Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oceana Report Says Billions of Pounds of Fish
Are Wasted Annually

Commercial fisheries worldwide, including one in Alaska and two in California are being accused by the environmental group Oceana of being among major culprits in worldwide discards at sea of what may amount to some 63 billion pounds of fish a year. According to “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems,” a report released March 20 by Oceana, global bycatch may amount to 40 percent of the world’s harvest, including 17-22 percent of the US catch every year.

Jon Warrenchuck, a senior ocean scientist for Oceana in Juneau, Alaska said much of the data used to compile the report came from National Marine Fisheries Service bycatch reports from 2005 and updates made in 2010.

Fisheries cited as the nine dirtiest US fisheries include the Gulf of Alaska flatfish trawl fishery, the California set gillnet fishery, and the California drift gillnet fishery.

According to Oceana, the Gulf of Alaska flatfish trawl fishery, with a discard rate of 35 percent, throws more than 34 million pounds of fish overboard in one year, including 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod.

The California set gillnet fishery was cited for bottom-set gillnets that entangle and kill thousands of marine mammals, sharks and turtles every year, and the California drift gillnet fishery, in which drift gillnets are used to catch swordfish and thresher sharks, was cited for a 63 percent discard rate.

NMFS data sets were used for the report. Data for the California fisheries cited is at

Oceana’s report called for phasing out use of drift gillnets, replacing them with cleaner gear, such as harpoons, which result in zero bycatch.

The report is critical of the use of gillnets, where the netting can be up to two miles long and anchored hundreds of feet deep or left floating at the surface. “Drift gillnets more than one mile long are so harmful to the marine environment that they have been banned on the high seas by the United Nations and by many other countries,” the report said.

Congress Weighs In on Bolstering Arctic Readiness, Refurbishing Polar Sea

Increasing traffic and growing interest in oil exploration is behind introduction of legislation in Congress to strengthen icebreaking capabilities, increase vessel-tracking capacity and enhance oil spill response and recovery.

The Coast Guard Arctic Preparedness Act, S 2131, would give the Coast Guard the tools it needs to protect America’s interests in the Arctic, and meet its mission requirements, according to co-sponsors Senators Maria Cantwell, D-WA, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Both serve on the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, which Begich chairs.

The melting polar ice cap has opened new passageways through the Arctic ice, increasing opportunity for international commerce, and with it increasing environmental concerns, including the capability of vessels to operate in sea ice.

With the Arctic opening up new opportunities for development and shipping, the Coast Guard needs to be better prepared to support increased activity in the region,” Begich said. “The US is an Arctic nation and it’s time that we commit serious resources to the region and start acting like one.”

The legislation, introduced in mid-March, would authorize the Coast Guard to overhaul the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea, now idle at Seattle’s Pier 36, and return it to service. When the Coast Guard earlier tried to scrap the 36-year-old Polar Sea, Cantwell and Begich introduced legislation to save the vessel, because its specialized hull is in excellent condition. Without the Polar Sea, the United States has only two operational polar icebreakers: the Polar Star and the Healy, the latter a medium icebreaker and research vessel. In 2012, the Healy drew international attention as it cut a path through Arctic sea ice to Nome, Alaska, to allow for delivery of critically needed fuel.

The bill would also be good news for Washington state’s economy. “Refurbishing a large icebreaking vessel like the Polar Sea can mean hundreds of shipbuilding jobs,” Cantwell said. “The Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet also needs new vessels and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get that accomplished.”

Building a new vessel can take eight to ten years and employ more than 1,000 workers, while refurbishing a large icebreaker like the Polar Star can take roughly five years, employing upwards of 300 workers, Cantwell said. Even if the proposed legislation passes, work on the Polar Sea would not begin until Congress approves money through the appropriations process.

Great Pacific Repower

By Kathy A. Smith

A Tier 3, EPA-approved mechanical engine, manufactured by Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC Diesel) is breathing new life into the Pollock trawler, Great Pacific. This engine is the first to power a commercial fishing boat in the US.

“This is great news for fishing vessel owners who want to operate in Dutch Harbor because a lot of them have a thorough mechanical background,” says Justin Roeser, Operations Manager for Seattle-based Transmarine Propulsion, ABC Diesel’s North American representative. “This is like the last of the old school diesel engines before we get into Tier 4, which comes into effect January 2015.”

The repower project began last fall after Great Pacific’s owner, Alaska Boat Company, weighed increasing maintenance costs, oil consumption and reliability concerns on the vessel’s existing Alpha MAN diesel engine against the options of high-speed or medium speed alternatives. Switching to a high-speed engine meant pulling out the engine, the shafting, the gearbox and propeller.

