improving the workspace and work flow efficiency of the I Gotta.

"We changed the way we moved fish in the holding tanks this season – in mid-season – it was Karl's suggestion," said Jordan. "We changed how we were using the holding tanks and saved a lot of wasted time and movement."

Improving a boat's workflow and ergonomic efficiency and safety can be done a step at a time, and one solution does not fit everyone, says Jordan.

"Everyone's situation is unique," he said. "The way to approach it is not to try to make the jump all at one time. Take it step by step," he said.

"Attitude and common sense are what ergonomic efficiency is really all about. It's not so much specifics as it is attitude. You should always be looking for ways to make your work flow and work space simpler, safer and more enjoyable.

"Ask yourself, what did I learn from this day, this trip, this season, that can make things more ergonomically efficient and safer? What are the incremental steps I can take – one step at a time? Some significant improvements won't cost anything if you just think about how you do it."

Jordan says a good place to start is with the cockpit and a hold system to minimize fish handling and improve chilling and unloading.

One example of Jordan's approach to improved ergonomic safety and efficiency is to bring his boat in early, while there is still daylight.

"We don't try to maximize production at the cost of increased risk," said Jordan. "We prefer to unload in the daylight – you can see better, plus the unloading crews are fresher. If you push hard all day and unload at night, you increase your risk, even with lights.

"Safety is number one on my boat. The main thing is the improved health and reduced accidents of the skipper and crew. I'm the skipper, my job is to bring you back safe and healthy."

Fisheries Board Tangles Over Kenai River Salmon Issues

Changes to the fisheries management plans in early February for late-run Kenai River Chinook salmon, aimed at protecting critically low numbers of kings, will curtail fishing hours for set gillnet harvesters, and impose gear restrictions.

In an effort to assure adequate escapement of salmon into the drainages of the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet, the Alaska Board of Fisheries also offered more time for the drift gillnetters to fish for Kenai and Kasilof sockeye in early July, but restricted the inlet-wide fishery later in the month to allow for greater passage of northern bound salmon.

Sport anglers applauded the board’s decisions, while commercial harvesters said the changes would inhibit their harvests.

The decisions came during the board’s Upper Cook Inlet finfish meeting, which began Jan. 31 in Anchorage and continues through Feb. 13.

“Even when they go to hook and release… they continue to play and have a good time at the expense of East Side setnetters,” said Christine Brandt, a set net harvester from Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula. When they go to catch and release, setnetters get one 12-hour opener a week, with a mandatory 36-hour closure that has been in regulation for years, “ and we better hope we don’t miss the run,” she said. “If the run comes through on a Friday, it’s gone, and we lose big time.

“We’re still trying to recover from the 2012 season, and 2013 wasn’t that great,” she said. “We’re excited to rebuild the kings, but it will hammer the amount of money we will make,” said Brent Johnson, a member of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.

Johnson spoke after the board approved some changes to the management plan aimed at ensuring an adequate escapement of late-run king salmon into the Kenai River system, stocks to be managed primarily for sport and guided sport uses.

While commercial and angler groups have expressed concern for dwindling Chinook salmon stocks and the need to rebuild them, they differ on how this should be done.

The decision of the seven-member board allows for paired restrictions, giving the Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers the power to reduce sport and commercial harvests when the numbers of returning king salmon are low.

Commercial harvesters have expressed concern that the intention of one Kenai Peninsula sportfishing group is to halt the use of set nets in all non-subsistence areas of the state. Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in January rejected an initiative brought by the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance to put the issue on a statewide ballot.

Treadwell, now a candidate for the US Senate, cited the advice of the Alaska Department of Law, which determined that the proposed measure was a prohibited appropriation under the Alaska Constitution.

Stormy Weather Delays Crab Fisheries
In Southeast Alaska

The commercial tanner and golden king crab fisheries in Southeast Alaska get under way today, after a delay prompted by a forecast of really nasty weather.

Staff at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Petersburg made the decision for a 24-hour delay in the start of the season after meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted winds of 35 knots and higher and freezing spray over most of the region. According to weather delay criteria for both fisheries in regulation, if after the initial delay gale warnings continue region-wide, the season opening for both fisheries may be delayed an additional 24 hours and may continue on a rolling 24-hour basis.

As outlined in the harvest strategy, the initial period of the commercial tanner crab fishing season in the core areas and non-core areas is at least five days in length and may be increased with additional fishing days allowed based on the number of registered pots at the start of the fishery. At the end of the initial period, the core areas close to fishing and the non-core areas will remain open for an additional five days.

