Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Alaska BOF Takes Up SE Alaska and Yakutat Finfish, Shellfish Issues

King salmon and enhancement allocation issues will be on tap when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets January 11–23 to consider 155 proposals on Southeast Alaska and Yakutat finfish and shellfish.

The Board will review 44 shellfish proposals as well as 15 king and tanner crab submissions, 19 shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish and 9 king salmon proposals in addition to 23 salmon enhancement, special harvest areas, management plans and miscellaneous submissions.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has recommended that several king salmon stocks be listed as stocks of management concern.

State biologists note that escapement of Chilkat River king salmon has fallen below the lower bound of the existing biological escapement goal (BEG) in five of the past six years, while escapement of chinooks on the King Salmon River has similarly fallen below the lower bound of the existing BEG in four of the past six years. Conservation management measures to reduce harvest of Chilkat River kings and increase escapement, plus actions to reduce Taku River chinook harvests, have so far proven insufficient to consistently achieve the biological escapement goal.

Escapement of Unuk River kings has also fallen below the lower bound of the existing BEG in five of the last six years, with management actions there also proving insufficient.

ADF&G commentary on the need for listing these kings as stocks of management concern are contained in three action plans. Links to the action plans can be found online at

The above website also includes the meeting agenda, road map and other related information, including annual management reports for various fisheries of Southeast Alaska.

To minimize costs for the public and agencies the board will take up the shellfish (Jan. 11–14) and finfish (Jan. 15–23) proposals in two separate sessions.

Chinook Forecast for Southeast Lowest on Record

Forecasts for 2018 Chinook runs in Southeast Alaska’s Situk, Chilkat, Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers completed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) project are, with one exception, the lowest runs on record, using historical information spanning man decades.

The only exception is the Situk River, where the 2018 Chinook forecast is slightly above the recent 10-year average.

Inseason estimates and associated run projections produced in the spring and summer of 2018 will ultimately supersede these forecasts, state biologists said.

State biologists say reduced productivity of Chinook salmon stocks is a major concern in Southeast Alaska and other select areas of that state. ADF&G released the information to raise public awareness of poor 2018 king salmon forecasts and to provide notice that the agency intends to manage fisheries that encounter Chinook salmon this coming year in a conservative manner. During an Alaska Board of Fisheries work session in October, state biologists provided a stock status an update on Southeast Alaska salmon stocks that included kings. The latest update includes an evaluation of salmon stocks relative to guidance contained in the policy for management of sustainable salmon fisheries.

The state report said that while other Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon stocks – including Stikine, Taku and Situk river stocks – are not designated stocks of concern based on policy for management of sustainable salmon fisheries criteria, that low abundance of these stocks warrants very conservative fishery management in the near term.

Southeast Tanner Crab Opens February 10

The 2017–2018 commercial Tanner crab fishery in Southeast Alaska is set to open concurrently with the commercial golden king crab fishery at noon on February 10.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) say the length of the season will be determined by guidelines set forth in the Registration Area A Tanner crab harvest strategy.

The initial fishing period for Tanner crab in the core areas and non-core areas will be a minimum of six days, with additional fishing time based on the number of registered pots at the start of the fishery.

ADF&G plans to issue a news release on February 10 announcing the total number of pots registered in the fishery for the 2017-2018 season and whether the initial fishing period will be extended. After the initial period, the core area will close to fishing and the non-core areas will remain open for another five days.

Catch survey modeling of 2017-2018 commercial fishery harvest, October 2017 Tanner crab survey data, and summer 2017 red king crab survey data produced a regional biomass estimate 35 percent greater than the previous year.

State biologists said that limited, non-confidential Tanner crab stock assessment information is to be made available to the public in early January.

Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference

“Tools of the trade” is the theme of the upcoming 69th annual Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska February 5–7.

“It’s all about sharing the latest and greatest technology advances,” said Chris Sannito, president of Pacific Fisheries Technologists and a research assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Presentations are invited on a variety of topics dealing with products, processes analyses and current affairs related to seafood, from fish harvesting and handling to environmental and regulatory issues.

Registration for the conference, which is held every five years in Alaska, is open, and speakers are invited to submit presentation abstracts through January 5. Sannito is based in Kodiak, where he works with Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, with a focus on seafood processing, environmental compliance and product development, including Pollock skin pet treats.

The annual international event, which moves between the Pacific states and provinces of Mexico and Canada, attracts several dozen participants engaged in commercial fisheries, university research and related government agencies. The agenda will include presentations and panel discussions ranging from pure research through innovations, worldwide regulations, ecology, economic considerations, quality, product safety, future trends and more.

Display booths will be available to gold, silver and nonprofit sponsors, including research institutes, academia, government agencies and environmental organizations. Sponsors for the event banquet, president’s reception and more are still being sought and asked to contact Sannito at

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ocean Acidification Legislation Introduced

Legislation introduced in the US Senate would identify and assess communities most dependent on coastal and ocean resources that may be impacted by ocean acidification. The bipartisan Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, with Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-ME, Gary Peters, D-MI; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI.

“This is significant legislation for those living in a state or community whose livelihood greatly depends on the health of our oceans,” Murkowski said.

The act called for conducting coastal community vulnerability assessments related to ocean acidification. It would strengthen collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders, including regional Ocean Acidification Networks and Sea Grants, into the planning and implementation of coastal community vulnerability assessments. The act would require that the assessment identify communities most dependent on ocean and coastal resources, the nature of the social and economic vulnerabilities of the communities, and identify the harmful impacts of ocean acidification on those communities.

According to Sarah Cooley, director of the Ocean Acidification Program at Ocean Conservancy, the assessment will be a step further in understanding the nature of unique risks faced by coastal communities because of ocean acidification, by identifying where further research could be devoted and whether adaptation strategies can be put into place to help those communities.

Colley said the science is clear that the ocean is becoming acidified. “This is a major threat to a variety of ocean resources that coastal communities depend on, and we must rise to the challenge and tackle this problem head on,” she said.

The companion bill in the House, HR 2719, sponsored by Rep. Chaellie Pingree, D-ME, was introduced in May, but has seen little committee activity.

Pebble Mine Promoters Announce New Business Partner

British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, owner of the Pebble Limited Partnership, says it has entered into a framework agreement with First Quantum Minerals Ltd., contingent on completion of due diligence, which would allow for the project to move forward.

Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ron Thiessen said that the immediate capital contribution from First Quantum Minerals Ltd. would allow Northern Dynasty to initiate federal and state permitting for the mine in the very near term.

First Quantum chairman and CEO Philip Pascall said his company would make a $37.5 million payment to Northern Dynasty in coming days, as part of an agreement calling for payments totaling $150 million toward the permitting process over the next four years.

According to Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole the company will be applying for wetlands permits by the end of this year.

Shares of Northern Dynasty stock fell nearly 17 percent before rebounding to about an eight percent loss on December 18 after Northern Dynasty announced entering into the agreement with First Quantum Minerals.

The proposed mine site lies near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska, where the majority of residents contend such development poses potential adverse impact to salmon habitat. This past summer over 37 million sockeyes were harvested, 10 million more than projected. Backers of the mine contend that it can be developed and operated in harmony with the fishery, which produces the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Bristol Bay’s record-breaking salmon run this summer is a testament to the health and bounty of this world class fishery,” said Norm Van Vactor, CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. in Dillingham, Alaska. “Even after 100 years, this commercial fishery is the economic backbone of the region and a literal food factory for the world,” he said. “First Quantum Minerals is wasting their time investing in a project that has little to no local support and no legitimate claim to economic feasibility. At the end of the day, the Pebble mine threatens our fishery and all it supports, and that is just a risk Bristol Bay is not willing to take,” he said.

