Wednesday, December 30, 2015

AMSEA Marine Safety Courses

US Coast Guard required drill conductor courses and more are available starting in January through the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, with details and registration information available on the association website,

The complete list of courses ranges from drill conductor, mariner’s first aid and CPR to marine safety instructor training, with the last being offered in Seward, Alaska, and Abbeville, Louisiana.

The list so far also includes courses at Sitka, King Salmon, Juneau, Kodiak, Metlakatla, and Wrangell, Alaska.

Executive director Jerry Dzugan, who has served in that capacity since 1987, notes that in an average year AMSEA trains some 6,000 to 6,500 people in various aspects of marine safety. The courses offered are directed at commercial harvesters, recreational boaters, youth and educators, so that the educators, in turn, can train more people.

The educator workshops teach a variety of skills, from how to recognize signs of hypothermia to cold water survival, basic navigation and how to don an immersion suit. There is also a cold water safety and survival for educators course taught online through the University of Alaska Southeast.

AMSEA got its start in Kodiak and Sitka back in the 1970s, but the name AMSEA didn’t come into being until 1985.

Course fees cover only a percentage of the cost of the AMSEA program, which has for years been offering courses all over the United States. Other funding sources include the Alaska Legislature, a federal contract with the US Coast Guard, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Detailed information on courses available, the instructors and how to become an AMSEA member are on the website. Membership fees help support the programs of this non-profit organization.

Alaska Symphony of Seafood Deadline

The deadline is fast approaching for product entries for the 2016 Alaska Symphony of Seafood, with the winners to be announced at the symphony’s Anchorage gala on Feb. 19.

The annual event, organized by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to promote value-added product development the state’s wild seafood resources, dates back to 1993. AFDF itself is a private, non-profit entity created in 1978 to promote further development of Alaska’s seafood industry.

Entries this year will be grouped into one of four categories: the new Beyond the Egg, Beyond the Plate, retail and food service.

Beyond the Egg will include products made with roe or uni, such as jarred ikura, herring roe-on-kelp, uni paste or uni crème brulee.

Last year’s grand prize winner, in the Beyond the Plate category, was Yummy Chummies, a popular salmon-based pet snack created in Anchorage by Arctic Paws.

Smoked seafood entries, which formerly were in a separate category, are now judged either as retail or food service entries.

Each entry is evaluated based on the product’s packing and presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success.

Industry supporters and others who attend the symphony galas on Feb. 10th in Seattle, Feb. 16th in Juneau and Feb. 19th in Anchorage also get to vote for their favorite entry for the People’s Choice award.

Winners in each category will get round-trip airfare to the Seafood Expo North America in Boston this coming spring, to display and promote their product.

More information about the Alaska Symphony of Seafood is at

Floating Strip Club Owner Convicted

The owner of a floating strip club vessel anchored in Kodiak Harbor has been convicted of dumping sewage directly overboard into harbor waters.

The conviction of Darren K. Byler by a federal court jury in Anchorage was announced in late December of US Attorney Karen L. Loeffler. He was found guilty of violating the Refuse Act and Making False Statements.

According to evidence presented at trial, more than 1,000 customers visited the Wild Alaskan during its operation from June through November 2014. The vessel had separate bathroom facilities for patrons and employees, and sewage from both bathrooms was piped to flow directly overboard into the harbor.

Evidence establishing this fact included the absence of any storage facilities on board the Wild Alaskan capable of containing sewage.

When asked to produce documentation about his sewage disposal from the Wild Alaskan, Byler gave the Coat Guard Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak a false ship log, Loeffler said. In the log the defendant claimed to have disposed of 1,500 gallons of raw sewage from the vessel at a harbor disposal facility in late July 2014, as well as additional loads of sewage in September and October 2014.

The jury heard testimony from multiple witnesses and saw video evidence that Byler was not seen off loading sewage in late July nor on days he claimed to have traveled off shore to dump sewage beyond three nautical miles from shore.

Byler is to be sentenced by US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason on March 28.

The maximum statutory penalty for violating the refuse Act is not less than 30 days and up to one-year imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000 for each day of the violation, a one-year term of supervised release and $25 special assessment.

The maximum statutory penalty for a False Statements violation is up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, a two-year term of supervised release and a $100 special assessment.

UniSea Seeks Take of Marine Mammals

The seafood processor UniSea, a subsidiary of Japan’s Nippon Suisan Kaisha, is seeking federal authorization to take marine mammals incidental to a dock construction project at its seafood processing facility at Unalaska.

UniSea made its request to the National Marine Fisheries Service in mid-December.

NMFS is now requesting comments on its proposal to issue an incidental harassment authorization to UniSea to incidentally take marine mammals, by Level B. Harrassment only, during the specified construction activity. Comments and information must be received no later than Jan. 22.