“They wanted to keep it simple,” explains Roeser. “Everything is controlled by a mechanical property. For example, the fuel injection is one pump per cylinder as opposed to a common rail or electronic fuel injection. It’s not as easy to carry out maintenance on electronic fuel injection or electronically-controlled engines because sometimes only the manufacturer can give you access to the tool but the tool will only give you a code which you really can’t do much with.”

The original plan was to remove the Alpha engine by going through the bottom of Great Pacific, but the logistics of docking the vessel up to the necessary height in the dry dock was one barrier that wouldn’t make the project cost-effective. In the end, it was decided to cut a hole through the side of the hull. That job was managed by Seattle-based Snow & Company, Inc. in association with Northlake Shipyards.

“We cut a hole on the starboard side and went through the water tank where we created a passageway for the exchange,” says Brett Snow, Owner of Snow & Company. “Then we did modifications to the engine bed and hydraulic and refrigeration piping systems, added new keel coolers and a new exhaust system. This took about a week of heaving steel work and heavy moving. Afterward, the piping projects began, so the entire project took about eight weeks.”

The Alpha Diesel was a 10-cylinder in V formation, whereas the ABC Diesel is a six-cylinder inline engine. The new engine gives Great Pacific 240 HP more while losing four cylinders, which Roeser says, among its fuel-efficiency advantages, will save Alaska Boat Company up to 40 percent in overhaul costs. The lifecycle of the engine will be at least 30 years or more if proper maintenance is adhered to.

“As engines get older, parts become harder to find,” says Roeser. “You get to the point where replacing major components like crankshafts, engine blocks, connecting rods, cylinder heads and liners will need a long lead time or you’ll have to go to the second-hand market and hope you can recondition them yourself. Or you find a parts dealer that’s only dealing with reconditioned components who is buying them from scrap yards and they’re fixing them and selling to the owner.”

“At some point, you’ll have to be putting in new cylinder liners and you might also put in new pistons and connecting rods because the manufacturer may say so,” Roeser continues. “But when it comes to spare parts, because most fishing vessel owners deal with European-made engines, the logistics of getting parts from Europe to Alaska is going to take about four to six days, even by express shipping.”

To address this challenge, Transmarine is stocking all of the major components, both in their Seattle location, as well as in their Florida shop. They stock maintenance sets that are automatically sent out at certain engine maintenance intervals. “Some owners buy 10 sets up front so they essentially pretty much have their own inventory sets,” says Roeser. “We also keep all of the consumables like seals, filters, o-rings and gaskets in stock. Essentially we have all major components available for an engine’s first 6,000 hours.”

The Tier 3 engine is narrower than the Alpha but Alaska Boat Company had to sacrifice some of the overhead. However, because ABC Diesel has provided similar engines in European trains, there is already a set of special tools available so that if the owner wants to pull a piston and connecting rod, the tools allow the piston to be held in place above the engine block with enough distance to pull the connecting rod out.

“We can customize the tooling and a lot of the engine to the owner’s requirements,” says Roeser. “They can decide what side they want the turbocharger on, how deep they want the sump, what kind of fuel injection, governor, etc. When you order an engine, you get a questionnaire you can work on with your crew or port engineer. You can even have it painted whatever kind of paint you want. It’s that customizable.”

“It’s certainly a beautiful piece of equipment, and the whole project went very smoothly with this team,” adds Snow.

The project has brought Alaska Boat Company and Transmarine full circle. “We started with Great Pacific in the 80s and have learned over 30 years what the biggest problem having a European engine in US waters is like,” says Roeser. “Luckily enough, we were able to work with a flexible company like ABC Diesel to make this happen.”

Impact Lingers 25 Years After Exxon Valdez
Oil Spill Disaster

A quarter of a century after the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on March 24, 1989, causing more than 11 million gallons of crude oil to pollute Prince William Sound, environmental and legal issues still stir up controversy.

In Prince William Sound, still unresolved is the issue of toxic impact the spilled oil continues to have on fish, wildlife and the environment. The spill is still negatively impacting the sound’s coastal ecosystem. In the courts, in the aftermath of the original 1991 $1 billion settlement, there is still no resolution on additional payments of up to $100 million for environmental damages that were unidentified at the time of the settlement.

The settlement included a consent decree with a “reopener” clause to allow state and federal governments to see more money for additional restoration work.

Federal District Judge H. Russel Holland told state and federal representatives on March 20 that the court expects scientific studies that the governments said were not yet completed to be completed by June, and if further proceedings in court become necessary that the parties propose a calendar for resolution of any legal issues as a first order of business.

Marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner, who was the University of Alaska marine advisor for Prince William Sound region at the time of the disaster, says the Exxon Valdez Reopener included in the 1991 decision “was a legal commitment” among the state, the federal government and Exxon, “and now all have betrayed that commitment.

“The betrayal of the Exxon Reopener calls into question the government’s claim that oil development in Alaska will be responsible. If the government will not even hold oil companies to their legal obligations to pay for environmental damage, then how can anyone trust them?” Steiner asked.

The Alaska Legislature is considering a resolution urging the state and federal governments to seek those additional damages from Exxon Mobil Corp.

Southeast Alaska Harvesters Concerned Over Plans for Canadian Mines

Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen are in Washington DC this week seeking help from the federal government to protect their region’s fisheries and tourism industries from potential water pollution from large-scale Canadian mines.

Representatives of the Alaska Trollers Association, Petersburg Vessel Owners Association and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska were to meet with Alaska’s congressional delegation and the State Department.

Their concern, they said, is that at least five large-scale mines are planned for northwest British Columbia in watersheds draining into Southeast Alaska rivers.

Dale Kelley, executive director of Alaska Trollers Association, notes that the seafood industry is the largest private employer in Alaska, and that in Southeast Alaska alone, more than 5,000 commercial fishing families provide jobs and revenue for the state and dozens of small towns not connected to the road system.

“Tourism is also an important economic driver and sport fishing and subsistence are crucial for our sustenance and quality of life,” Kelley said.

Kelley and other delegates, including Brian Lynch, executive director of Petersburg Vessel Owners Association, are concerned over the rapid pace of Canadian mining development in transboundary watersheds, including the Taku, Stikine and Unuk—prized salmon-producing rivers. They want guarantees that Alaska’s water and fish will not be harmed by British Columbia’s mining development ventures.

The rivers of concern are the region’s top producers of wild salmon and eulachon, Lynch said. “The risk of pollution in the form of acid mine drainage is very real, while the benefit of these mines to Alaska is basically zero.”

The group wants Alaska’s congressional delegation to see that the State Department protects Alaska’s downstream interests “and works with Canada to ensure this unique international salmon-producing region is not negatively impacted by industrial development,” Lynch said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing the Right Refrigeration

By Dan Huet

When it comes time to upgrade existing equipment or to install a new refrigeration system on your boat for the first time, there are a few important things to think about. According to Kurt Ness at Integrated Marine Systems, “There are a lot of factors to consider when exploring freezing or Refrigerated Seawater (RSW) options. Power requirements, hold capacity, vessel insulation, market demands, processors’ expectations and more.”

The initial question may be to ask yourself what your market requires. Is there a chance to work multiple fisheries in the future? If there is potential for both chilled and frozen product, you can plan for that now, since there are refrigeration systems that will allow you to chill as well as freeze.

Next ask yourself how much product you will need to be able to chill or freeze. Look at your forecast by the day and by the hour. Figure out the product’s starting temperature and then consider how cold it needs to be and how fast it needs to get there. Sometimes the boat helps make the decision for you: how much room do you have available? Often a self-contained RSW system is the product of choice. Having all major components (chiller, compressor, condenser, etc.) in one location, on a skid, saves on installation costs, maintenance, and overall ease of operation.

With the answers to these questions, you are ready to determine how much refrigeration you need. When you talk with refrigeration specialists, being prepared with this information is crucial. They need to understand where you are going and how you want to get there, in order to recommend the right equipment. Make sure you choose a company with a proven track record, history, and reputation in the industry. Each company will rate their systems differently. Either chilling a water volume and product weight or freezing a specific number of pounds down to a desired temperature in a specified amount of time will determine the required refrigeration tonnage. Ness says that when IMS is talking with a fisherman to determine their needs, “Supplying the right system takes collaboration, gathering of information, and proper engineering while ultimately offering the customer a solution that provides a return on their investment.”

Your refrigeration equipment should provide you with years of solid service. The extra dollars earned for every pound of fish you catch will pay for your initial equipment investment, often within the first year depending on your market, processor-offered incentives, and catch-rate. For example, some markets offer up to a 15-cent bonus per pound of chilled fish, so it’s easy to see how quickly the initial investment can pay for the equipment and start making the fisherman money every season. Having an RSW system also creates independence for the owner by privatizing the equipment and not being dependent on purchasing ice, wasting fuel, time, and money.

Class Time
Chilling fish is the first step in the Cold Chain, and fishermen should be rewarded for their efforts to improve the industry while offering a superior product to the consumer. A major benefit of self-contained RSW systems is the ease of operation. Industry leader Jim Stone says, “The size, portability and reliability for the price cannot be beat.” Taking the mystery out of refrigeration is key. Purchasing a unit that runs itself with very little interface is extremely beneficial. “We want to fish, not worry about refrigeration; that’s why these units are a no-brainer. Plus, the maintenance and refrigeration classes are useful,” says skipper Casey McManus.

