Tuesday, January 26, 2016

FDA Clarifies ‘Alaska Pollock’

To be labeled “Alaska pollock” the versatile flavored white fish, employed by chefs in everything from seafood salads to fish sticks and filets, must now be harvested from Alaska waters.

Otherwise, says the US Food and Drug Administration, it is simply “pollock.”

The FDA updated its Seafood List on Jan. 21 to reflect that change, recognizing a mandate by Congress in the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations that only Pollock caught in Alaskan waters or the exclusive economic zone, (as defined in Section 3 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act,) adjacent to Alaska can be called Alaskan Pollock.

The change, effective immediately, was hailed by harvesters and processors of Alaska pollock, who said they hope the new labeling will help consumers to choose Alaska sourced pollock products over competing Russian Pollock.

Alaska pollock, also known as walleye pollock, is the largest by volume wild fishery in the United States, and one of the largest fisheries in the world.

Processors of Alaska pollock estimate the industry’s annual value at more than $700 million, with direct employment of some 5,000 workers.

“We are the gold standard for sustainability,” said Pat Shanahan, program director for the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers.

“It was the right thing to do for consumers and processors,” she said. “It’s accurate. It corrects a problem that has existed for a very long time. We think it will be very useful because (now) we can differentiate.”

Jim Gilmore, speaking for the At-Sea Processors Association, said they are appreciative of the work of the Washington State and Alaska congressional delegations in getting the name change approved by the FDA.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has worked to change the market name of pollock, said she was “thrilled that this change has been made to protect both our fisheries and consumers.

“It is disingenuous and harmful to our fishing industry for Russian-harvested pollock to be passed off as Alaskan,” she said.”

Gilmore agreed.

“We think it is confusing to a consumer trying to figure out the providence of their seafood, if they can call Russian Pollock Alaska Pollock,” he said.

“It is a question of a very different processing method. When fish comes out of Alaska it is frozen once before it comes out on a consumer’s plate,” Gilmore said, the Russian fish is frozen in the round when it comes on to their vessels, then refrozen in China after it is filleted.

“The vast majority of Russian produce is twice frozen,” Shanahan said. “Just the twice freezing process will have inferior texture, taste and aroma. I have looked at them side by side and I don’t think you have to be an expert to tell the difference,” she said.

NOAA Approves Halibut Bycatch Reduction

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has approved a fishery management plan amendment aimed at reducing halibut bycatch in four sectors of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.
Harvesters affected include the Amendment 80 fleet, the trawl limited access sector, the non-trawl sector, and community development quota program groups.

Pritzker’s approval, announced on Jan. 21, stems from a recommendation by North Pacific Fishery Management Council last June to reduce halibut prohibited species catch limits in the BSAI.

The council’s recommendation for Amendment 111 to the fishery management plan for groundfish in the BSAI was prompted by declining commercial catch limits for the directed commercial halibut fishery.

The council’s fishery analyst, Diana Evans, said that the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to public the rule as soon as possible, but can’t commit to a specific date.

They received a lot of detailed comments that will require some work to respond to, but the plan is to get the rule done and published this spring, in which case it would be in effect before the B season, Evans said in an email response to a query.

NOAA Fisheries anticipates the amendment will reduce the actual amount of halibut bycatch in the BSAI by approximately 361 metric tons compared to 2014, and may also provide additional harvest opportunities for directed commercial, personal use, sport and subsistence halibut fisheries, NOAA officials said Jan. 20.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, the joint US/Canadian body charged with management of Pacific halibut, has determined that the exploitable biomass of halibut has declined in recent years, particularly in the BSAI.

The decline has resulted in reductions in catch limits for the directed commercial halibut fishery, particularly in Area 4 CDE in the eastern and northern Bering Sea.

Groundfish fisheries targeting species like pollock and yellowfin sole regularly encounter halibut as bycatch while fishing.

Amendment 111 would reduce the overall BSAI halibut prohibited species catch limit by 21 percent to 3,515 metric tons, in four specific areas. The Amendment 80 sector is reduced by 25 percent, to 1,745 metric tons, the BSAI trawl limited access sector is reduced by 15 percent to 745 metric tons, the BSAI non-trawl sector is reduced by 15 percent to 710 metric tons, and participants in the community development quota program are reduced by 20 percent to 315 metric tons.

Vessels taking bycatch are required to keep the halibut long enough for observers on board to document the total, and then discard the halibut back into the ocean.

AFS Revises Mining, Extraction Policy

The American Fisheries Society has revised its policy regarding mining and fossil fuel extraction, citing substantial widespread adverse effects such activities have on ecosystems, people, global climate and un-refunded reclamation costs.

AFS recommended, in a position paper published online recently at www.fisheries.org, substantive changes in how North American governments conduct environmental assessments and permit, monitor and regulate mine and fossil fuel development.