Mike Niver of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay said harvesters know that by taking care of the waterways upstream from the Bay that the salmon will continue to take care of them. “Bristol Bay is no place for experimentation and Pebble mine is a very bad investment,” he said.

Togiak Herring Forecast

A forecast of 136,756 tons of biomass has been issued for the Togiak herring fishery in 2018, allowing for a harvest of 27,351 tons, based on the 20 percent exploitation rate, with 1,500 tons for the Togiak spawn-on-kelp fishery.

Alaska state fisheries biologist set the Dutch Harbor food/bait allocation at 1,810 tons, based on seven percent of the remaining allowable harvest, with 24,042 tons for the Togiak District sac roe fishery. The purse seine allocation was set at 16,829 tons, or 70 percent; and the gill net allocation at 7,212 tons, or 30 percent. Last year’s forecast of a biomass of 130,852 tons allowed for a Togiak District sac roe fishery of 22,943 tons, with 16,060 tons for the purse seine harvesters and 6,883 tons for the gillnet fleet.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) also announced a guideline harvest level for the 2018 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery of 11,128 tons, based on a 20 percent harvest rate of a forecast mature biomass of 55,637 tons.

Like last year, the forecast will not be updated with winter test fishery weight at age, as had been done prior to the 2017 fishery, biologists said.

ADF&G has scheduled a stakeholder meeting at the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association in Sitka at 6 p.m. on January 12 to discuss management strategies for the coming season.

Bristol Bay Fish Expo Set for June 8–9

Early registration is open for the Bristol Bay Fish Expo set for June 8–9 in Naknek, Alaska, complete with a dressed for success fisheries fashion show, speed hiring for captains and potential crew members, and a new mug up history event to share canned fish stories.

Bristol Bay Fish Expo, a fundraiser for Naknek’s Little Angels Child Care Academy, got its start a year ago, bringing in upwards of $15,000, said Katie Copps-Wilson, a physician’s assistant at the Camai Health Center in Naknek, and a Fish Expo organizer. That was enough to make payroll for five part-time employees at the child care center, which Copps-Wilson, who has three children, said is an important socioeconomic issue for community.

“People started moving out because there was no child care,” she said. Then in September 2016 the Bristol Bay Borough allocated $80,000 toward materials to create the child care facility within the local high school in this town of 544.

Last year’s expo attracted 44 exhibitors, along with sponsors for the fashion show, speed hiring–which is like a speed dating scenario – and other events. The fashion show features everything from the rain gear on deck look to going to town ensembles. The speed hiring event was successful in bringing captains and potential crew members together for interviews, and some crew got hired during the event, Copps-Wilson said.

Several companies have signed up already for the upcoming expo, and sponsors are still needed for the events. “We’re still working mothers trying to pull a show off,” she said.

Information about the 2018 expo and to sign up to participation is online at

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bill Would Extend Vessel Discharge Protections for Harvesters

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA. has introduced the Fishing and Small Vessel Relief Act (S.2194) that would extend a current moratorium exempting fishing vessels and vessels under 79 feet from costly incidental discharge permitting requirements mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. These vessels have been continuously exempt since 2008 under a temporary moratorium, as they do not pose a serious environmental risk, Cantwell said.

“Fishermen are key drivers of Washington state’s growing economy,” the senator said. “We need their boats out fishing, not bogged down by regulations meant for large vessels like oil tankers.”

Cantwell said her bill aims to bring stability to small vessel owners uneasy over the impending December 18 expiration of the current moratorium. Most of the more than 115,000 small vessels nationwide that would be covered are commercial fishing boats, but many research vessels, tour boats, tugboats, towboats and offshore supply boats would also qualify.

The EPA’s vessel incidental discharge permitting requirements are intended to prevent water pollution and the spread of invasive species through release of bilge water, ballast and other discharges. These regulations, said Cantwell, are critical to safeguard the environment from large vessels that are more likely to carry pollutants and run a greater risk of introducing invasive species. Vessel discharge from smaller vessels does not pose a serious environmental risk, the senator said.

Eighty Percent Drop in Pacific Cod Allocation

A drastic drop in the biomass and abundance of Pacific cod, due to anomalous warm conditions in the Gulf of Alaska, starting in 2014 and lasting at least through 2016, has prompted an 80 percent cut in the allowable catch for 2018.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council set the Gulf’s cod quota at 13,096 metric tons, down from 64,442 metric tons in 2017. The forecast for 2019 is a TAC of 12,368 metric tons.

The council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) noted that the unusual warm event, known as “the blob” affected the entire ecosystem. The decline was most obvious in a sharp reduction in the 2017 bottom trawl survey biomass, with Pacific cod consistently encountered in very low abundances throughout the survey region.

The council also cut Gulf Pollock TAC for 2018 to 166,228 metric tons, down from 184,243 metric tons in 2017, with a forecast of 112,677 metric tons in 2019.

The overall TAC for all Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvests in 2018 was set at 427,512 metric tons, down from 535,863 metric tons a year earlier.

The situation poses a big economic concern for Gulf of Alaska coastal communities, as the cod fisheries could be reduced from weeks to days of fishing.

Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank told the council it is important that everyone engaged in the cod fishery, including harvesters and processor workers, be aware of what’s happening, so that they’re not surprised when the season opens. “It doesn’t make sense to gear up, spend all that money, and then fish for a few days, so I think the number of folks who will fish will be less,” she said. “I’m concerned that people don’t know what the production means in terms of the fishing plan.”

Bonney said she expected the subject to be up for discussion today when the Kodiak fisheries work group meets in Kodiak, Alaska.

The TAC for Arrowtooth flounder was down from 103,300 metric tons in 2017 to 76,300 metric tons for the coming year. TACS were also lowered for flathead sole, northern rockfish, shortraker rockfish, dusky rockfish and other rockfish.

The catch allowance for sablefish, by contrast, rose from 10,074 metric tons to 11,505 metric tons for 2018. Other TAC boosts included shallow water flatfish, deep-water flatfish, rex sole, Pacific Ocean perch, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish and thornyhead rockfish.

The Council also approved a TAC of 1,364,341 metric tons of Pollock in the Eastern Bering Sea, up from 1,345,000 metric tons in 2017, with a forecast of 1,383,000 metric tons in 2019.

Elsewhere in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, Pacific cod TACs went in the other direction, set at 188,136 metric tons for 2018, down from the 2017 TAC of 223,704 metric tons, with a forecast of 159,120 metric tons in 2019.

Sablefish TACs for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands rose from 1,274 metric tons in 2017 to 1,464 metric tons for 2018, with a forecast of 2,061 metric tons in 2019.

Pacific Ocean perch TACs rose from 34,900 metric tons to 37,361 metric tons, with a forecast of 37,880 metric tons in 2019. Northern rockfish TACs were up too, from 5,000 metric tons to 6,100 metric tons, with a forecast of 6,500 metric tons in 2019.

NPFMC Examines Bering Sea Cod Vessels

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has initiated an analysis prompted by concerns over the number of catcher vessels delivering Pacific cod to motherships and a decrease in P-cod deliveries to shoreside processing facilities in the Bering Sea.

The motion by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten noted the council’s concern over potential for future growth in offshore deliveries of P-cod to Amendment 80 vessels or other vessels operating as motherships, and the potential impacts those increases could have on shoreside processors, communities and participating catcher vessels.

The action came during the council’s December meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

The council motion noted that despite a high level of latency, the pace of the fishery has increased shortening the season resulting in decreased ability to maximize the value of the fishery and negatively impacting fishery participants. The concern is that more entrants could exacerbate this situation, threatening the viability of the fishery.

