Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Study Shows Mislabeling of Salmon

A study released early today by the international ocean advocacy group Oceana reveals widespread mislabeling of salmon in restaurants and grocery stores.

According to Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, of the 82 salmon samples collected from restaurants and groceries, 43 percent were mislabeled, and DNA testing confirmed that 69 percent of the mislabeling consisted of farmed Atlantic salmon being sold as wild caught salmon.

The study notes that Oceana found mislabeled salmon everywhere it tested, including 48 percent of the samples in Virginia, 45 percent in Washington D.C., 38 percent in Chicago, and 37 percent in New York City.

Salmon samples were considered to be mislabeled if they described the product as “wild,” “Alaskan” or “Pacific,” when DNA testing showed they were farmed Atlantic salmon or if they were labeled as a specific type of salmon but tested otherwise.

The salmon samples were collected during the winter of 2013-2014, when wild salmon were out-of-season. A similar Oceana survey in 2013 found 7 percent of salmon collected primarily in grocery stores was mislabeled at the peak of the 2012 commercial salmon fishing season, when wild salmon was plentiful in the marketplace.

The Oceana study concluded that diners are five times more likely to be misled in restaurants than grocery stores, and that consumers are less likely to be misled in large grocery store chains that are required to give additional information about seafood.

Also salmon purchased out-of-season from all retail types was three times more likely to be mislabeled than salmon purchased during the commercial fishing season, the study said.

“While US fishermen catch enough salmon to satisfy 80 percent of our domestic demand, 70 percent of that catch is then exported instead of going directly to American grocery stores and restaurants, said Kimberly Warner, the report author and a senior scientist at Oceana. “It’s anyone’s guess how much of our wild domestic salmon makes its way back to the US after being processed abroad.”

The study says consumers can help by asking specific questions at retail shops and restaurants about what kind of fish it is, whether it is wild caught or farm raised, and where and how it was caught. Oceana also advised buying fresh seafood in season, particularly in restaurants, checking prices, and supporting traceable seafood.

“If the price is too good to be true, it probably is,” the study said. “You may be purchasing a different fish than what is on the menu or label.”

IUU Act Heads to White House

Legislation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities has passed the US Senate and now awaits President Obama’s signature.

The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 is the companion bill to legislation which passed the House of Representatives in July.

The bill increases enforcement capabilities for a number of international fishery agreements that combat IUU fishing.

“By cracking down on the illegal harvesting of fish, we are leveling the playing field and protecting the livelihoods of the 80,000 Alaskans who are directly or indirectly impacted by our seafood industry,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who introduced the measure in the Senate, with Senators Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, earlier this year.

Congressional efforts to combat pirate fishing have resulted in several measures being introduced in the House and Senate over the past few years.

The bill awaiting the president’s signature comes in the wake of legislation first introduced by the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, on Dec. 12, 2011, to bar ships engaged in pirate fishing operations from entering US ports to offload their catch.

Inouye’s measure was aimed at implementing an international agreement aimed by stopping pirate harvesters from slipping their seafood into the global market.

The bipartisan Pirate Fishing Elimination Act was cosponsored by Senator Democrats John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Mark Begich, of Alaska, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, with Senate Republicans Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

The US was one of the first countries to express an intention to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Measures.

As Inouye noted in introducing his 2011 bill, each year illegal fishing produces between 11 and 26 million tons of seafood, resulting in economic losses with a global value of between $10 billion and $12 billion. Begich noted that in 2011 alone, NOAA special agents seized 112 tons of illegal Russian king crab by working with their colleagues in the Russian Border Guard.

IUU fishing for crab in Russia has had an adverse impact on Alaska crab fishermen by disrupting the market and lowering prices, and it is threatening the sustainability of the big eye tuna that is the staple of Hawaii’s longline fishery, Murkowski said.

New ASMI Executive Director

On the heels of much success overseeing the agency’s overseas marketing efforts, Alexa Tonkovich has been promoted to executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Her appointment was announced this past week by ASMI board chairman Barry Collier, president and chief executive officer of Peter Pan Seafoods, during ASMI”s All Hands meeting in Anchorage.

Tonkovich, who majored in East Asian studies at Colgate University, joined ASMI six years ago. She served as ASMI’s Asia and emerging markets manager before being named international program director two years ago.

Former executive director Ray Ruitta, who returned to his post on an interim basis this summer, has now retired anew. Ruitta had retired previously when retired Coast Guard officer and marine affairs consultant Michael Cerne was hired as executive director.

When Cerne left abruptly in July, Ruitta agreed to return until a new executive director was appointed.

Tonkovich, who grew up in Juneau, said she is very excited to be leading ASMI, but acknowledged there are many challenges ahead, the biggest one being the Alaska state budget, which has been hard hit by a drop in oil prices. ASMI’s multi-million budget includes funding from industry and state entities, plus matching federal funds.