McManus is referring to a Marine Refrigeration Operator Class (MROC), which is a professional educational program to define a proficient Marine Refrigerator Operator. A Certification of Completion is given upon attending a three-day classroom workshop, passing a written and a hands-on aptitude test that is designed to show proficiency of knowledge and skill in the following areas:
Theory of Marine Refrigeration, Sizing of units, Components, Controller programming, Safety, Operation, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting. Upon certification the MROC will also prepare an operator with the ability to communicate with technicians effectively when necessary. Classes are based on basic principles and will increase users understanding.

IMS provides RSW equipment for Marine Refrigeration Operator classes sponsored by SeaGrant and Marine Mechanical Solutions (MMS) in Alaska and Washington many times throughout the year. “By offering Marine Educational Experiences to the industry we want you to get the most efficiency out of your Marine Refrigeration Unit; this class will give you the tools to protect your investment,” says MMS co-founder, Mendi Short.

Dan Huet works for Seattle-based Integrated Marine Systems (, which engineers and manufactures refrigeration products that serve a variety of freezing and chilling needs for fishermen and processors. He can be reached

Consultation Period on Pebble Mine Extended by EPA

Environmental Protection Agency officials have extended until April 29 an early consultation period with state and mining interests to allow both to provide information relevant to the 404(C) process under the Clean Water Act.

The previous deadline was March 14.

The state of Alaska, as the landowner, and the Pebble Limited Partnership must provide that information to EPA. They must demonstrate to EPA that no unacceptable adverse effects to aquatic resources would result from mining the Pebble deposit, or show that actions could be taken to prevent unacceptable adverse effects to waters from such a mine.

Section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to prohibit, restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in waters of the United States, including wetlands, whenever it determines, after notice and opportunity for public hearing, that use of such sites for disposal would have an unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, municipal water supplies, or recreational areas.

The EPA began on Feb. 28, the process to identify appropriate options to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, the largest of its kind in the world. There are several steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(C) review process, and public involvement opportunities are part of the process.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requested the action, saying that it reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources, and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale.

The action does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting.

The PLP has maintained that the Pebble mine can be constructed and operated in harmony with the fishery, which is critical to commercial, sport and subsistence users, as well as the area’s vast numbers of wildlife.

Waldrop Resigns, BBRSDA Appoints LaRussa as Interim Executive Director

Bob Waldrop has resigned as executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, but said March 17 that he will be on tap to help newly appointed interim director Mike LaRussa.

Waldrop, who has spent his professional career in the Alaskan salmon industry, said in a telephone interview from Boston that he would stay on with the BBRSDA until assured of a smooth transition. Waldrop was in Boston for the Seafood Expo North America, formerly the International Boston Seafood Show, where BBRSDA was featuring Bristol Bay sockeye salmon at a booth.

Robert Heyano, president of the board of directors of the BBRSDA, announced on March 14 that the board had accepted Waldrop’s resignation, and wished Waldrop well in his next endeavors.

LaRussa, who is the association’s treasurer, will serve as interim executive director.

The board is currently interviewing candidates and expects to name a successor within 60 days.

During Waldrop’s tenure the BBRSDA has promoted greater ice capacity and improved handling and quality of Bristol Bay’s commercial salmon harvest.

Waldrop said that with the quality of fish harvests improved and markets strong, this is a nice point at which to change the guard, as he contemplates his own plans for the future.

Salmon and Herring Product Development Tax Credit Passes Alaska House

Legislation to provide a product development tax credit for certain salmon and herring products has passed the Alaska House and moved to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

The legislation would allow a fisheries business to claim a 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 Alaska in the tax year. The current legislation applies to salmon products only.

The legislation now before the Senate would include salmon or herring products, including canned salmon products in can sizes other than 14.75 ounces or 7.5 ounces. Property investment would include equipment used to fillet, skin, portion mince, form, extrude, stuff, inject, mix, marinate, preserve, dry, smoke, brine, package, freeze, scale, grind, separate meat from bone, or remove pin bones. It would also cover new parts necessary for, or costs associated with, converting a canned salmon line to produce can sizes other than 14.75 ounces or 7.5 ounces.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, has a number of co-sponsors, including Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D- Dillingham. It is posted online at

HB 143, a bill increasing fees for non-resident one-week crewmember licenses from $30 to $60, which was introduced last March by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, is still in the House, as is Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D- Dillingham’s HB 177, which promotes commercial fishing loan programs within the Division of Economic Development.

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