The council will consider limiting entry of vessels that have no participated, or have not participated recently.

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA) urged the council to establish a control date to use as a reference point to limit access into the trawl catcher vessel and Amendment 80 mothership sectors of the directed non-Community Development Quota Bering Sea trawl cod fishery.

PSPA’s Nicole Kimball explained in her testimony that processing plants and communities dependent on the inshore cod fishery include Dutch Harbor King Cove Akutan, some in Sand Point, Adak and the Aleutians East Borough. While the Amendment 80 sector pays a resource landing tax of three percent to the state, the shoreside processors pay both the three percent fisheries business tax and local fish taxes, which range from one and a half percent to two percent, and community dependence on fisheries landing taxes is significant, she noted.

Study, Summit Focus on New Generation of Harvesters

A new study of Alaska’s commercial fisheries identifies factors that have contributed to the graying of the fleet and offers recommendations on how to support participation of young harvesters and coastal communities dependent on them for economic survival.

“Turning the Tide,” funded by the North Pacific Research Board and Alaska Sea Grant, concludes that privatizing fisheries access through requirements to purchase permits and quota has created financial and other barriers for the next generation of harvesters, and has especially impacted small rural fishing communities.

Privatization of these fisheries has resulted in the need for increased financial capital and other risks, including a lack of stable markets, the report concludes. Limited entry and individual quota programs have led to a contraction of fishing fleets in communities where fishing rights have been sold or migrated away, affecting access to those fisheries for future generations.

Residents of fishing communities in Bristol Bay and the Kodiak Archipelago identified many social barriers to accessing fisheries. They included a lack of exposure to commercial fishing, lack of experience, knowledge and family connections to fishing, discouragement from pursuing fishing as a career, and substance abuse and related problems in communities.

Those findings are consistent with others worldwide that improve access to commercial fisheries where access has been privatized is needed for young people, small scale fishermen and rural communities to fill jobs now held by harvesters whose average age if 50 years old, a decade older than the average fisherman of a generation ago.

The graying of the fleet and loss of local access in several important fishery regions of Alaska threatens the healthy succession of fishing as an economic and cultural mainstay in Alaska’s communities, and creates a public policy concern for the state, the report said.

To turn the tide, and remove these barriers to entry, the report makes several recommendations, including developing ways to protect and diversify community-based fishing access, including establishing youth permits or student licenses and mentorship or apprenticeship programs to provide young people with exposure to and experience in fishing and a pathway to ownership.

The report also recommends support of local infrastructure to maintain local fisheries, and establishment of a statewide fishing access for Alaskans task force to review and consider collaborative solutions to reverse the trend of a graying fleet and loss access to the fisheries for rural Alaska communities.

The complete study is available online on the project website:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Agreement Would Halt Commercial Fishing in Central Arctic Ocean

Officials from 10 countries have reached a legally binding agreement to abstain from commercial fishing in 1.1 million square miles of the Central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years, while research is conducted to learn more about marine life there. The area is roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea.

The document was signed in Washington, D.C. on November 30 by representatives from the United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union, said Scott Highleyman, a member of the U.S. delegation.

Delegates must now undertake a legal and technical review of the agreement’s provisions, and seek final approval of their respective governments to sign the document.

“This precautionary action recognizes both the pace of change in the Arctic due to climate change as well as the tradition of Arctic cooperation across international boundaries,” said Highleyman, who is vice president of conservation policy and programs at Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit entity working to protect the ocean from global challenges.

The agreement will establish and operate a joint program of scientific research and monitoring aimed at improving the understanding of the area’s ecosystem, and, in particular, determining whether fish stocks might exist in this area that could be harvested on a sustainable basis. The agreement envisions the possibility that one or more additional regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements may be established for this areas in the future.

The agreement came two years after the U.S., Canada, Norway, Greenland and Russia issued a declaration that they would voluntarily refrain from fishing in the high Arctic. They also pledged to work toward a binding agreement with non-Arctic nations operating commercial fishing fleets in distant waters. Similar precautionary Arctic fisheries plans were enacted by the U.S. off the northern coast of Alaska in 2009 and by Canada in 2014 in collaboration with Inuvialuit officials. More than 2,000 scientists from around the world, called on Arctic countries in 2012 to take similar precautionary action in the Central Arctic Ocean.

While the initial term of the agreement is 16 years, it is to be automatically extended every five years until science based fisheries quotas and rules are put into place, Ocean Conservancy said.

Value Outlook for Bristol Bay Sockeyes is Relatively Stable

A new market analysis of sockeye salmon produced for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) shows first wholesale prices of all major sockeye product forms increased in 2017, indicating strong demand.

The latest Bristol Bay sockeye harvest was the second largest of the past two decades and resulted in the largest total ex-vessel value since the mid-1990s after adjusting for inflation, but it could have been even better, the McDowell Group said in its 43-page report to the BBRSDA, which represents Bristol Bay’s driftnet fleet.

Limits put on harvests resulted in over-escapement for several river systems, and an opportunity cost to harvesters of an estimated $29.2 million, the report said.

Still early sales volumes of frozen, headed and gutted sockeye produced in 2017 trailed 2016 sales by 31 percent, and selling out frozen inventory ahead of the 2018 season will be critical for pricing prospects next spring.

While future market developments can’t be predicted with total certainty, the value outlook is relatively stable, the report read.

McDowell Group researchers noted that prices of headed and gutted and fillet products have increased faster than canned forms in recent years, resulting in processors canning less sockeye salmon, despite larger harvests. While lower production volume has pushed canned salmon prices upward, this could result in less demand for canned salmon going forward, with the recent spike in harvest value not expected to be followed by a sharp decline, which is what happened in 2014-2015, according to the report.

Frozen fillets and fresh sales have seen growth in recent years, with statewide sockeye fillet production up 63 percent between 2013 and 2016, and may have increased even further in 2017, including sales of fresh headed and gutted sockeye from Bristol Bay up 39 percent to 3.1 million pounds.

The preliminary ex-vessel value of Bristol Bay sockeyes rose 37 percent this year to $210 million, with ex-vessel prices up 34 percent over 2016, while sockeye harvests rose by two percent, according to preliminary data. Assuming static prices, the value of 2017 foregone sockeye harvests in the Bay is estimated at $29 million, the report read.

Global sockeye harvests meanwhile fell five percent, about 20 million pounds, again based on preliminary data.

In preparation for the report, McDowell Group compiled information from the Alaska Departments of Fish and Game and Revenue, including fish ticket data and the commercial operators annual report, in addition to export data from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The complete report is online at

Behnken Honored by Alaska Legislature

Veteran halibut harvester Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) in Sitka, has been honored by the Alaska Legislature for her efforts to protect small boat fisheries and coastal communities.

An honorarium and framed certificate were presented to her during a “Gearing up to 40 years” reception for ALFA late November. The honor comes on the heels of Behnken’s national recognition in 2016 as a “Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood” by the White House.

The reception also celebrated 40 years of ALFA’s leadership in fishery conservation locally and nationally. Behnken, the association’s executive director since 1991, also started ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, to engage fishermen and scientists in conservation projects.

A former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Behnken has for years urged all seafood harvesters to share in the responsibilities of sustainability of the resource. Under her leadership, ALFA has been recognized nationally for its role in harvester-led advocacy in support of coastal fisheries and communities.

“Really the accolades belong to the entire ALFA team—staff, board and members—and to the incredible community that supports us” Behnken said. “My inspiration comes from all of you.”