“We will market our great seafood… and we will have to get creative about that,” Tonkovich said. “Every challenge has an opportunity in it.”

Early on during the Hands On meeting, Ruitta encouraged each of ASMI’s committees to start with a blank sheet of paper and identify the most important activities to budget.

“Relatively speaking, next year we’re okay,” he said. “But we need to plan ahead. This is the meeting where we begin,” he said.

Budget issues notwithstanding, Ruitta said he was optimistic, noting expansion of domestic markets for Alaska seafood, as well as new markets in Brazil. “Telling the Alaska story is important,” he said. “And product forms will change to meet market demands. We are facing some real challenges, but look at this as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves if necessary,” he said.

Halibut Fishermen Plead Guilty

A father and son from Wrangell, Alaska, face sentencing on Jan. 4 after pleading guilty in federal court in Juneau to violating the Lacey Act while harvesting halibut in the Gulf of Alaska.

In a statement released Oct. 27, US Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said that Charles “Chuck” J. Petticrew Sr., 70, and Charles “Jeff” J. Petticrew Jr., 42, both appeared before US District Court Judge Timothy Burgess, who took their guilty pleas for conspiring to falsify fishing locations between June 28, 2010 and continuing until May 20, 2013.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said reports filed with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Longline Fishery Logbook entries, individual fishing quota landing permits, and ADF&G halibut tickets, the Petticrews indicated that they fished in Management Area 3A, when in fact they had only fished Management Area 2C.

Petticrew Sr. pled guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy to falsify individual fishing quota records. Petticrew Jr. pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count for violating the Lacey Act by falsifying IFO records during the same time period.

Both defendants signed plea agreements in which the government and the Petticrews agreed to jointly recommend to the court that the elder Petticrew pay a $90,000 fine and his son a $10,000 fine. The agreement further recommends that both be placed on probation for five years, and that during that period they will install and pay for a vessel monitoring system for the vessel they use or any other vessel fished on behalf of the family corporation.

The recommendation is subject to approval of the court at sentencing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Governments Drop Further Exxon Claims

Attorneys for the Justice Department and state of Alaska say they are dropping further rights to claim more money from Exxon for the March 24, 1989 disaster that spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The waters are prime habitat for millions of fish, sea mammals, and birds, as well as a major commercial fishing area.

At a hearing Oct. 15 before US District Court Judge H. Russel Holland, who has presided in this litigation since the multi-million dollar settlement in 1991, the attorneys said they had nothing to add to their written filings. Holland said that “based on what’s in your report, I’m satisfied that it was the right decision.”

But marine biologist Rick Steiner, of Anchorage, who consults on environmental issues, and has followed the case since the spill, called the decision "an unconscionable betrayal of public trust."

“Above all, it just validates the public’s distrust of the oil industry, and government promises of responsible oil development in Alaska,” he said.

Steiner is asking the state and federal governments to consider retaining their option for a claim of millions of dollars more from Exxon under the re-opener clause, a provision in the 1991 settlement that allowed for additional claims in the event of environmental impacts not identified at the time of that settlement.

“The 1991 consent decree requires that the Environmental Protection Agency be consulted on all spill restoration decisions, and they clearly have not been consulted on any of this, including the decision to abandon the Exxon Reopener claim,” he said.

Steiner also said that the government status report entirely omitted a consideration of the resource services that remain injured due to residual oil in intertidal sediments, including commercial fishing, passive use, recreation and tourism, and subsistence and wilderness resources.

“None of these have fully recovered, and a primary reason for most of this is the presence of lingering oil in the ecosystem,” he said.

ASMI Meeting Convenes in Anchorage

Updates on all phases of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s promotional efforts for Alaska fisheries will be presented in Anchorage Oct. 21-23 during ASMI’s “All Hands” and board meetings.

Today’s schedule will include a fisheries update from Andy Wink, senior seafood analyst for the McDowell Group in Juneau, and reports from ASMI staffers Larry Andrews on retail marketing, Claudia Hogue on food service marketing and Alexa Tonkovich on international marketing. Also on the agenda are reports by Tyson Fick on the agency’s communications program, by Susan Marks on the sustainability program, and Bruce Schactler, on global food aid, plus an update on the Alaska state budget by the McDowell Group.

For those interested but unable to attend in person, audio is available by calling 800-315-6338. The alternate call-in number is 1-913-904-9376, access code 05684.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will be the guest speaker at lunch for the second day of the event, which will be devoted to meetings of ASMI”s operational committees.

ASMI’s board of directors will also be meeting that day in an executive session to discuss the agency’s budget and strategic plan.

Audio will also be available via the same procedure as the first day for the ASMI board meeting on Oct. 23. The agenda that day is scheduled to include an ASMI budget update, and reports from operational committees on international marketing, food service, seafood technical efforts, retail and responsible fisheries management. The McDowell Group’s Andy Wink will deliver an ASMI report card during the afternoon session.

