Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Prince William Sound Acidification
Monitoring Study Underway

A new ocean acidification study is underway in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, along with monitoring of glacial runoff, and a search for plumes of water that could be harmful to some species.

The majority of funding for these studies comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acidification Program.

Scientists have estimated that the ocean today is 25 percent more acidic than it was 300 years ago, mostly due to increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and changes in land use. Studies show that almost half of the carbon dioxide emitted remains in the atmosphere, with the land and ocean absorbing the rest. When the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, its pH balance changes through a process called ocean acidification. Because cold water can absorb more carbon dioxide than warm water, acidification can disproportionately impact coastal regions around Alaska, scientists say.

Project leaders are Jeremy Mathis, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Ocean Acidification Research Center, and supervisory oceanographer of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle; and Wiley Evans, a research associate with the University of Alaska Fairbanks acidification center, in partnership with the Alaska Ocean Observing System.

Mathis and Evans have shown in recent papers that the process of ocean acidification may be worsened around tidewater glaciers due to the freshwater melt plumes that occur in summer or fall.

Mathis notes that glacier melt plumes have some unique chemistry that can exacerbate ocean acidification and impact the environment in Prince William Sound and out into the Gulf of Alaska. The goal, he said, “is to use the latest technology to find out what’s happening, so we can communicate that to Alaska residents and stakeholders.”

The Ocean Acidification Research Center supports five buoys around the state, as well as samplings twice annually in the gulf of Alaska, and development of a Gulf acidification forecast model. Data from the monitoring will be available on two websites,, and

National Fisheries Update Boasts Economic Gains,
Two Improved Fish Stocks

Annual reports measuring the economic impact of domestic commercial and recreational saltwater fishing are out, showing gains in rebuilding of the nation’s federally managed fisheries.

Taken together, the two reports, Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 and the Status of U.S. Fisheries 2013, also show the importance of fisheries in the U.S. economy, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The reports, released April 29, show that fishing is big business and culturally important in our country, said Eileen Sobeck, head of NOAA Fisheries.

The economics report documents how commercial and recreational fishing supported some 1.7 million jobs in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, a gain over 1.6 million jobs in 2011. The commercial fishing industry, including harvesters, processors and dealers, and wholesalers and retailers, generated $141 billion in sales, $39 billion in income, and supported 1.3 million jobs in 2012 in fishing and across the broader economy.

Recreational fishing generated $58 billion in sales, $19 billion in income, and supported 381,000 jobs in 2012 in fishing and across the broader economy.

The annual economics report also breaks down sales, income and job figures for each coastal state, including Alaska, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington. The five states generating the most recreational fishing jobs were Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas.

The other new report, Status of U.S. Fisheries 2013, also show improvement in U.S. fisheries through rebuilding of stocks. The two stocks rebuilt in 2013 include Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon and Southern Atlantic Coast black sea bass.

The Status of U.S. Fisheries 2013 is online at

Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 can be found at

No Fish For You

By Chris Philips, Managing Editor, Fishermen's News

Last week we were copied on an email exchange between a chef at one of the West Coast’s most successful, respected and renowned seafood restaurants and his supplier of fresh salmon.

The chef asked his supplier what he could expect for the coming week. A week before Easter, with Mother’s Day not far away, restaurants in Seattle are gearing up for “deck season,” when the weather makes al fresco dining attractive and profitable.

“I’m afraid that last week’s 8-hour opening was all we got,” the buyer responded. “Even though we stayed within our total catch prediction, there was a higher percentage of the limited upriver fish in the catch than the managers expected. So coupled with the fact that part of our share was transferred to the sport fishery this year, we don’t have enough fish for another opening at this time. If the run continues to come in as predicted we should get a few more openings after May 10th, like we did last year, but I realize that doesn’t help much when you’d like fresh fish in April.”

Mother’s Day is May 11th this year. Pacific Northwest restaurants hoping for fresh Columbia River Salmon for one of the busiest days of the year will be disappointed.

The fish purveyor explained the problem to the restaurateur:

“We are trying to hold on to this fishery but the Fish & Wildlife Commission, apparently with the approval of the Governor, continues to try and eliminate the commercial access to this public resource. I apologize for continuing to beat the same drum, but this would be a great time to send a letter from your owners and staff to the Fish & Wildlife Commission, the Governor, and to your local and federal legislators, asking them why one 8-hour opening (for 1,700 Chinook) is a fair sharing of this exceptional resource.”