For the golden king crab fishery, in-season reporting of crab logbook data is required daily, with the first required all-in tomorrow, Feb. 13. The golden king crab fishery has a quota of 495,000 pounds, divided into seven management areas, each with their own specific quota, said Joe Stratman at the Petersburg area state fisheries office.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

F/V Optimus: New 58-Foot Combination Boat
for West Coast Fisheries

Hitting the Southeast tanner fishery this month is a shiny new 58-foot by 24.5-foot combination boat built for John Barry, of Sitka, Alaska. The hull and interior of the new boat were built by Northern Marine, a luxury yacht firm in Anacortes, Washington, and finished by owner John Barry and George Hooper, of Hooper Marine.

The new boat was constructed of vacuum-infused fiberglass, chosen for its unmatched strength and low maintenance, in a mold design by yacht designer George Rodden. Even though Optimus is a workboat, her yacht builder origins show in the clean lines and flawless fiberglass work.

The hull of the new boat is non-cored monolithic vacuum infused polyester. The keel of the new boat is a stout 3-inches of fiberglass, and the hull itself is more than an inch and a half thick, making for a very sturdy vessel. The boat also carries 25 tons of ballast. More than 350 feet of green thread fiberglass pipe was used in the construction of the Optimus, as well as an estimated 15,000 lbs. of 316-grade stainless steel. The vessel weighs approximately 105 tons, dry.

The hull was designed for efficiency using the latest in computer modeling. A state-of-the-art bulbous bow and hydrofoil beaver tail combine with a 72-inch, 5-bladed wheel to provide good fuel efficiency and speed.

Because of an anticipated busy fishing schedule, great care was taken to insure the vessel would require as little maintenance as possible. Wherever possible stainless steel, aluminum and composites were used to minimize corrosion and maintenance.

With the help of in-house designers at New World yachts, Barry and Hooper designed the boat to fit different gear types and diverse fisheries. New World built the mold, laid the hull and painted the boat, then handed the project to Barry and his team, which included Hooper and project management consultant Chuck Albertson, who managed outside contractors and some of the crew from new world yachts.

The big new boat has exceeded performance expectations in sea trials. With all 3 holds totaling 3,820 cubic feet full and full of fuel and water, the 750-hp Cummins Northwest-supplied QSK 19 pushed Optimus to a speed of better than 10.5 knots, with a comfortable 8,5 knot cruise at 1,450 rpm.

"The boat handled wonderfully," Hooper says. "It's very stable and nimble, and it turns and handles awesomely. We could not be happier with the handling."

Currie marine supplied two John Deere generators, one providing 150-kw and one 65-kw, each with PMG regulators.

Other features include dual circulation systems made from HDPE piping. The HDPE piping, used in heavy utility applications, is non corrosive and virtually unbreakable, and even at the low temperatures required for a refrigerated-sea-water (RSW) system, the piping remains tough but not brittle. Dual 35-ton RSW systems with titanium chillers, supplied by Wally McDonald at Fleet Refrigeration in Petersburg, Alaska, can chill two tanks at once or be switched to both serve one tank, quickly dropping the temperature by roughly 8-degrees an hour on a 45-ton tank.

Puget Sound Hydraulics installed redundant 160-GPM hydraulic systems, one off the main and one off the front of the 150 kW genset. A double 60/40 hydraulic running off the gear, as well as a 30-hp electric pump, offer more hydraulic options for the various fisheries.

Puget Sound Hydraulics installed the hydraulic tubing, with pilot operated remotes on the flybridge, as well as the fuel and steering system tubing.

An 80-hp bow thruster mounted in the bulbous bow helps the boat maneuver during herring fisheries, and the thruster is interfaced with the autopilot, to assist during pot fishing and longlining.

Interior is finished like a high-end yacht, and boasts 2 heads with showers, 6 bunks in the fo'c'sle, two in the stateroom and a twin size day bunk in the wheelhouse. The large galley features granite countertops and stainless steel appliances including a dishwasher. "I had just remodeled my kitchen at home," Albertson says, "and I thought the same granite countertops would be a good fit for this boat." Ample food storage should keep the crew fed, and a big screen TV facing the large 8-person dinette should keep them entertained when they're not fishing.

Radar Marine, of Bellingham, Washington, supplied the extensive electronics package featuring two sonars, a Wasp bottom charting system, an Olex sounder and a plethora of state of the art electronics.