2015 Alaska Salmon Harvest Valued at $414 Million

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists say the 2015 commercial salmon harvest of 263.5 million fish, the second largest harvest on record, has an estimated value of $414 million.

The state’s largest commercial salmon harvest on record, recorded in 2013, was for 272.6 million salmon with a preliminary estimated value of $691.1 million.

ADF&G’s annual preliminary commercial salmon dollar values reports are based on estimated ex-vessel prices and do not include post-season bonuses or price adjustments. The final value of the 2015 salmon fishery will be determined in 2016, after seafood processors, buyers and direct marketers report the total value paid to fishermen in 2015, said Forrest Bowers, acting director of ADF&G’s commercial fisheries division, who wrote the report.

The 2015 harvest was comprised of 474,000 Chinooks, 15.2 million chums, 3.6 million cohos, 190.5 million pinks and 54 million sockeyes. That compared with 281,000 kings, 18.6 million chums, 5.3 million silvers, 219 million humpies and 29.3 million reds in 2013.

“Alaska’s salmon fisheries represent an important economic engine for coastal communities and we are pleased how our salmon managers adapted to unusual run timing in 2015, allowing for sustainable harvest of large returns to many regions of the state,” Bowers said. “We are encouraged to see strong landings and escapement from the Arctic to Prince William Sound, and are pleased that a number of depressed Chinook salmon stocks showed improved returns in 2015.”

Sockeye salmon held fast to its spot as the most valuable of the salmon species, with statewide harvests grossing some $198 million. A little less than half of the value of those red salmon came from Bristol Bay, where the harvest was excellent, but ex-vessel prices were 50 percent lower than last year, at 50 cents a pound. The statewide value of the pink salmon harvest was second, at $132 million, followed by chums valued at $54.6 million, kings valued at $15.2 million, and silvers valued at $14.6 million.

The most valuable salmon fishing area in the state this year was Prince William Sound, with an all-species harvest value of $118 million.

In addition to $72 million in pink salmon, Prince William Sound sockeyes yielded an ex-vessel value of $35 million. Prince William Sound chum and Chinook salmon followed, with values of $8 million and $2 million, respectively.

The Prince William Sound humpy harvest was the largest on record at 98.3 million fish, exceeding the 2013 harvest of 92.6 million fish. Bowers said the wild pink salmon abundance is likely to break the previous record of 31 million fish.

Additional details on the 2015 Alaska preliminary commercial salmon harvest and ex-vessel values are online at

NOAA Fisheries Revises High Seas Permit Management

NOAA Fisheries has announced publication of a final rule to improve administration of the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act and monitoring of US fishing vessels on the high seas. The rule – published on Oct. 16 and effective on Jan. 14 - includes adjustments to permitting and reporting procedures for all US fishing vessels on the high seas.

The revised High Seas Fishing Compliance Act also includes requirements for the installation and operation of enhanced mobile transceiver units for vessel monitoring, carrying observers on vessels, reporting of transshipments taking place on the high seas, and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

The HSFCA was adopted in 1994 to implement the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations agreement to promote compliance with international conservation and management measures by fishing vessels on the high seas. The program requires that US vessels operating on the high seas possess a permit issued in accordance with Section 104 of the HSFCA and be marked for identification purposes, and for permit holders to report their fishing activities.

The HSFCA prohibits use of high seas fishing vessels in contravention of international conservation and management measures recognized by the US or in a manner that would violate a permit condition.

A list of the international conservation and management measures recognized by the US is published in the Federal Register from time to time in consultation with the Secretary, as required under HSFCA.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Seattle Fishing Economics Survey

The Port of Seattle has set a goal to double the economic value of Seattle's fishing and maritime industry over the next 10 years. The Port has hired Madison Bay Commercial to help determine how the Fishermen's Terminal facility could contribute to achieving this important goal.

Madison Bay will conduct a brief survey of vessel owners and supporting fishing industry companies to help identify ways Fishermen's Terminal can continue to support the North Pacific fishing fleet and Seattle's seafood industry over the long term. Survey participants will be registered to win one of five $100 Amazon gift cards, and responses will be aggregated to protect anonymity.

"Since 1989, the Port has invested over $60 Million in the overall infrastructure of the terminal,” says Kenny Lyles, Senior Manager of Fishermen's Terminal and the Maritime Industrial Center. “We continue to make improvements – large and small – to the terminal on a day-in and day-out basis. As the Home Port to the North Pacific Fishing Fleet, we also need to look ahead to the future, and make sure this facility continues to serve our existing customers and attract new fishing and maritime businesses over the long term."

Phil Hingston, a certified public accountant with Hingston Fletcher & Associates, says, "A lot has changed around us in my 30 years at Fishermen's Terminal, and thankfully, this is still our home. The effort by Madison Bay Commercial tells me that the Port remains committed to our long-term success.”

Take the survey here:

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