Recruiting Gets Underway for Upcoming Groundfish Season

Recruiters for the At-Sea Processors Association will hold a job fair tomorrow, December 7, at the Alaska Department of Labor’s Anchorage Midtown Job Center to attract crew willing to spend two to three months aboard a catcher-processor vessel during the upcoming groundfish fisheries. Applicants must be pre-registered and present at a seafood familiarization session, and then attend orientations coming up the following week.

Participating companies include Arctic Storm, Aleutian Spray, the Coastal Village Region Fund, Glacier Fish Company and Trident Seafoods. All are members of the At-Sea Processors Association, and participate in groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, whose December meeting is underway at the Anchorage Hilton this week, will release its annual quotas for groundfish harvests in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and the Gulf of Alaska, during the meeting.

The At-Sea Processors Association is advising applicants that the work averages 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and will start in January, lasting for approximately two to three months. Applicants must understand and be able to speak English, and pass a health, drug screen and criminal background check. Pay is based on a percentage of the catch or case rate depending on the company. Room, board and transportation are provided based upon successful completion of contracts. For more information, call 1-907-269-4775.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

One Section Opened for Eastern Aleutian Tanner Crab

Just one of three sections of the Eastern Aleutian District Tanner crab fishery will open on January 15, based on a survey estimate showing that the number of mature male Tanner crab exceeded the required threshold.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) said that the abundance of mature male Tanner crab in the Makushin/Skan Bay Section is 291,480 crab, which is above the threshold of 45,000 crab required for a fishery opening. ADF&G has set the guideline harvest level at 35,000 pounds.

The survey abundance estimate of mature male Tanner crab in the Akutan Section is 99,178 crab, which is below the threshold of 2,000,000 crab required for a fishery opening.

Likewise, the survey abundance estimate of mature male Tanner crab in the Unalaska/Kalekta Bay Section is 63,848 crab, which is below the threshold of 65,000 crab required for a fishery opening in that section.

Therefore, both the Akutan and Unalaska/Kalekta Bay sections will be closed for the 2018 season. Preseason registration forms for the Makushin/Skan Bay section fishery must be received by ADF&G in Dutch Harbor by December 24.

Preregistration forms are available at the Dutch Harbor office and online at

Global Food Aid Program Introducing Millions to Seafood

The director of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Global Food Aid Program says the program introduced new seafood products to more than 15 million new customers in 2017 with expanding options appealing to everyone from super athletes to the elderly.

The program’s mission, Bruce Schactler reminded participants in ASMI’s All Hands on Deck meeting in Anchorage, is to increase use of Alaska seafood in domestic and international food and nutrition programs by way of education, research and product development. This fills a dual purpose of providing vital proteins in areas where they are lacking in diets and moving large volumes of products from species caught in great abundance, to keep it from being held in inventory.

In previously established domestic and overseas food aid programs, ASMI worked to create more demand for Alaska seafood products in food distribution programs on Indian reservations, emergency food assistance programs and the national school lunch program. The product list now ranges from canned pink salmon and sockeye salmon fillet portions to Alaska Pollock braded fish sticks and portions, and herring fillets. The program began in 2004 with canned pink salmon as its only product.

This year alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased 1.8 million pounds of frozen Wild Alaska Pollock whole grain braded fish sticks, and nearly 8 million pounds of frozen wild Alaska Pollock portions, Schactler said.

The addition of wild Alaska salmon fillet portions – both sockeye and coho – to the USDA food basket, will expand the number of underserved populations, including families, children, pregnant women and the elderly, according to Schactler’s report.

Among the latest product promotions is herring in fillet forms.

The program, he said, is perfectly placed to fill the animal protein gap, and an opportunity to incorporate more seafood into menus and people’s meal patterns.

ASMI’s All Hands on Deck Meeting Gets an Upbeat Message

A researcher with Juneau’s McDowell Group says there’s a bright future ahead for Alaska’s seafood industry despite challenges ranging from budget pressures to climate change.

McDowell Group’s Andy Wink told participants in the Alaska Seafood Marketing Industry’s All Hands on Deck meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on November 28 that the cumulative first wholesale value of wild Alaska seafood from 1959 through 2016, based on data from National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, totaled $170 billion. According to Wink that amount is equal to the value of all major professional North American sports teams.

The ex-vessel value of wild Alaska salmon alone from 2011 through 2016 added to $3,513,000,000, and the preliminary ex-vessel value or all commercially caught Alaska salmon in 2017 was $679 million – up 64 percent since 2015, Wick said.

Roe prices tended up this past year, while farmed prices were down, but still remained high, with limited potential to increase farmed supply, Wick said. There was also strong demand for fresh sockeyes, but slower frozen sales early on.

The outlook for Alaska Pollock is up for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands in 2018, and down or maybe flat for the Gulf of Alaska, while the competing supply from Russia is expected to be down six percent in 2018. Pollock, which is available in fillet blocks, surimi, roe and frozen mince, is sold into North American, European, Asian and other markets.

For the year-to-date in 2017 exports were up by one percent in value and four percent in volume. Halibut harvests were up by five percent this year, while wholesale pricing dropped. Black cod year-to-date harvests were up 14 percent, and prices also rose, but the overall value of black cod and halibut is down $143 million since 2011, Wink said.

Alaska cod, which has markets in North America, Europe, Asia and Brazil, has seen its frozen exports down six percent in value and 12 percent in volume for the year-to-date, and the 2018 supply outlook is down significantly in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, he said.

Rockfish harvests and exports were also down, while Atka mackerel was up.

The All Hands on Deck meeting continues through Thursday, November 30 at the Hotel Captain Cook. Reports given at the meeting will be available online following the event at

Bristol Bay Red King Crab Harvest is 6.59 Million Pounds

Commercial harvesters of Bristol Bay red king crab wrapped up their season in mid-November with a catch of 6,588,452 pounds, just shy of the 6,601,000-pound quota.

“We consider that 100 percent caught,” said Miranda Westphal, area management biologist at Dutch Harbor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“It was about what we anticipated,” Westphal said. “We knew from the survey that fishing would be down a little bit this season. The survey numbers were down. They were having a harder time finding the crab and the crab were a little bit further into the bay,” she explained.

Whether that location of the crab was due to ocean temperature changes or the availability of food for the crab is uncertain.

The red king crab were bigger than in the recent past, weighing in at about 6.8 pounds per crab this year rather than the averaged 6.6 pounds, according to Westphal.

A total of 61 boats were registered for the red king crab fishery, which generally averages 60-70 vessels.

The Western Bering Sea tanner crab fishery was still under way with 1,253,000 pounds harvested out of a quota of 2,500,200 pounds. “Fishing is actually going fairly well, but there has not been a lot of participation, she said. “Most of the boats right now are taking a break for the holidays, but we expect everyone to come back out in January.”

Westphal said she had heard anecdotally that most of the catch so far was old shell crab.

Fifteen vessels are registered for this fishery, which was closed a year ago.

No significant catch of snow crab, with an 18,961,000-pound quota, was recorded through late November.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Alaska Leader, Trident Share Top Honors at Symphony

Cod fillets with lemon herb butter by Alaskan Leader Seafoods, and hot and spicy Pollock fish sandwich portions from Trident Seafoods took first place in retail and food service competition respectively in the 2017 Alaska Symphony of Seafood.

Alaskan Leader also earned first place in the Beyond the Plate competition with Cod Crunchies Pet Treats. Trident Seafoods’ Barako Style Wild Alaska Pollock Roe, the only entry in that category intended to attract more roe products, was also honored.