NMFS is preparing an environmental assessment for the proposed issuance of an incidental harassment authorization, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, to determine whether or not this proposed activity may have significant direct, indirect and cumulative effects on the human environment.

The environmental assessment will be posted online when finalized at

Comments on the application should be addressed to Jolie Harrison, chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources. Physical comments should be sent to 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, and electronic comments should be sent to

For further information contact Jordan Carduner, Office of Protected Resources, at 1-301-427-8401
The company began in 1974, then known as Universal Seafoods, to participate in the king crab and tanner crab fisheries.

The largest part of the company’s Alaska operations now consist of processing facilities at Dutch Harbor, which produce surimi, the frozen fish protein manufactured from pollock, and pollock fillet block product. UniSea also processes other seafoods, including snow crab, king crab, cod, halibut, yellowfin sole and herring. And UniSea operates the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Dutch Harbor, a 112-room facility, and the UniSea Inn.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

US Arctic Policy Leader to Speak at AMSS

Mark Brzezinski, executive director of the federal government’s Arctic executive Steering Committee, heads the line-up of keynote speakers for the annual Alaska Marine Science Symposium, coming up Jan. 25-28 in Anchorage.

The United States is currently chairing the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum of eight Arctic coastal and near-coastal states, as well as indigenous representatives. Their work is of great interest to the fisheries industry, since Alaska has warmed twice as rapidly as the rest of the US over the past 60 years.

Also among the keynote speakers are Wallace Nichols, and Kristin Laidre.

Nichols is a marine biologist, explorer and a former senior scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, whose interests span ocean and aquatic ecosystems, migratory species, marine protected areas, fisheries management and plastic pollution. Laidre is an oceanographer and assistant professor of fisheries, and a principal scientist at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington, working on problems of applied animal ecology.

The annual conference is organized by region. Arctic Ocean issues are on the agenda for Jan. 26, Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands for Jan. 27, and the Gulf of Alaska for Jan. 28.

Within each geographical region, talks are presented on a variety of research themes, including climate and oceanography, lower trophic levels, fishes and fish habitats, seabirds, mammals, humans, ecosystem perspectives.

A more detailed agenda is coming soon, but the daily schedule of presentations is already online at

Report Evaluates BSAI and GOA Fisheries

New catch and economic reports on groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska show that the groundfish catch off Alaska totaled 2.3 million tons in 2014, up 4.2 percent from a year earlier. And that harvest was roughly five times larger than the combined catch of Alaska’s other commercial domestic species.

The information is contained in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s annual stock assessment and fishery evaluation (SAFE) report released this past week.

Groundfish accounted for 85 percent of Alaska’s 2014 total catch, which was slightly greater than typical because of lower Pacific salmon catch, reduced halibut catches, and increased Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvest, biologists said. The groundfish fishery off Alaska is an important segment of the US fishing industry. In 2013, it accounted for 48 percent of the weight of total domestic landings.

The ex-vessel value of Alaska pollock was $474 million in 2014, with pollock prices falling slightly in the Gulf, but rising slightly in the BSAI. Together with the catch increase, the net effect was a 4.1 percent increase in pollock ex-vessel value.

However, larger gains in ex-vessel value came from Pacific cod, with an increase of 22 percent to $204 million in 2014. The report also notes that the real ex-vessel value of all Alaska domestic fish and shellfish catch, including the estimated value of fish caught almost exclusively by catcher/processors, decreased from $1,950.6 million in 2013 to $1,845.8 million in 2014. The first wholesale value of 2014 groundfish catch was $2,345.6 million. The 2014 total groundfish catch increased by 4.2 percent, and the total first-wholesale value increased by 7.6 percent relative to 2013, the report said.

Groundfish fisheries accounted for 50.8 percent of the ex-vessel value of all commercial fisheries off Alaska, while the Pacific salmon fishery was second with $546 million or 29.6 percent of the total Alaska ex-vessel value. The value of the shellfish fishery came to $244.1 million or 13.2 percent of the total for Alaska, and exceeded the value of Pacific halibut with $106.7 million or 5.8 percent of the total for Alaska.

The complete report is online at

Fishery Access Workshop

A two-day workshop scheduled by Alaska Sea Grant for Jan. 12-13 in Anchorage will focus on the loss of access by Alaskans to commercial fishing and what can be done to reverse that trend.

The goal is to draw up an objective analysis of the trends in fishing access privileges held by Alaskans, identify possible solutions and to develop pathways at legislative, regulatory, and economic levels to achieve outcomes, Sea Grant officials said.

The speakers list includes Robin Samuelsen of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and others discussing historical perspectives on Alaska’s limited entry and federal limited access programs.

Participants will include diverse representatives from Alaska’s fishing associations and communities, Alaska Native organizations and tribes, state and federal regulators, legal advisors, academics and other policy makers.