We have the same question, and many more, to ask Governor Inslee. Why has he declined to address the inequities of the Commission’s actions on the Columbia? More from the fish broker:

“Incidentally, the sport fishery’s share is 10,150 upriver Chinook and another 500-800 lower river fish.”

It seems Pacific Northwest restaurants hoping for fresh salmon might have to rely on farmed salmon this year. We wonder whether Governors Kitzhaber and Inslee will be celebrating Mother’s Day this year, and if either has made reservations at one of the local restaurants operated, staffed and patronized by their constituents, who depend on fresh salmon for their livelihoods.

Commercial Fishermen See Gains in Measure
Passed By Alaska Legislature

A measure passed in the final days of the Alaska Legislature’s session simplifies the timing of tax payments to avoid unnecessary penalties, continues and expands certain value-added tax credits and provides credits for product upgrades.

Senate Bill 71 includes sections to help simplify the timing of fisheries resource landing taxes to avoid penalties, allows salmon hatcheries to collect cost recovery fees from Alaska’s salmon harvesters on a flat rate or percentage basis, and allows the processing sector to receive extended and expanded tax credits for innovation and seafood product development.

SB 71 allows fishermen to pay landing taxes in accordance with a schedule that coincides with the quarters when the actual fishing occurred, said Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, the initial sponsor of the legislation. It provides the same landing tax revenue quantity to the state, while eliminating unfair fees and fines for lateness that was beyond the control of Alaska’s fishermen, he said.

The bill also extends and expands the Alaska Salmon Product Development Tax Credit that is credited as a major factor in increasing the commercial value of Alaska salmon over the past few years, extending the credit for herring value-added processing.

By adding additional value to Alaska’s salmon and herring products, the seafood industry will provide additional revenue into the general fund in the form of an increase in landing tax contributions, United Fishermen of Alaska said.

The bill also creates incentives for the processing sector to stay ahead of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations by encouraging further development of product forms for seafood waste. The measure incentivizes investment in equipment to reduce the processing waste stream, alleviating the pressure to comply with specific EPA mandates.

The bill is expected to go to the office of Gov. Sean Parnell for signing shortly.

Canadian Mining Group Files Objections
to EPA’s 404(C) Process

Northern Dynasty Minerals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is responding to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to initiate efforts to determine whether to veto the Pebble mine project, saying the process is unauthorized, unprecedented and unfounded.

In a letter submitted to the EPA on April 29, by Northern Dynasty’s Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, the PLP’s chief executive officer, Tom Collier, said it is clear that the EPA’s intent for pre-emptive action under section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act would restrict development of the Pebble project “goes well beyond its statutory authority as established by Congress, and would have the effect of undermining the legitimate regulatory authority of the state of Alaska and the US Army Corps of Engineers.”

Collier said the EPA’s action is a precedent that will be leveraged by environmental activist groups “and will have a chilling effect on investment and job creation throughout the country. Congress never intended to grant EPA the authority to undertake proactive watershed zoning over broad areas of state and private lands when it passed the Clean Water Act, yet that is exactly what is happening here,” he said.

The EPA announced several weeks ago that it was initiating action under the Clean water Act to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery in advance of development of a proposed massive open pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Southwest Alaska. Mine proponents say the project, at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, would be developed and operated in a manner that would not adversely impact the fishery, which is critical to commercial, sport and subsistence users.

Mine proponents have been critical of the EPA’s decision to invoke the 404(C) process, while fish harvesters, environmentalists and others opposed to the mine – including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA – are applauding the process. Thousands of commercial harvesters in both Alaska and Washington, as well as those in related businesses, depend on the Bristol Bay salmon harvests for their livelihood.