On deck, Seattle's Snow and Company fabricated the main boom, outfitted with Pullmaster winches, which features a 15-foot slider and 18,000-lb. H-8 cargo winch, two PL-5 cargo winches and an M-8 topping winch. A first of its kind swing through telescoping picking boom with two rams was designed to the owners' specifications and built by Snow and Company in Ballard, Washington. Company president, Brett Snow, says the new picking boom design can retract to allow the smaller boom to swing port to starboard without interfering with the main boom's rigging. Snow and Company also built much of the new boat's deck equipment, from hatch covers and cleats to the roller davits and 316 stainless steel side stays, as well as the stainless steel crab davit.

The electrical system was designed and installed by Ballard, Washington-based Brothers Marine. The two-station programmable alarm system offers the option of monitoring bilge tanks, fire and smoke when in port, and switches to monitor all alarms when running.

Working with Hooper, Mavrik Marine, of La Conner, Washington, lofted and built the mast and the Rodden-designed high lift foil under the prop. "I feel like we used some of the best vendors and suppliers in the industry to build this boat," Hooper says. "And Curtis and the crew at Mountain Pacific Bank proved to be the right choice for our financing, providing flexibility and support to get this project done."

Hooper says the project was a learning experience, and he and the crew would love to see more of these boats built from the mold. "We wanted to build this boat right and we're very happy with the finished product," he says. The new boat will fish in Alaska for Black cod, halibut, herring, salmon and crab, and possibly squid in California.

F/V Optimus Specifications
Fuel Capacity: 6,000 gals
Lube Oil Capacity: 100 gals
Hydraulic Oil Capacity: 500 gals
Fresh Water Capacity: 2,200 gals
Fish Hold Capacity: 220,000 lbs of salmon
Horsepower: 750 at 1,850 rpm
Gear Ratio: 6.5x1
Wheel: 72-inch, five-blade
Shafting: 5-inch stainless
Steering: Wagner T-15 T Ram

Washington State Spawning Protection Bill

The Washington State legislature is considering Senate Bill 5254, which would prohibit activities that harm or disturb spawning beds of salmon and steelhead and other fish on all rivers and streams where spawning activities occur.

The prohibited activities would include wading on spawning beds, driving motor vehicles on spawning beds, the use of high-powered jet or propeller-driven boats across spawning beds, dragging anchors through spawning beds, digging or removing gravel from spawning beds, or any other physical disturbance capable of disturbing spawning fish or damaging or destroying nests of incubating eggs.

The Bill has been referred to the committee on Natural Resources & Parks. Commercial fishing associations are urging their members to contact committee Chairman Kirk Pearson, 360-786-7676, to request a hearing on SB 5254.

Scientists Back EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

A group of 360 scientists from the United States, Canada and Europe commended the US Environmental Protection Agency this week for its Bristol Bay watershed assessment and urged use of the Clean Water Act to protect the bay from mining.

“Based on the results of the assessment, we are very concerned about the prospect of large-scale mining in the unique and biologically rich watersheds of Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay,” the scientists said, in their letter to UPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and EPA Regional 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran.

“The preponderance of evidence presented in the watershed assessment indicates that large-scale hard rock mining in the Bristol Bay watershed threatens a world-class fishery and uniquely rich ecosystem, and we urge the administration to act quickly to protect the area,” the letter said.

The study, in its final document, concluded that mining of the scale of the proposed Pebble mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon-spawning streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds in the region. The assessment also said that failure of a tailings storage dam, releasing only a partial amount of stored tailings, would result in catastrophic effects on fishery resources, and the economies and cultures that depend on the fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership has criticized the report as a flawed analysis and has said it is continuing its effort toward submitting applications for federal and state permits to build the mine.

Prominent scientists who have been engaged in the discussion around the large-scale mine issue, including David Chambers of the Center for Science in Public Participation, and University of Washington Professor Daniel Schindler, said they found the report compelling.

The report “not only properly characterizes the importance of Bristol Bay, but conservatively underscores the possible impacts large scale mining would have on Bristol Bay,” Chambers said. “The analysis of the risks due to this type of mining in the watershed assessment is much more thorough than that which would be analyzed in an environmental impact statement under the permitting process.”

Schindler commented, “It is no coincidence that Bristol Bay fisheries, with their local-to-global significance, are supported by vast and fully functioning watersheds.

“In the Lower 48, we are beginning to appreciate what we have lost in salmon habitat by developing watersheds, and now realize how incredibly difficult, if not impossible, it is to restore proper system functioning once it has been degraded.”