Jack Links Salmon Jerky won the Seattle People’s Choice award. The Jack Links brand salmon jerky will be sold in retail stores and the same jerky is already being marketed as Trident Wild Alaskan Smoke Sockeye Salmon Jerky in larger packages in Costco stores, through a partnership of Jack Links and Trident Seafoods.

Alaskan Leader, founded in 1990 by seven Kodiak fishing families, partnered in 1998 with Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., which represents 17 villages in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, and today each holds 50 percent ownership in the company. A marketing entity, Alaskan Leader sells both commodity and value-added retail and wholesale products.

Family-owned Trident Seafoods, founded over 40 years ago by Chuck Bundrant, is the largest vertically-integrated seafood company in North America.

First place winners in each category and the grand prize winner will be allocated booth space at the Seafood Expo North America, March 11-13 in Boston, Mass., a leading event for seafood buyers for retail, restaurants, catering, food service and processing. Last year’s Expo attracted more than 22,660 visitors, with exhibits from companies from 53 countries.

All of the winners, including the grand prize winner, Juneau and Seattle People’s choice and first, second and third places, are to be announced on February 27 at the symphony awards ceremony and legislative reception in Juneau, Alaska.

Major sponsors of this year’s symphony competition included the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska Air Cargo, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, At-sea Processors Association, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Alaskan Brewing Co., Marel, Northwest Fisheries Association, Kwik’Pak Fisheries LLC, Trident Seafoods, UniSea and United Fishermen of Alaska.

ASMI Study Identifies High Value Potential for Fish Oil

A report released this week by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) looks at challenges and opportunities for the state’s specialty seafood products, from the costs of production and market development to proportionate savings in costs gained by increased production.

The study by the McDowell Group examined the challenges and potential for fish heads, fishmeal and oil, roe products, internal organs, specialty crab products, herring fillets, Arrowtooth flounder, spiny dogfish and skates.

Several common production hurdles identified in the report include capacity limitations, economies of scale, lower production and investment priority for specialty products and low value species, production costs and market development costs.

Fish oil was identified as having the highest potential for increased total value, with opportunities in supplement market offers having much higher value. The challenge would be in refining the product to supplement grade and accessing new markets. Alaska’s supply of fish oil from 2011–2015 averaged 54 million pounds, but there is potential for 201 million pounds, the report read. The first wholesale value of fish oil from Alaska during that period averaged $30 million.

Roe, by contrast, had an average first wholesale value of $413 million for those same years for an average supply of 40 million pounds, but estimates on roe’s potential growth in pounds was unavailable. The report identified the challenges in the roe market to oversupply of some species and stagnant demand in key markets, plus variable production and quality. Still McDowell saw opportunity for new products in traditional markets in the U.S. and Europe.

Fishmeal and bone meal, with an average supply of 142 million pounds, had a first wholesale value of $108 million, and the McDowell group identified opportunities in pet food markets, soil remediation and large potential supplies. The challenges were identified as creating economies of scale for new production and commodity product itself.

The report is intended to serve as a reference document for ASMI, the industry, buyers and economic development professionals. It can be found online at

Alaska Wants Bilateral Meetings to Include Talks on BC Mining

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott have joined with the state’s congressional delegation in urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to put British Columbia mining projects on the agenda for upcoming talks between the State Department and Global Affairs Canada.

Their stated concern is that mining in British Columbia along salmon-rich transboundary rivers could threaten American economic interests because of “inadequate financial mechanisms to assure long term management of toxic wastes and redress for damages from potential releases.” The letter expresses concern that increasing mineral development and legacy mining impacts in the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds threatens these world-renowned salmon runs critical to the state’s commercial fishing and visitor industries, as well as traditional nutritional and cultural needs of the state’s Native population.

The letter asks Tillerson to consider whether an International Joint Commissioner reference is a suitable venue to evaluate whether mines operating in the transboundary region are implementing best management practices in the treatment of wastewaters and management of potential acid generating tailings and waste rock.

The letter urges Tillerson to support funding and other needed resources to develop a reliable database of water quality and related information for transboundary waters for use in tracking cumulative impacts, trends and significant episodic changes associated with operating and historic mines in the transboundary region.

The letter also calls for establishment of an interagency task force, led by the State Department, to work in collaboration with the state of Alaska to develop recommendations and funding to ensure protection of transboundary rivers.

A report issued in mid-November by the United Nations Environmental Program identifies prevention of tailings dam disasters as a challenge made more difficult by the nature of the mining industry. The report also asks if society should demand more sustainable practices in the design and planning of tailings management, including zero, or minimal mine waste and turning mine waste into secondary resources.

Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit Convenes Dec. 6 in Anchorage

The 2017 Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit opens at the Dena-ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska on December 6, for three days of training in marketing, business management, the fisheries regulatory process and the science of fisheries management. The event will overlap with the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings at the Hilton Anchorage, which is on the agenda as a field trip for young fishermen participating in the summit.

Alaska Board of Fisheries member and veteran Bristol Bay harvester Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, Alaska, will deliver the keynote address on the first morning. Also on the morning’s agenda are seafood marketing specialist Quentin Fong of Alaska Sea Grant Kodiak, who will address Alaska’s role in domestic and world markets and the importance of quality, Jeremy Woodrow of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, speaking on ASMI’s marketing and consumer trends, and Fritz Johnson, addressing the importance of chilling the catch in Bristol Bay.

The next day includes science and management of Alaska fisheries, guidelines on how to get involved in state and federal fisheries issues, and an introduction to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

Jerry Dzugan of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is among the speakers for the final day of the summit, he will address vessel stability and operational safety.

The complete agenda is available online at

The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is also offering a U.S. Coast Guard approved drill conductor course on December 9, the morning after the end of the summit. Preregistration is required and can be done online at

Trident, APICDA Announce Investment in CDU’s Operations

Trident Seafoods and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association have reached an agreement in principle for joint ownership of Bering Pacific Seafoods, at False Pass, False Pass Fuel Co. and Cannon Fish Co. in Kent., Wash.

In a joint announcement in mid-November, Trident and APICDA said they share a vision that the False Pass processing facility has great potential and are committed to make it more productive and efficient, to better support and serve harvesters in the area of False Pass, Alaska.

The plan is for Trident, a multi-site operator in the Aleutian-Pribilof region, to help APICDA maximize the volume of product, focus on providing year-round employment and contribute more tax revenue to the city of False Pass.

APICDA’s False Pass plant, Bering Pacific Seafoods, processes salmon harvested from the southwest and Bristol Bay regions of Alaska. The announcement came on the heels of an Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast of a run of 51.28 million sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay in 2018, with a harvest of 37.59 million reds in the Bay and 1.49 million fish in South Peninsula.

That’s nearly 10 million sockeyes over last year’s run forecast of 41.47 million reds.

Cannon Fish Co. is a secondary processing plant that takes fish initially processed in Alaska and produced high quality finished products for retail sale.

Trident’s investment in Canon Fish Co. will allow Cannon to better compete on a global stage with new markets and new products, said Larry Cotter, chief executive officer for APICDA, and Joe Bundrant, Trident’s chief executive officer.

Cotter cited Trident’s history of adding value to Alaska’s fishery resources, a benefit to harvesters and fishery dependent communities. “Trident’s investment offers APICDA the opportunity to focus greater resources to develop needed fishing industry infrastructure in our other Community Development Quota communities of Nelson Lagoon, Atka and St. George as we did in False Pass,” Cotter said.

“APICDA has done a remarkable job improving their opportunities for residents of the communities it represents” Bundrant said. “Trident is really proud to have been a partner with APICDA in various programs since it was formed in 1992.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wild Fish Conservancy Sues Cooke Aquaculture

A legal battle has begun over a net pen failure at Cypress Island on August 19–20 that resulted in the release of more than 100,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

The Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) has filed suit against the owner of the net pens, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC, under section 505 of the Clean Water Act, in an effort to hold the company responsible for negligent release of the farmed salmon.