The EPA decision to initial the 404(C) process came after completion of the extensive Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a document that mine proponents say provides insufficient scientific foundation for regulatory decision making, because the PLP has yet to submit a proposed development plan for the mine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pacific Seafood Processors Association

Celebrating Our 100th Anniversary – 1914-2014

By Glenn Reed

In 2014 Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA) celebrates 100 years of service. The association’s membership includes both seafood producers and associate members involved in supporting the seafood industry. PSPA has been through two world wars, a great depression, the change from wind to diesel powered vessels, a great recession, and untold predictions of the demise of the world we live in. Through all of this we have maintained a written record of our history and activity from our first organizational meetings in 1914, to our February Board meeting in Juneau, Alaska.

“At a gathering of canners, packers and others interested in the fishing industry, at the Hotel Washington, March 12th, an address was delivered by Mr. Frank Warren urging the necessity of the fishing interests in all lines forming a general organization which should embrace all branches of the fisheries of the Pacific Coast.” This is the first sentence from the first set of minutes establishing the ‘Pacific Coast Fisheries Association’. That first meeting lasted two days, March 12th & 13th, 1914. Voting rights were (and are) set at one person-one vote, no proxies. Initial dues were assessed “...based on the number of full cases of 48 pounds per case of canned salmon packed...”. Minimum dues were set at $50.00 per year. (Needless to say, 100 years of inflation have changed the dues considerably.)

By the time articles of incorporation were signed by Washington’s Assistant Secretary of State on June 29th, 1914 our name had been changed to the Association of Pacific Fisheries. In 1978, after passage of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA), our name was changed to the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA).

Excerpts from the original 1914 Articles of Incorporation define the purpose of the Association, in part, as follows: “To secure the enactment and enforcement of laws to properly regulate, protect and encourage the fishing industry. To advertise fish, and to explore new markets for its sale. To promote a higher standard of education among the members, with respect to both scientific and practical features of the industry. To improve and perpetuate the fishing industry on the Pacific Coast, and promote the welfare of the members of this Association.” Today our objectives remain much the same, although PSPA now represents our industry through offices in Seattle, Washington, Juneau, Alaska and Washington, DC.

Over the years PSPA has been involved in all areas of the seafood industry of the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. We have seen the decline of the commercial salmon industry on the West Coast and the rise of Alaska’s. We have seen Alaska move from territorial status to statehood. We have seen the dominance of foreign fishing fleets come and go off our shores. We have seen a frenzied race to develop underutilized fisheries after the 200 mile EEZ was established. We have seen the extreme lows in salmon abundance of the early 1970’s give way to record production now. We have seen Olympic-style derby fisheries replaced with various new management systems, which rationalized both harvesting and processing. And while, in more recent years, we have focused largely on the resources off Alaska, we continue to be actively involved in both state and federal legislative and regulatory arenas as they relate to the entire nation’s seafood industry.

The first President of our Association was E. B. Deming, a name that is still seen on quality seafood products today, 100 years later. This longevity reminds me of a Satchell Paige quote that may best define our pragmatic approach: “You win a few, you lose a few. Some get rained out. But you got to dress for them all.” We embrace the longer view. We take pride in our role in the seafood industry and fishery management, and in the sustainably managed fisheries we are engaged in today.

We take pride in our past, and see hope in the future as our members provide the most nutritious food on earth to markets in every corner of it. The uncertainty of the future has always defined our industry, and for many the future seems more uncertain than ever before. But we continue to believe that as long as we focus on the scientific needs of our fisheries, we will have healthy, sustainable fisheries for generations to come.

Set Netter Ban Initiative Back in Court

An Alaska Superior Court Judge is considering oral arguments in the latest round of a dispute over a decision by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to prevent a set netter ban initiative from getting on to the state’s primary election ballot in August 2016.

Judge Catherine Easter heard those oral arguments on April 22 in Superior Court in Anchorage and said she would issue a decision within 60 days.

The case stems from a ballot initiative application for an urban commercial set net ban sought by an organization of Kenai Peninsula sport fishing advocates, Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance.

Treadwell rejected the proposed statewide initiative that would have banned commercial shore gill nets and set nets in non-subsistence areas of the state.

His decision was based on an opinion from the state Department of Law that the proposed initiative is prohibited under the Alaska Constitution. The Law Department cited primarily a 1996 Pullen v. Ulmer decision of the Alaska Supreme Court, a case that held that salmon are assets of the state which may not be appropriated by initiative and that the preferential treatment of certain fisheries may constitute a prohibited appropriation, Treadwell said.