The full letter is at

Alaska Board of Fisheries Debates Kenai River Management Issues

The Alaska Board of Fisheries, which is meeting in Anchorage Jan. 31 through Feb. 13, is wrestling with a number of issues related to salmon management, including the best way to manage king salmon on the Kenai River.

After much testimony from all sides, the board failed to pass a proposal from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association to amend the Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Management Plan to drop in-river goals from the list of escapement goals and prioritize achieving the lower end over exceeding the upper end of an escapement goal. The proposal would have required the Department of Fish and Game to utilize all prescriptive elements found in codified plans before going outside of codified plans to achieve established escapement goals.

Commercial setnet fishermen opposed the measure, introduced as Proposal 103. Arni Thomson, executive director of the Alaska Salmon Alliance, said his organization felt that Proposal 103 further restricts adaptive management and undermines the department’s ability to make in-season decisions. “The application of the language in this proposal could eliminate commercial fisheries,” Thomson said in a letter to Glenn Haight, executive director of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

“There is no methodology for measuring the effects of commercial fishing restrictions; there is no way to determine cause and effect. It is virtually impossible to connect a restriction on the drift fleet in mid-July to some variance in escapement to a stream in the Mat-Su (Matanuska-Susitna Valley) that isn’t counted until 30-60 days later.”

A link to audio on all public sessions of the Board of Fisheries meeting is at

Grenadier Issues On Final Action List at NPFMC Meeting

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Seattle through Feb. 11, is scheduled to take final action on grenadier management.

As background for that decision, the council will discuss an analysis of alternatives to manage three species of grenadiers: giant, Pacific and popeye grenadiers. This action would amend the fishery management plans for groundfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska to include grenadiers in the plans as either “in the fishery” or as an “ecosystem component.”

The purpose of this action would be to improve reporting and catch accounting of grenadiers in order to provide additional protection for grenadiers from potential adverse effects of groundfish fisheries off Alaska.

The public review draft of the environmental assessment/regulatory impact review/initial regulatory flexibility analysis prompted comment from the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, which notes grenadiers are not currently managed, so there are no quotas set and catch is not reported. This has become a cause for concern, particularly to some conservation groups advocating for more active management, ALFA said.

Given the abundance of grenadiers, the lack of interest in a directed grenadier fishery, but the importance of monitoring harvest, the council has identified the “ecosystem component” designation as its preferred alternative.

If the “ecosystem component” alternative were adopted, this would mean record-keeping requirements would increase, but quotas would not be set. If the “in the fishery” alternative were adopted, quotas and overfishing levels would be established.

Also among agenda is a discussion paper on Bering Sea halibut mortality, which will be discussed to determine whether an amendment is warranted to reduce halibut bycatch in some parts of the Bering Sea. ALPA notes that in Area 4CDE of the Bring Sea the halibut bycatch is four times the directed fishery catch limit. ALPA said it would push for aggressive action to reduce bycatch and protect the rebuilding potential of this halibut stock.

Alaska Legislature Considers Several Fisheries Bills

The Alaska Legislature, now in session in Juneau, has fisheries related bills on its agenda, related to changes in fees for non-resident one-week crewmember licenses, commercial loans, and product development tax credits.

The House Finance Committee last week held discussion on HB 143, a bill increasing the fees for non-resident one-week crewmember licenses from $30 to $60. HB 143 was introduced last March, and sponsored by Representatives Paul Seaton, R-Homer; Jonathan Kreiss, D-Sitka; and Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell.

HB 177, promoting commercial fishing loan programs within the Division of Economic Development, also introduced last year, was heard by the House Fisheries Committee this past week.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, said the bill would restore the division’s authority to offer product quality improvement and engine fuel efficiency loans at interest rates that motivate fishers to make these profitable investments in their businesses.

Edgmon said in a newsletter to constituents that the state Department of Commerce advised the Fisheries Committee that these loan programs are central to “public policy objectives established by the Legislature to improve Alaska’s seafood quality, price, and competitiveness in the world marketplace.”

Also before the House Fisheries Committee is HB 204, an act relating to a product development tax credit for certain salmon and herring products, by Edgmon and Kodiak Republican Alan Austerman.

The bill would allow taxpayers in the fisheries business to claim salmon product development tax credit of 50 percent of qualified investment in new property first placed into service in a shore-based plant or on a vessel in the state in the tax year.

Updates on these and other bills before the Legislature are at

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