The Wild Fish Conservancy contends that the net pen failure resulted in the discharge of the farmed salmon, dead fish carcasses and massive amounts of debris, among other pollutants.

The conservancy also contends “the escape event off Cypress Island represents a dire threat to already imperiled wild fish populations, beloved marine mammal species and the fragile Puget Sound ecosystem.

“These discharges represent blatantly negligent violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits under which Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pens currently operate,” the conservancy said.

Along with the lawsuit, the WFC said it is working to more precisely quantify the potential impacts of the August release by sending escaped Atlantic salmon samples obtained by the Lummi Nation to independent labs to test for a variety of toxins and viral diseases. Those tests will be crucial in determining the true impact on the well-being of wild fish and marine mammal populations.

Earlier this year, the WFC launched the “Our Sound, Our Salmon” campaign to oppose expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound. More information on that campaign can be found online at

Research Shows How Ocean Acidification Affects Wild Salmon

Fisheries scientists studying the impact of ocean acidification on wild salmon will host a panel discussion on Friday, November 17 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the 2017 Seattle Pacific Marine Expo to discuss their findings.

Brett Veerhusen of United Fishermen of Alaska Salmon Habitat Information Program will moderate the discussion featuring Washington Sea Grant researcher Chase Williams, NOAA oceanographer Jessica Cross, and commercial salmon harvester Amy Grondin.

Williams has been engaged, with principal investigator Evan Gallagher of the University of Washington Department of Occupational and Health Science, and others, in testing the impact of high ocean carbon dioxide levels on the sense of smell of coho salmon and sablefish, including its effects on feeding and ability to avoid predators.

Their report notes that other studies show that anticipated marine carbon dioxide concentrations can alter vital smell-mediated behaviors in fish – even repelling fish from prey and drawing them to predators. Their project is exposing coho salmon and sablefish to actual and anticipated levels of carbon dioxide and to odorant signals for food, predators and schooling.

Meg Chadsey, an ocean acidification specialist with Washington Sea Grant, is also participating in the study. What Williams is doing, she said, is testing the fish’s sense of smell for many things. He has taken juvenile coho salmon and reared them in the lab’s tanks at different levels of carbon dioxide and run them through mazes to see if they would notice and turn away from the odor of a salmon skin compound within the maze.

When extra carbon dioxide is put in the water, the salmon seemed to lose their ability to smell or respond appropriately to the predator (salmon skin compound). As concentrations of carbon dioxide increased they didn’t seem able to sense the predator or respond appropriately, she explained.

Run Forecast for Bristol Bay is 51.28 Million Sockeyes

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is forecasting the return of 51.28 million sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay in the summer of 2018, which would allow for a potential harvest of nearly 38 million reds in Bristol Bay and 1.49 million fish in the South Peninsula.

A Bristol Bay harvest of that size would be 35 percent higher than the most recent 10-year harvest of 28.91 million fish, which has ranged from 15.43 million to 38.81 million fish and is 87 percent greater than the long-term harvest average of 20.85 million fish.

State fisheries biologists are forecasting that 36 percent of the 2018 run will consist of 18.43 million age-1.2 fish, with more than 6 million age-2.2 fish comprising 12 percent of it. Another 22.55 million age-1.3 fish would make up 44 percent of the total run and 4.13 million age-2-3 fish would account for 8 percent.

From 1963 through 2017 the Bristol Bay total run have averaged 33.78 million fish, and averaged 42.71 million fish over most of the most recent 10-year period.

ADF&G thanked the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC) for funding assistance this year. The BBFC, which began in 2016, is an agreement between ADF&G and the Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute to work together with stakeholders to restore a world-class fishery management system and raise funds to support and maintain management.

Frances Leach Named to Head UFA

Frances Leach, a regulations coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), who grew up commercial fishing for salmon, halibut and shellfish with her family in Ketchikan, Alaska, takes the helm as executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska on January 5, 2018.

Leach, who grew up in a commercial fishing family in a coastal community but now a resident of Juneau, Alaska, said she understands the importance of commercial fishing to the state’s economy and cultural heritage.

“The commercial fishing industry faces many challenges at the state and federal level, and I look forward to addressing these challenges as UFA’s executive director,” she said.

UFA President Jerry McCune said that Leach has a proven track record of success and demonstrated leadership during her professional career. “In addition, her life experience working in her family’s commercial fishing business makes her uniquely qualified to be UFA’s executive director,” he noted.

UFA, Alaska’s statewide commercial fishing umbrella association, represents 34-member organizations from fisheries throughout Alaska and its offshore waters.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Alaska Board of Fisheries to Take Up Finfish Issues at Valdez

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will review 50 proposals regarding the Prince William Sound, Upper Copper and Susitna rivers finfish issues December 1–5 in Valdez, Alaska, including 10 related specifically to the Copper River commercial salmon fishery. Proposal 28, from Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), recommends the repeal of mandatory inside waters commercial salmon fishery closures under the Copper River King Salmon Management Plan.

CDFU argues that since the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has demonstrated its ability to manage fisheries effectively that mandatory closures are unnecessary.

“ADF&G has opposed mandatory closures on sport fisheries as these closures are mandated even when the circumstances of a current year’s run strength and timing do not require them,” CDFU said.

The proposal suggests eliminating the mandatory language regarding the inside closure tool and not the abolishment of tool itself.

Of the 50 proposals up for consideration several come from the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory committee, including one calling for reducing the maximum depth of drift nets in the Copper River District commercial drift gillnet fishery to 29 meshes through the end of May.

The advisory committee contends that deep nets are harvesting too many king salmon in the May gillnet fishery, at the expense of dipnetters and sport anglers, and that escapement goals for the kings were not met in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Public written comments on specific proposals must be submitted by November 17 in order to be included in the board’s workbook prior to the meeting. For submission details visit

Comments submitted after the November 17 deadline will be limited to 10 single-sided pages in length, and will be inserted in board member workbooks at the start of the meeting.

During the meeting, written public comments may be submitted by hand delivery at any time if 21 copies are provided. Individuals not in attendance can submit their comments by fax at 1-907-465-6094.

All portions of the meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is intended to be available on the Board of Fisheries website at

Copies of advanced meeting materials, including the agenda and roadmap, are available from Boards Support Section, 1-907-465-4110, or online at

EPA Settles with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor over Ammonia Release

A settlement has been reached by federal authorities with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor LLC, a Seattle-based firm that operates a seafood cold storage facility at Unalaska, Alaska, for violations related to an ammonia release last year that seriously injured a facility worker.

Kloosterboer has agreed to complete supplemental environmental projects, valued at about $26,000, which will help prevent or reduce future ammonia releases and improve safety at the facility, according to Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company will also pay a $10,008 penalty to the federal agency.

Under terms of the settlement, Kloosterboer will upgrade its computerized refrigeration control system. The upgraded system will use leak detectors to monitor ammonia levels in the freezer and send signals to the computerized control system if ammonia levels reach preset concentrations. If a leak occurs, the control system will notify operators and managers via audible and visual alarms, automatically shut off the ammonia pumps, and activate the emergency exhaust system.

Kloosterboer also agreed to purchase hazardous materials emergency response equipment for Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety and to train two of the company’s personnel to respond to hazmat emergencies at the facility and other facilities at Unalaska.

Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Region 10 compliance and enforcement division in Seattle, noted that federal emergency planning, reporting and response requirements are important for protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.