Anchorage attorney Matt Singer, legal counsel to the sportsmen’s group, argued that Treadwell’s decision was wrong and dangerous. “Alaskan voters have a long history of using ballot initiatives to protect fish and game,” Singer said. Using that logic, several ballot initiatives, including a ban on fish traps and same day aerial wolf hunting would never have been passed by the Alaska public, he said.

Advocates for the commercial set netters, united as Resources for All Alaskans, agree with Treadwell that a set netter ban would be unconstitutional. Resources for All Alaska, whose six member board represents a cross-section of Alaska commercial fishing interests and fishing communities, said they would continue to supplement the state’s legal arguments and work to avoid what they termed ill-conceived allocation of state assets by way of an unconstitutional initiative.

Kenai Peninsula set netter Jim Butler, president of Resources for All Alaskans, said the big deal here is the legal question.

“This is an allocation of a state asset by initiative, and that is prohibited in the constitution,” said Butler. “Essentially we believe the government was correct, that this was an inappropriate allocation of a state asset by the initiative process.”

Fishermen’s Finest Pleads Guilty to Illegal Fishing

A Kirkland, Washington based corporation that operates two commercial trawling vessels in Alaska waters has pleaded guilty in court in Cordova, Alaska, to illegal fishing with non-pelagic trawl gear in state waters closed to trawl gear use.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ investigations unit said their investigation revealed that in July of 2010 and again in July of 2011, the F/V US Intrepid, owned by Fishermen’s Finest LLC, harvested a total of over 56,000 pounds of lingcod by catch in waters of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska using non-pelagic trawl gear during a federal fishery.

While a majority of the lingcod was released, 11,000 pounds were retained and sold commercially, running the corporation afoul with state law, troopers said.

As part of a plea agreement with the state of Alaska reached on April 21, Fishermen’s Finest was sentenced to pay a fine of $12,500, and an additional $2,500 suspended with a probationary period of three years.  The company was also ordered to forfeit proceeds from the sale of the illegal catch in the amount of $10,326, troopers said.

“In just one week, this one vessel illegally harvested approximately 70 percent of the entire lingcod quota for the Super Exclusive Icy Bay Subdistrict Lingcod fishery,” said Alaska Wildlife Troopers Sgt. Brent Johnson. “This case highlights the importance of Wildlife Investigations Unit as it was specifically created to investigate these types of high value cases involving commercial users of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources.”

Fishermen’s Finest, an independent American fishing company, manages two catcher/processor vessels in the bottomfish fisheries of the North Pacific and Bering Sea, the 185-foot F/V U.S. Intrepid, with 44 crew, and the 160-foot F/V American #1, with a crew of 39 workers.

Lingcod are a fish of the greenling family unique to the west coast of north America, from the Shumagin Islands in the Gulf of Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. Lingcod is well known for its cod-like white, flaky flesh.

ComFish Salutes Skills of Cannery Workers in Kodiak

Wind, rain and temperatures hovering in the low 40s, but feeling a lot colder, set the stage in Kodiak on April 19 for an outdoor fish filleting contest honoring the skills of the men and women on the Alaska island’s cannery row.

Under a canopy provided by the local Lions Club, in an event organized by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Arturo Fangorila of Pacific Seafoods filleted four baskets full of Pacific cod, Arrowtooth flounder, rex sole and rock sole to win a round trip ticket to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines donated by the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.

Fangorila and eight other cannery workers were judged on their speed in filleting, cutting and trimming skills, and got points deducted for any blemishes, bones, ragged edges and other improper cut or trimmed fillets.

Jeff Stephan of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Kodiak, was the master of ceremonies for the event, which drew a crowd of cannery workers and participants in Kodiak’s annual ComFish fishery forums and trade show.

They were there, said Stephan, to celebrate the processor workforce, a group of people not much seen by the public, but very key to the success of seafood processing in Alaska.

While filleting contestants worked under the watchful eyes of judges, the crowd stood in their rain gear outside the protection of the canopy, cheering the contestants on. Participants in addition to Fangorila, represented Westward Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Global Seafoods, Alaska Pacific Seafoods and Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

The fillet competition, a first for ComFish, was organized by Tony Olazabal, production manager for Ocean Beauty Seafoods in Kodiak

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