Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Exceeds 255 Million Fish

Preliminary statistics compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game put the state’s wild salmon harvest in excess of 255 million fish…and they’re still coming.

Fresh wild coho salmon are taking center stage this week, with silver fillets priced at $9.99 a pound in Southcentral Alaska.

Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market has whole fresh wild cohos available for $69.93 per fish, and fillets for $16.99 a pound, and Snug Harbor Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska, has silver fillets for $14.99.

As fishing continues, fresh fillets, steaks and whole fish of different salmon are also available, as single items and in seafood combo packs, from several online entities.

ADF&G was advising Prince William Sound gillnet fishermen to be sure and assure a market before harvesting fish.

More than 104 million salmon – 98 million of them humpies – have been delivered to processors in Prince William Sound. The catch there also includes nearly 3.1 million sockeyes, 2.5 million chums, 192,000 silvers, and 24,000 kings.

Cook Inlet fishermen have brought in nearly 7 million fish, delivering the processors 3.6 million pinks, 2.8 million reds, 371,000 chum, 216,000 cohos, and 11,000 kings.

The Alaska-Yukon-Kuskokwim region has delivered 1.6 million fish, including more than a million chums, plus 426,000 silvers, 70,000 humpies, 61,000 reds, and 9,000 sockeyes. The Lower Yukon River alone had a catch of 530,000 chums, 120,000 silvers, and 6,000 pinks.

Southeast Alaska harvesters contributed 46.7 million fish to the statewide harvest, including more than 34 million humpies, 9.2 million chums, 1.8 million silvers, 1.4 million sockeyes, and 344,000 kings.

Alaska Peninsula harvesters have in excess of 23 million fish, including over 16 million pinks, 5.7 million reds, 835,000 chums, 310,000 cohos, and 53,000 kings.

Chignik fishermen contributed a harvest of 3.5 million fish, including 1.8 million humpies and 1.5 million reds, plus 95,000 chums, 82,000 silvers, and 9,000 Chinooks. At Kodiak, processors have received nearly 33 million salmon, including more than 29 million humpies. Fishermen also brought in 2.7 million sockeyes, 704,000 chums, 321,000 cohos, and 7,000 kings.

October is National Seafood Month

Fishing, in all its forms, is a $72 billion a year business in the United States, a business that the National Marine Fisheries Service reminds us is vital to the economies and identities of the nation’s coastal communities.

The economic activity generated by domestic fisheries and aquaculture creates nearly two million jobs, from harvesting to processing, seafood markets and restaurants. Yet American fishermen and local economies are struggling in large part as a result of years of decline nationally in fishing, and NMFS says that over 84 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, contributing to a $9 billion annual seafood trade deficit.

The US Food and Drug Administration has suggested that people eat two-six-ounce servings- about the size of an iPhone – of seafood each week.

In celebration of National Seafood Month, the seaside town of Morro Bay, California, is holding its Redesigned Morro Bay Harbor Festival Oct. 3.

Brent Haugen, executive director of the Morro Bay Tourism Bureau, says ocean, fishing and seafood are very important to people who live and work and visit Morro Bay, a community where fresh, sustainable seafood is served all year round.

This year’s festivalgoers will be able to purchase fresh seafood from local fishermen. Options will include oysters, albacore and spot prawns from the Morro Bay Fishermen’s Association, rockfish and tacos from South Bay Wild, and assorted fish and fish chowder from the Central Coast Women for Fisheries.

The festival will also feature maritime-heritage venues, mini-yacht races, watercraft demonstrations and harbor boat tours.

More festival information and seafood recipes are online at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Shell Suspends Drilling in Arctic

After spending upwards of $7 billion on oil exploration in the Arctic, Royal Dutch Shell will cease further exploration activity offshore in Alaska for the foreseeable future, the company announced Sept. 27.

Marvin Odum, director of Shell Upstream Americas, said while Shell found indications of oil and gas in the Burger J well, drilled to a total depth of 6,800 feet this summer, that this was not sufficient to warrant further exploration into the Burger prospect, so the well will be sealed and abandoned.

Odum said Shell still sees important exploration potential in the basin, but for now will cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.

This decision, Shell said in a statement, “reflects both the Burger J well result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.

Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski, and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, were among those expressing disappointment with the decision. “What we have here is a case in which a company’s commercial efforts could not overcome a burdensome and often contradictory regulatory environment,” Murkowski said.

Arctic Slope Regional Corp. an Alaska Native regional firm at Barrow, also expressed concern, as the company had been a partner in the offshore development.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker called the decision a huge disappointment, and that he had been very optimistic about what Shell was going to find.

Walker planned to meet with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on working with the Obama administration to see that Shell’s leases are extended.

Environmental entities, who had opposed the offshore drilling out of concerns that there would be no way to clean up potential oil spills, said they were happy with Shell’s decision.

“It means for the foreseeable future there won’t be a threat of major spills affecting the marine environment’s sensitive coastal areas and the Arctic residents who rely on the ocean for subsistence, said Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society.

Oceana also applauded the decision.

“As President Obama saw first-hand, there are many challenges in the Arctic region, and we can use this opportunity to address changing climate and the need to protect and conserve important ocean resources,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s deputy vice president. “Shell’s announcement allows the government to take a step back to apply careful planning, precaution and science to forge a sustainable future for the Arctic.”

Shell’s decision to drill offshore in the Arctic sparked a number of protests earlier this year, in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bill filed to Rein In Marine Monument Designations

Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Congressman Walter B. Jones (R-North Carolina) have cosponsored a bill to prevent President Barack Obama, or any future president, from unilaterally designating offshore areas as "national monuments" and restricting the public's ability to fish there. The Marine Access and State Transparency (MAST) Act would require a president to get the approval of Congress and the legislature of each state within 100 nautical miles of the monument before any "monument" designation could take effect.

The bill comes in response to increasing speculation that President Obama may follow the example of his predecessor George W. Bush and unilaterally designate large swaths of coastal America as "national monuments." In 2006, President Bush short-circuited the established process of public consultation and input and unilaterally designated 84 million acres off the coast of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as a national monument. The new monument, which is larger than 46 of America's 50 states, was then closed to fishing.

"Presidents from both parties have abused their monument designation authority for far too long," said Congressman Jones. "No president should be allowed to just lock up millions of acres of fishing grounds by fiat, with no public input whatsoever. Frankly, it's un-American, and it must be stopped. I am proud to be the first member of Congress to join my friend Don Young in fighting for this legislation, and I urge the rest of my colleagues to get behind it."

Recruiters of Young Farmers, Fishermen Face Same Issues

An organizer working to recruit more young people into farming says the individual attributes and community efforts needed to bring these folks on board are also key to recruiting new blood into the rigorous work of commercial fisheries.

That advice from Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of the Greenhorns, came during the first Homer Halibut Festival this past weekend in Homer, Alaska.

“We are interested in a different system that orients the wealth more locally, that ships the product less far, that makes use of a broader range of products and processes, a more diverse use of the landscape and one that is sustainable and sustaining for the producers,” Fleming said in an interview during a community fish fry hosted by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council on the Homer Spit.

“On an individual basis it does a lot of good to have a certain amount of charisma, and to be deeply determined, have a very strong work ethic, a high level of stamina, independent mindedness, opportunism, but that’s on an individual basis,” she said.

“As a community, we benefit from working together and what’s certainly proven true within the young farmer’s movement has been the towns and clusters of towns that figure out how to work together, how to cooperate.”

Fleming’s message to young fish harvesters, she said, is the power of sharing knowledge, infrastructure, and the ritual and culture of their profession to strengthen the group as a whole. “And when the consumer knows they are going to get a higher quality product and they can rely on that, and they have had a good experience, it accelerates how quickly that consumer can go from an occasional buyer of local food to a dedicated buyer of local food,” she said.

The festival got under way on Sept. 19 with panel discussions at Homer’s Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, with speakers representing the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the charter boat industry and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The weekend also included a community fish fry and halibut filleting demonstration, a fundraiser for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, a Halibut Hustle 5k run on the Homer Spit and a presentation by Fleming for young fishermen.

In addition to AMCC, sponsors included IPHC, ASMI, veteran fisherman and state legislator Paul Seaton of Homer, Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, the North Pacific Fisheries Association and several Homer area businesses.

Find more information about Fleming and the Greenhorns at

NMFS Reallocates Pacific Cod In Bering Sea

The National Marine Fisheries Service has temporarily reallocated the projected unused amounts of Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to assure that this year’s total allowable catch of Pacific cod is harvested.