“The company’s failure to provide timely information, crucial in an emergency response, put their workers, first responders and the public at risk,” he said.

The incident occurred on December 3, 2016 when Kloosterboer’s Unalaska facility released 125 pounds of anhydrous ammonia inside the facility’s freezer. Anhydrous ammonia is harmful to skin, eyes, throat and lungs and can cause serious injury or death.The company reported the release to the National Response Center and the Alaska Emergency Response Commission on December 5, more than 46 hours after the release occurred and failed to submit follow-up notification. The release and emergency reporting delays violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Final Action on Charter Halibut Management Measures Before NPFMC

Federal fisheries managers have scheduled final action on charter halibut management measures when the council holds its December meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska.

High on the agenda for this North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting are final specifications for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvest for the coming year.

Other major issues include discussion papers on Bering Sea cod trawl catcher vessel participation, charter halibut permits, self-guided halibut rental boats and an initial review of small sideboards. Also slated for discussion is the Western Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod A and C/D seasons, and a consultation related to the Chinook salmon excluder.

Other meetings scheduled during the December 4–12 week include the Charter Halibut Management Committee, the Scientific and Statistical Committee, the Advisory Panel, and Legislative Committee.

All meetings, except for executive sessions, are open to the public. Submit comments by emailing by November 30. The meeting will be broadcast beginning on December 6 at

Motions will be posted online following the meeting.

Proposed Alaska Mine to Benefit Mental Health Raises Habitat Concerns

Officials with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority say preliminary results from initial exploration work in Southeast Alaska have confirmed potential for gold and also quantify other heavy minerals as prospective co-products.

Acting executive director Wyn Menefee says the trust authority may not make an end decision on the mine for several years, but there are potential economic opportunities, from tax revenues for the state to jobs to enhance the economy, and he says international mining companies have already expressed interest in the project. The trust authority’s mandate is to generate revenue to fund programs for Alaskans in need of mental health services – residents dealing with issues ranging from developmental disability and Alzheimer’s disease to substance abuser disorders.

Menefee says if the project proceeds that the trust will be required to and will protect water quality. He also notes that this is a mining district, and that timber harvests have also been going on for many years in this area. So far, the trust has spent some $2 million on the project and they plan to spend another $3 million, he said.

The trust also has plans to develop timber resources and a sale pending to Sealaska Corp., with the regional Alaska Native Corporation to do the harvest next year.

The prospect of mining and logging activity in this area near Icy Cape, about 75 miles from Yakutat, is problematic, according Guy Archibald, staff scientist with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in Juneau, Alaska.

“All the rivers in this area are anadromous primarily coho (salmon) habitat,” says Archibald.“They are going to bulldoze and basically strip mine around those streams. We know that the permitting process is not protective,” he said. “How are these to be protected from what is basically a strip mining operation?” Archibald is concerned about sand deposits on the shoreline that function as barrier dunes. “They protect the uplands from erosion, especially during the winter months,” he said. “If you remove the sand, how do you prevent erosion from winter storms. This will also impact the rivers.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NOAA Says American Fisheries Remain a Strong Economic Driver

NOAA Fisheries released its annual Fisheries of the United States report today, noting that through 2016 the nation’s largest commercial fishery by volume was still Alaska walleye Pollock, with near record landings of 3.4 billion pounds, up 3 percent from 2015.

For the 20th year in a row Dutch Harbor led the nation with the highest volume of seafood landed – 7,780 million pounds valued at $198 million. The Pollock constituted 89 percent of that volume. Likewise, for the 17th year in a row, New Bedford, Massachusetts claims the highest value catch from one port – 107 million pounds, valued at $3,278 million. Sea scallops accounted for 77 percent of it.

Alaska’s Pollock harvest represented 35 percent of total U.S. commercial and recreational seafood landings.

Overall, commercial fisheries landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood, down 1.5 percent compared to 2015, but valued at $5.3 billion, which was up 2.1 percent.

The report identified the highest value for commercial species as lobsters, $723 million; crabs, $702 million; scallops, $488 million; shrimp, $483 million; salmon, $420 million; and Alaska Pollock, $417 million.

The report also noted that in 2016 the U.S. imported 5.8 billion pounds of seafood, up 1 percent from 2015, which was worth $19.5 billion, up 3.5 percent. A significant portion of that imported seafood was caught by American fishermen, exported for processing and then reimported to the United States. Shrimp and salmon are among of the top three imported species and much of that is farm raised.

The United States ranks 16th in total aquaculture production worldwide. In 2015, 1.4 billion pounds of aquaculture production was reported in the U.S.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur ross is quoted in the report urging expansion of the nation’s aquaculture capacity as an opportunity to reduce U.S. reliance on imports, while creating thousands of new jobs. “With the United States importing millions of pounds of seafood annually, and with so much of that seafood foreign farm-raised, the numbers in this report underscore the untapped potential of aquaculture here at home,” Ross said.

The report also shows that the average American ate 14.9 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2016, down from 15.5 pounds the year before. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood species each week, or 26 to 39 pounds per person per year.

Comment Now on Recertification of Alaska Cod Fishery

The Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management certification draft assessment report for recertification of the Alaska cod fishery is open for registered stakeholder comment through November 30, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) announced today.

The reassessment is being done by DNV GL, an international accredited registrar and classification society headquartered near Oslo, Norway.

According to ASMI all registered stakeholders will be sent a copy of the report and invited to comment on its factual contents, either in relation to the specific sections of the report or specific evaluation parameters.. Any recommendations or criticism should be supported with data or literature citations so that the assessment team is able to evaluate the comments.

After a review of all comments DNV GL will make a determination on whether to recertify the fishery, ASMI said.

ASMI chose the responsible fisheries management model several years ago based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations code and guidelines because it meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification.

The steering board of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative has recognized ASMI’s RFM program as meeting the FAO guidelines for the eco-labeling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries.

Banner Year for Alaska Salmon

Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials say the 2017 commercial salmon of all species harvest came to 224.76 million wild salmon, with an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $678.8 million. That’s a 66.7 percent increase from last year’s value of $407.3 million, ranking 2017 third in terms of both pounds landed and value in over 40 years. While fish were still being caught after the report was released in early October, the majority of the 2017 salmon season was over.

ADF&G noted that despite unfavorable market conditions of a strong dollar – which made Alaska seafood significantly more expensive to foreign buyers – and an embargo due to conflict in roe markets, nearly $300 million in additional ex-vessel value went to the pockets of Alaska salmon fishermen aided by a large harvest and continued investments in quality, product development and marketing.

“Tremendous harvests occurred across Alaska, from Kotzebue to Southeast, highlighted by an all-time record statewide chum salmon harvest,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

Bowers noted that 2017 is also the third year in a row statewide sockeye salmon harvest exceeded 50 million fish. “Record wild salmon harvests like these are a testament to Alaska’s sound, science-based management, the professionalism of ADF&G’s staff, and thoughtful stakeholder engagement,” he said.

The Bristol Bay harvest alone – with 37.7 million salmon delivered – was valued at $209.9 million.

Other fisheries also saw record salmon harvests, notably in Norton Sound, in Western Alaska, where a strong coho salmon return brought a harvest of 191,000 silvers.

These are all preliminary numbers. The final value of the 2017 salmon fishery will be determined in 2018 after seafood processors, buyers and direct marketers report the total value paid to fishermen.

Trident Donations to SeaShare Reach 20 Million Meals

Trident Seafoods has reached the 20 million meal mark in its donations to SeaShare, the non-profit organization on Bainbridge Island, Washington, that delivers millions of servings of seafood to food banks nationwide.

