Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NPRB funds millions in fisheries related research studies

The North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage has a new biennial report out with the highlights of over $58 million spent funding some 350 research studies on topics ranging from physics to fish and habitat to humans, conducted by more than 100 agencies and institutions. Copies of the report –highlighting NPRB activities since 2002 - were made available during the NPRB’s annual Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, which attracts hundreds of participants involved in Alaska fisheries and related scientific studies.

The entity’s overall goal is to build a clear understanding of the North Pacific, Bering Sea and Arctic ocean ecosystems that enables effective management and sustainable use of marine resources.

Denby Lloyd, executive director of the NPRB, a former commissioner of Fish and Game for the state of Alaska, describes the organization’s work as a truly collaborative effort. “Our ability to shape appropriate research programs relies upon … engaged scientists, affected resource managers, various marine industry interests, and the North Pacific public at large,” he wrote.

At present, Lloyd said, NPRB is posed to continue contributing between $4 million and $5 million each year to what has become its signature annual program. In addition, NPRB is in the final synthesis stages of its innovative Bering Sea integrated Ecosystem Research Program, which brought together over 100 scientists via collaborative funding from the NPRB, the National Science Foundation and several other partners.

The NPRB’s budget has evolved over time, but now relies almost solely upon a portion of the annual interest from the Environmental Improvement and Restoration Fund. That’s the fund established by Congress in 1997, derived from half of the settlement monies from the Dinkum Sands dispute over oil and gas leasing off the Arctic coast of Alaska. Each year, 20 percent of the annual interest of the EIRF is provided to the Commerce Department, and subsequently routed through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and granted to NPRB.

More information about NPRB research projects is online at

Nomination Denied for Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Federal maritime officials have denied a nomination to create an Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary submitted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and several environmental organizations. The proposed sanctuary would have encompassed all federal waters along the entire Aleutian Islands archipelago to the Alaska mainland, including federal waters off of the Pribilof Islands and Bristol Bay, an area of about 554,000 square nautical miles.

The decision came from Daniel Basta, director of the Commerce Department’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, who said the proposal, as submitted, was not sufficient. Basta cited, among other reasons for the decision, a lack of support from community interests, including the Aleutians East Borough. Basta also noted that the nomination provided little to no description as to how this area would provide opportunities for education, such as specific partnerships and commitments from educational groups.

Basta did offer PEER alternatives, including considering nominating a smaller area or a series of smaller areas that encompass the specific resources believed to be of highest value for a possible national marine sanctuary designation.

In a letter to PEER spokesperson Rick Steiner of Anchorage, Basta advised Steiner to keep in mind that the nomination process is a community based process and demonstration of wide community support weighs very heavily within the management considerations.

Earlier this month, the Aleutians East Borough Assembly passed unanimously a resolution opposing nomination of the area as a marine sanctuary. A resolution opposing designation of the area as a marine sanctuary was introduced in the Alaska Legislature by Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D- Dillingham. In addition, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced legislation in Congress to prohibit he Secretary of Commerce from designating a new marine sanctuary in Alaska.

Proposed Offshore Exploration Plan Limits Leases in Beaufort, Chukchi Seas

The Interior Department’s latest draft strategy for offshore oil and gas leasing designates portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as off limits from consideration for future oil and gas leaving, to protect areas of critical importance to subsistence use by Alaska Natives, as well as for their sensitive environmental resources. The announcement on Jan. 27 noted that in December President Obama used this same authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ”to place waters of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development, protecting an area known for its world class fisheries and stunning beauty.”

“We know the Arctic is an incredibly unique environment, so we’re continuing to take a balanced and careful approach to development,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “At the same time, the President is taking thoughtful action to protect areas that are critical to the needs of Alaska Natives and wildlife.”

Four of the five areas withdrawn were previously excluded from leasing in the current 2012-2017 oil and gas program, three of the five were also excluded by the prior presidential administration. Those areas include the Barrow and Kaktovik whaling area of the Beaufort Sea and a 25-mile coastal buffer and subsistence area in the Chukchi Sea. The withdrawal also includes the biologically rich Hanna Shoal area of the Chukchi Sea, which has not previously been excluded from leasing. Interior officials noted that extensive scientific research has found this area to be of critical importance to many marine species, including Pacific walruses and bearded seals.

The announcement came on the heels of another announcement from President Obama saying he would ask Congress to declare areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Alaska as wilderness. That would include areas of the coastal plain identified as possibly rich in oil and gas resources.

Maritime Issues On Tap for Arctic Encounter Symposium

The second annual Arctic Encounter Symposium gets under way at the University of Washington and Museum of History and Industry in Seattle on Jan 30, with a focus on the role of the US as an Arctic nation in its upcoming council chairmanship. Participants, including industry leaders, policy makers and regional stakeholders will tackle topics in the maritime, energy, science and technology sectors.

The goal of the 2015 symposium is to facilitate a creative environment for development of a proactive agenda, short and long term domestic and international priorities, and a strategic execution plan.

Speakers will include Captain John Reeves of the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy, and Vice Admiral Charles Ray, Pacific area commander for the US Cost Guard Defense Force West, who will deliver a keynote address on the first day of the two day event.

Symposium participants will also hear discussions on the current status and continuing need for science-informed policy in the rapidly changing Arctic and resource manager perspectives on energy development and conservation in the US Arctic. The complete agenda is online at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Study Shows Skepticism With Fisheries Privatization

A survey of fish harvesters in Kodiak by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers shows much concern over future of fisheries access because of privatization of fishing rights.

Nearly all Kodiak fishery participants interviewed expressed concern about the future of fisheries access in the community for the next generation, in large part because of the substantial financial barriers to entry generated by privatization of fisheries access, said Courtney Carothers, of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, in a presentation Jan. 20 to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage. Many of those interviewed discussed the need for more entry-level opportunities necessary for access in all fisheries, the survey showed.

Findings from the study suggest that a diverse range of fishery participants share core values about the social dimensions of fishery systems. Support or opposition to past privatization processes tended to be articulated in reference to how the core values of hard work, opportunity and fairness were perceived to have been strengthened or eroded by such processes.

While survey data showed a range of perspectives on the effects of privatization on fishing and the Kodiak community, respondents to the study tended to talk about privatization as a significant change that had divisive, negative impacts in the community. Crewmembers and the next generation of fishermen were identified as disproportionately affected by privatization processes.

A small number of respondents, just 13 percent, said the positive effects of fisheries privatization were a stabilized local economy, higher pay and more jobs for crew, better fish prices and safer fisheries. Another 77 percent of respondents identified negative effects on the community, including absentee owners, reduced crew shares, a downturn in the local economy related to jobs and services, and a negative social shift in the widening of the economic gap between rich and poor.

The majority of respondents also disagreed that the Kodiak fishing community was healthier now than 15 to 20 years ago, or that individual fishing quotas have been good for the community.

The annual science symposium is earmarked Jan. 20 for the Gulf of Alaska plenary session, with Jan. 21 set aside for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and Jan. 22 for the Arctic. More information is at

The event, organized annually by the North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage, is sponsored by federal and state entities, and others, including the International Pacific Halibut Commission, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

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