The complete agenda can be found at

Those interested in attending are asked to register online at no cost at this website, to help Sea Grant in planning for the event.

SE Tanner, Gold King Crab to Open Feb. 17

Survey data is still being analyzed in advance of the upcoming commercial tanner and golden king crab fisheries in southeast Alaska, which will open by regulation on Feb. 17.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said this past week that quotas for both fisheries are to be announced in January.

The registration deadline for both fisheries in Jan. 19, and anyone registering after that date will be required to pay a $45 late fee.

Buoy tags are mandatory for all commercial tanner and golden king crab gear and are available at any area office in Southeast Alaska for $1.25 each.

State biologists said that the season start date for both fisheries is based on the date with the smallest Juneau tidal range between Feb. 10 and Feb. 17.

Fishermen are also reminded that weather delay criteria for the tanner and king crab fisheries have been adopted into regulation. Any delay to the start of the 2015/2016 seasons due to weather will be announced 24 hours before the start of the fisheries.

Further information on these fisheries will be announced in subsequent news releases.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BSAI Pollock TAC Up, Cod Down

Federal fisheries manager have set the 2016 total allowable catch (TAC) for pollock in the Bering Sea at 1.340 million metric tons, up from 1.310 in 2015.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, at its annual December meeting in Anchorage, also lowered the Bering Sea cod TAC from 240 million metric tons to 238.7 million metric tons, while raising the Aleutian Islands P-cod TAC from 9.42 million metric tons to 12.839 million metric tons.

Sablefish TAC for the Bering Sea dropped from 1.333 metric tons to 1.151 metric tons, and from 1.802 metric tons to 1.557 metric tons in the Aleutian Islands.

Arrowtooth flounder TAC for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands dropped from 22,000 metric tons to 14,000 metric tons, and rock sole from 69,250 metric tons to 57,100 metric tons. Atka mackerel TAC rose just slightly in the BSAI, from 54,500 metric tons to 55,000 metric tons.

Yellowfin sole TAC dropped from 149,000 metric tons to 144,000 metric tons.

The council sets a statutory cap of 2 million metric tons of groundfish harvested from the Bering Sea for 22 species.

The council also passed a motion recommending that the annual BSAI groundfish specifications continue to take into consideration groundfish species halibut bycatch rates, the potential effects of groundfish harvest on directed halibut fisheries and the health of the halibut resource, recognizing a shared responsibility with the International Pacific Halibut commission to maintain the viability of halibut commercial, sport and personal use fisheries, and communities dependent on them.

Complete TACs for all species in the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska are posted on the council’s website,

Halibut Charter Proposal Under Fire

Proposed changes in management of Pacific halibut charter fisheries and commercial setline fisheries to allow for a recreational quota entity aren’t going anywhere fast.

After hours of testimony before the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, the council voted to send the controversial proposal back to council staff for further analysis and information to be incorporated into another initial review draft analysis at a future meeting.

The council approved unanimously on Dec. 13 a motion by council member Andy Mezirow, of Seward, Alaska, which said the new analysis should evaluate, among other things, the effects of transferring commercial individual fishing quota shares to the charter sector on observer fee revenues, and IFQ administrative fees.

The motion also instructed council staff to evaluate the mechanics of a concept by which the Guided Angler Fish limit now in place is reduced in accordance with the recreational quota entity quota holdings to meet a cumulative limit.

The motion offered three alternatives, including no action, establishing a RQE as a qualified non-profit entity to purchase and hold commercial halibut quota shares for use by the guided halibut sector, and RQE purposes of charter halibut permits.

The proposed changes are strongly opposed by those engaged in the setline halibut fisheries, who testified that such action would cause further economic damage by reallocating quota shares to the charter industry. Jeff Farvour, a halibut fisherman from Sitka, asked the council to consider “the magnitude of inequity” in allowing an RQE to acquire halibut IFQ for its sector without allowing the halibut IFQ sector the opportunity to buy a charter halibut permit to convert to IFQ. “IF we can do one it’s only reasonable to do the other,” Farvour said. “Otherwise there is only loss in it for the halibut fishery, Alaskan communities and our domestic halibut market.”

Jeff Stephan, representing United Fishermen’s Marketing Association at Kodiak, said the UFMA does not support “the dispossession of commercial IFQ halibut from individual halibut fishermen, the commercial IFQ pool, processing plants, processing workers, support businesses, local governments and Alaska coastal communities.

A charter halibut RQE will also drive up the price of commercial halibut IFQ, he said, making it more difficult for new entrants to enter the fishery and for current participants to purchase additional IFQ in amounts that make it profitable to continue to harvest IFQ halibut in times of low abundance such as they are now experiencing, he said.

Fees Rising for Halibut, Sablefish, BS Crab

Annual fees paid by holders of catch shares in Alaska’s halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea/Aleutian Island king crab fisheries will rise for the 2015/2016 season to meet costs of management and enforcement.