The decision, announced on Sept. 22 in the Federal Register, applies to the Pacific cod fishery in the exclusive economic zone in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. The reallocation will be in effect through Dec. 31.

The temporary rule reallocates unused Pacific cod from catcher vessels greater than 60 feet in length overall using pot gear and catcher vessels using trawl gear to catcher vessels less than 60 feet overall length using hook-and-line or pot gear, Amendment 80 catcher processors, American Fisheries Act trawl catcher processors, and catcher processors using pot gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area.

The fishery is managed according to the fishery management plan for groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The 2015 Pacific cod total allowable catch specified for catcher vessels greater than 60 feet using pot gear in the BSA is 18,641 metric tons. The regional administrator has determined that catcher vessels greater than 60 feet using pot gear in the BSAI will not be able to harvest 1,000 metric tons of the remaining 2015 Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels, NMFS said.

The 2015 Pacific cod TAC for catcher vessels using trawl gear in the BSAI is 49,224 metric tons and NMFS has determined that that gear group will not be able to harvest 6,000 metric tons of remaining Pacific cod TAC allocated to those vessels.

Subsequently NMFS has reallocated 7,000 metric tons of Pacific cod to catcher vessels less than 60 feet using hook-and-line or pot gear, A80 catcher processors, AFA trawl catcher processors and catcher processors using pot gear in the BSAI.

NOAA Rule Would Affect Seafood Imports

Proposed revisions to the Marine Mammal Protection Act aimed at reducing marine mammal incidental mortality could impact imports of seafood to the United States.

Under the proposed rule, harvesting nations must apply for and receive a comparability finding for each fishery identified by the assistant administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service in the List of Foreign Fisheries in order to import fish and fish products into the United States.

The proposed rule establishes procedures that a harvesting nation must follow, and conditions to meet, to receive a comparability finding for a fishery. The proposed rule also establishes procedures for intermediary nations to certify that exports from those nations to the US do not contain fish or fish products subject to an import prohibition.

The US Ocean Commission states in its 200 report that the “biggest threat to marine mammals worldwide is their accidental capture or entanglement in fishing gear (bycatch), which kills hundreds of thousands of them each year.”

The Marine Mammal Protection Act contains provisions to address the incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in both domestic and foreign commercial fisheries. With respect to foreign fisheries, section 101 (a)(2) of the legislation states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.

NOAA is accepting written comments on the proposed rule through Nov. 9, and is also seeking input from other nations at bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Comment electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2010-0098, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields and enter or attach your comments.

Mid-Level Processing Industry Courses Offered

Applications are being accepted now for an intensive leadership course beginning in Kodiak in November for mid-level management employees in the seafood processing industry.

The Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute offers 80 hours of professional development for production managers, quality control supervisors, seafood engineers, human resource, corporate and administrative personnel who have been identified by their employer as having leadership potential.

The course, offered through Alaska Sea Grant, is also open to direct marketers and small seafood processors and others involved in the seafood industry.

Chris Sannito, a seafood technology specialist with Sea Grant at Kodiak, said enrollment for the course, which includes sessions in Kodiak, Anchorage and Boston, is filling up quickly.

The first session, from Nov. 9-13 at Kodiak, will include hands-on technical training in seafood processing and visits with local processors. Topics to be included are the science of seafood, shelf life, quality and safety of Alaska’s fishery products, product development, lean manufacturing, new technologies and seafood marketing.

Participants will get hands-on experience in the pilot plant at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, and hear local seafood plant managers talk about their perspectives on the seafood industry and management.

The second session, Feb. 29-March 4 in Anchorage, will focus on leadership training, project management, human resources, regulatory environment and developing effective management styles. Speakers will include those experienced in the industry, government regulators and management consultants.

An optional third section, March 6-8, will be a trip to the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, where participants will interact with vendors, seafood buyers and sellers and visit a local seafood processor. The last section is not required to receive an ASPLI certificate.

Sea Grant is also gearing up for the sixth Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit, Jan. 27-29 in Juneau, an event designed to provide information to fishermen 40 and under and those in the business for less than five years.

The summit focuses on leadership and networking skills.

Further information, including registration for these and other Alaska Sea Grant events, may be done online at

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