The AFS paper notes that mining and fossil fuel extraction have the potential to significantly alter aquatic ecosystem structure and function. Adverse impacts on water quality, hydrology, physical habitat structure, aquatic biota and fisheries include elimination and contamination of receiving waters, significantly altered algal, macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages and climate change.

The six specific recommendations regarding mining and fossil fuel extraction emphasized concern for the future of the environment.

AFS said that in the wake of a formal environmental impact assessment, the affected public should be involved in deciding whether a mine or well is the most appropriate use of land and water, particularly relative to the need to preserve ecologically and culturally significant areas.

Mine or well development also should be environmentally responsible with regulation, treatment, monitoring and sureties sufficient for protecting the environment in perpetuity, the society said.

The policy revision also said baseline ecological and environmental research and monitoring should be conducted in areas slated for mining and fossil fuel extraction before, during and after development, and that this policy and related research should help inform the process of responsible resource development in these areas.

AFS also urged a formal risk assessment of the cumulative atmospheric, aquatic and oceanic effects of continued fossil fuel extraction and combustion, as well as an assessment of effects of hard rock and aggregate extraction and metals smelting.

The AFS position paper was unanimously approved at the society’s annual business meeting in Portland, Oregon last August and published online in December.

Writers of the paper included David M. Chambers of the Center for Science in Public Participation, Bozeman, MT, and Carol Ann Woody of CSPP in Anchorage. Both have been involved in studies related to the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Southwest Alaska, adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed which is home to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon.

AFS is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to strengthening the fisheries profession, advancing fisheries science, and conserving fisheries resources.

Symphony of Seafood Entries

Entries in this year’s Alaska Symphony of Seafoods promise to liven your taste buds, enhance your attire, hold your money or keep your skin youthful.

The annual competition aimed at innovative use of wild Alaska seafood used to focus strictly on products offered into retail and food service markets, plus a special category for smoked products, but more recently expanded into two new categories that welcome the use of wild Alaska seafood products in everything from pet treats to fish leather and jewelry items.

Retail entries this year include a variety of salmon, pollock, halibut and cod products from Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Orca Bay Seafoods, Morey’s, Trapper’s Creek Smoking Co., Bambinos Baby Food and Odyssey.

Food Service entries are from Trident Seafoods, Orca Bay Seafoods and Deckhand Seafoods.

Beyond the Plate entries include salmon leather wallets and belts from Tidal Vision, key fobs, money clips and jewelry created by From the C, and an anti-aging skin serum that includes cold pressed wild Alaska salmon oil, from ArXotica. The lone entry in the Beyond the Egg category is salmon caviar from the Alaska Seafood Company.

All entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges, based on packaging and presentation, overall eating/consumer experience, price and potential for commercial success. First, second, third and grand prize winners will be announced on Feb. 19 at the Marriott Hotel in Anchorage. Other gala Symphony events will be held earlier, on Feb. 10 in Seattle, and Feb. 16 in Juneau.

First place winners will be given an opportunity in March to market their products at Seafood Expo North America in Boston.

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has organized the Symphony since 1993 to promote value-added product development of seafood harvested in Alaska. More information is online at www.afdf.org/symphony-of-seafood

Major sponsors of this year’s event include Alaska Air Cargo, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, United Fishermen of Alaska, At-Sea Processors Association, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Northwest Fisheries Association, Marel and the Marine Stewardship Council.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Impact of Alaska Seafood Studied

An updated study of Alaska’s seafood industry shows that the regional, statewide and national economic impact of Alaska’s seafood industry remains strong.

The report by the McDowell Group, a Juneau research and consulting firm, prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, is based on data compiled in 2013 and 2014, and updates a prior study published in July 2013.

Researchers concluded that the seafood industry, which provides jobs for 60,000 workers in Alaska, remains a cornerstone of the state’s economy. Including multiplier effects, the seafood industry accounts for $2.1 billion in total labor income and $5.9 billion in total economic activity in Alaska.

The workforce included some 31,580 fishermen, including skippers and crew, who operated some 8,600 vessels, earning $920 million. Some 17,600 Alaska resident commercial fishermen had total ex-vessel income of $735 million in 2014. Another 25,055 workers were employed in seafood processing, earning $460 million, and 2,904 people were employed in management, hatchery and other related seafood jobs, earning $204 million.

The workforce included a total of 34,100 residents of other US states who came north to work in Alaska in 2014.

The state’s 2014 total seafood harvest of 5.7 billion pounds had an ex-vessel value of $1.9 billion. Processors generated 2.8 billion pounds of seafood products in 2014 with a first wholesale value of $34.2 billion.

Within the state, businesses and individuals in Alaska’s seafood industry contribute roughly $138.6 million in taxes, fees and self-assessments, which help fund state, local and federal government.

Researchers found that the national economic impacts of Alaska’s seafood industry includes $6.2 billion in direct output associated with fishing, processing distribution and retail. It also includes $8.4 billion in multiplier effects generated as industry income circulates throughout the national economy.

McDowell Group worked with the Alaska Fisheries Information Network, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to compile customized data sets for this project.

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