Kristie Balovich, budget officer for the Alaska region office of NOAA Fisheries, said Dec. 10 that coverage fees for the 2015/2016 BSAI king crab fishery went up to 1.48 percent and to 3 percent for halibut and sablefish.

All landings in the halibut and sablefish fisheries were completed by mid-November, after which NOAA Fisheries calculated the volume of the harvest and average price per pound. That date for the BSAI king crab fishery is calculated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Balovich said.

Payment for the halibut and sablefish fisheries is due by Jan 31, 2016, while processors of the crab must pay their fees by July.

The cost of management and enforcement was $5.6 million for 2015, up from $4.8 million a year earlier, when there were a lot of vacancies in enforcement positions that took a long time to fill, she said. Docks prices for halibut and sablefish were $6.42 a pound and $3.78 a pound respectively, up from $6.36 a pound and $3.59 a pound in 2014, she said.

The overall cost of managing the BSAI king crab fishery was $3.4 million, up about $300,000 from a year earlier.

An important change this year is that National Marine Fisheries Service will no longer accept credit card information by phone or in-person.

There are three options for making these payments on individual fishing quota fee liability. Payments can be made online through individual eFISH accounts using credit card or check, or the IFQ holder can fill out the fee submission form with credit card information, or a check or money order made payable to NMFS option and mail payment to the Fee Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries, OMD, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668. A third option is to wire funds by filling out the FEDWIRE form and wiring money from your bank.

Links to forms for these options are online at Or call the fee coordinator at 1-907-586-7105 or 1-800-304-4846, extension 5.

Preseason Forecasts Up for SE Chinook

Preseason Chinook salmon forecasts for the Stikine and Taku rivers in Southeast Alaska show an improved outlook over a year ago, allowing for a limited direct fishery in the Stikine in Alaska beginning May 2, but not for the Taku river.

The Sitka office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued a preseason terminal run size forecast of 33,900 fish for the Stikine River, which allows for a US allowable catch of 1,100 large king salmon, so that a limited directed commercial fishery may occur in District 8.

News releases announcing specific opening times and areas are to be released in mid-April 2016.

The 2016 preseason terminal run size forecast for Taku River large Chinook salmon is 29,200 fish, not enough to provide for an allowable catch for either the US or Canada and no directed fisheries will occur in early May, state biologists said.

Inseason terminal run size estimates will be produced starting in late May 2016, but it is unlikely any directed fisheries will occur in District 11 in 2016, biologists said.

When the first inseason Taku River Chinook salmon terminal run estimate is produced, a news release will be distributed as soon as possible with the estimated run size, resulting allowable catch, and information concerning potential directed king salmon fishery openings.

Biologists said forecasts for both rivers have consistently overestimated the final terminal run size estimates in the near past, so forecasts for both rivers were reduced by their respective recent five-year average percent error of 39 percent and 12 percent. An additional consideration taken into account for revising the forecasts is the general poor performance of king salmon stocks throughout the region in recent years, biologists said.

A year ago the preseason terminal run size forecasts for large king salmon was 30,200 fish for the Stikine River, not large enough to allow for a directed US commercial fishery. Likewise, the 2014 preseason terminal run size forecast of 26,100 fish for the Taku River was insufficient to allow for a fishery on either the US or Canadian side of this transboundary river, biologists said.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Opposition Grows to GE Salmon

The Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC and the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union of Japan spoke out this week in joint opposition to the commercialization of genetically engineered salmon.

The Aquabounty product, recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, is the first ever genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption, and many concerns remain over risks to human and environmental health, they said.

Collectively the two organizations represent more than one million members on both sides of the Pacific. Center for Food Safety experts were recently in Japan to discuss the need for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food and the harms of increased pesticide use on GE crops.

Koichi Kato, president of the Japanese co-operative, said that the SCCCU is determined to urge the Japanese government not to approve such GE fish, and that their co-op will never sell such salmon.
“If the Japanese government also approves GE salmon, it will be labeled as GE when sold at grocery stores,” Kato said. “The GE salmon is sure to get a cold reception.”

On the other hand, he said, restaurants and most processed foods are exempted from Japanese GE food labeling law, and he is concerned that people would be forced to eat GE salmon without noticing that it is genetically engineered.

“FDA’s decision to approve this GE salmon was irresponsible and unlawful, and it will have global repercussions,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “Together we will work to stop its expansion in order to preserve our native fisheries and protect the markets so many depend on around the world.”

Public opposition to the FDA’s approval of the fish being produced by AquaBounty is mounting and some major retailers, including Costco, have already said they will not be selling this fish in their stores. Meanwhile environmental groups in Canada have sued that country’s government for allowing the genetically engineered salmon eggs to be produced there, potentially putting ecosystems and species such as wild salmon at risk.

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