Jim Harmon, executive director of SeaShare, recognized Trident’s donations in late October, saying that Trident’s generosity and leadership have been instrumental in building SeaShare into the largest seafood donor in the country.

Joe Bundrant, chief executive officer of Trident, accepted the award on behalf of Trident’s 8,500 employees. He challenged others in the seafood industry to achieve the same meal mark to feed hungry families, Bundrant quoted his father, Chuck Bundrant, who founded the company, as always saying “you make a living with what you get, but you make a life with what you give.”

Trident, a family-owned business, is one of the largest vertically integrated seafood companies in the United States.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Court Battle Ensues Over Stand for Salmon Initiative

A proposed ballot initiative aimed at updating and strengthening regulations to protect fish habitat is now in the hands of the Alaska Supreme Court.

While the booklets for gathering the 32,000 signatures necessary to put the initiative on Alaska’s statewide 2018 ballot are out, the state of Alaska on Oct. 20 filed an appeal in the Alaska Supreme Court over Stand for Salmon v. Mallott, a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the proposed ballot initiative.

“The question of whether a proposed ballot initiative makes an appropriation is an important constitutional question that should be answered by the Alaska Supreme Court,” said Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth.

The state takes no position on whether the initiative is good policy, she said. “This is about the superior court’s legal conclusion and our duty to defend the Alaska Constitution, and we believe the superior court got it wrong,” she said.

The appeal came on the heels of a decision by Alaska Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner, who ruled in mid-October that the ballot measure to update the state’s 60-year-old law governing development in salmon habitat should move forward. Rindner than directed Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott to produce petition booklets for circulation.

That decision came after Stand for Salmon proponents sued in response to a September decision by Mallott, who acted on a recommendation of the state’s Department of Law that the initiative was unconstitutional, and declined to certify the initiative.

Once the state’s appeal was filed, the supreme court began the process of issuing a briefing schedule on when the opening brief from the state was due, initiative sponsors would respond to it, and the state would respond to the initiative sponsors’ brief, explained Libby Bakalar, an assistant attorney general for the state. There is usually a 30-day period between each briefing cycle, but the court usually moves more quickly in cases involving an election, Bakalar said.

“The Superior Court correctly determined that the initiative is not an appropriation,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for Trustees for Alaska, commenting after the Alaska Superior Court handed down its ruling reversing the state’s initial decision on the initiative. Brown argued the case for the plaintiff, Stand for Salmon, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations concerned about protecting fish habitat.

“Some industry interests pressured the state to appeal because they benefit from a weak permitting system with no public input,” Brown said. “The current system treats every activity in salmon streams the same, regardless of potential harm. But, as the Superior Court rightly found, Alaskans have the right to have their voice heard through the initiative process and weigh in on how the state protects our salmon habitat.”

“We need to have clear rules for projects proposed in sensitive salmon habitat to ensure they’re being done responsibly – as well as provide more certainty in the permitting process for the industry proposing the project,” said Mike Wood, initiative sponsor and commercial set netter in Upper Cook Inlet.

Norton Sounds Harvesters Get Record Payout

Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP), a subsidiary of Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. in Nome, Alaska, has paid a record $6.05 million to 172 harvesters who delivered crab, salmon and halibut during the 2017 fishing season. Another $2.5 million went to 258 seasonal employees of NSSP who worked in processing plants, at buying stations and on fishing tenders.

“An infusion of $8.5 million in communities where jobs are limited makes significant impact in the lives of individuals, families and communities,” said Dan Harrelson, chairman of the economic development corporation, as NSSP announced the payout on Oct. 24.

The processors played a big role in bringing the harvest to record levels, said NSSP manager William “Middy” Johnson. “To allow for maximum capacity in the fishing season, the processors worked 12-hour days and seven days a week for 10 weeks straight,” he said.

The 2017 salmon harvest was valued at $2.8 million, more than double last year’s ex-vessel value of $1.2 million. The growth came from the amount of chum and coho salmon delivered by the 139 regional salmon harvesters. The year’s 1.1 million-pound chum harvest more than tripled the 2016 harvest of 344,613 pounds. The 1.3 million-pound coho harvest nearly doubled the 2016 harvest of 701,450 pounds.

The 2017 crab harvest was steady with 409,374 pounds delivered to tender vessels and the Northern NSSO processing plant in Nome, nearly matching the salmon ex-vessel value at $2.5 million. The region’s halibut and cod fishery, with 20 harvesters out of Nome and Savoonga, got a payout of $705,030.

Mislabeling of Seafood Has Negative Economic Effects

A new study on mislabeling of seafood species, including salmon, concludes that such practices have negative economic, social and ecological consequences, from consumer losses due to fraudulent exchange to hiding illegal and unreported catches.

“Economy matters: A study of mislabeling in salmon products from two regions, Alaska and Canada (Northwest of America) and Asturias (Northwest of Spain)” appears in the November online edition of Fisheries Research at

Salmon are an important part of the culture and economy of many countries in the northern hemisphere, and identifying possible causes of salmon mislabeling is of great interest, even more so where wild species and species from aquaculture are consumed, researchers said.

The study, involving DNA barcoding analysis of a total of 111 salmon products from Asturias in Northwest Spain, and Alaska and Vancouver Island, found that the Spanish and Northwest American samples were mislabeled 6 percent and 23.8 percent respectively.

Species substitutions were respectively wild-farmed and wild-wild, the substitute species being cheaper. Economic reasons and social preference of wild over farmed products seem to be the main drivers in the exchanges detected in this study, researchers said. Enhancing controls over the unrecognizable products is essential and strongly recommended to prevent such fraud.

A table included in the online study identifies the mislabeled Alaska salmon product as jerky labeled as wild king salmon, when the jerky was in fact wild keta salmon.

The Vancouver Island product identified as salmon candy, with a “spring salmon” label was likewise wild keta salmon.

Humane Harvest Line-Caught P-Cod Comes to Seattle Retail Shops

Line-caught Pacific cod that are stunned immediately upon harvest aboard the fishing vessel Blue North, minimizing stress to produce a healthier, tastier fish, will go on sale on Nov. 1 at Town & Country Markets in Seattle.

Blue North is also the first vessel in the Bering Sea to use moon pool technology, harvesting the catch from inside the vessel rather than the weather deck, thus eliminating the crew’s exposure to dangerous sea condition Once cod are caught individually through the moon pool using hook and line, a stunning table immobilizes the fish, putting its central nervous system to sleep prior to processing, so the fish feels no stress or pain. The fish is then filleted and frozen at sea for optimal freshness.

Michael Burns, cofounder and chairman of Blue North Fisheries, said the company’s philosophy is that “all sentient beings, including fish, deserve to be treated as humanely as possible.”

Blue North launched its humane harvest initiative in 2015, and its catch has been available on a limited basis to restaurant groups ever since.

The announcement with Town and Country in late October represented the first time the company was able to provide a fileted product to retailers for direct-to-consumer sale.

A blind study conducted at the School of Food Science at Washington State University found that humane harvest fish had higher levels of nutrients and proteins, were flakier and had improved muscle texture.

“Seafood is one of the most important natural vectors for high nutritional value protein and omega-3s for humans,” said Mahmoudreza Ovissipour, a research associate at the university, wrote in his WSU report in 2015. “Since fish can feel pain and stress, these factors can easily influence their quality, nutritional value, shelf life and consumption safety.”

Ovissipour’s report is online at

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Banner Year for Alaska Salmon

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials say the 2017 commercial salmon of all species harvest came to 224.76 million wild salmon, with an estimated preliminary ex-vessel value of $678.8 million. That’s a 66.7 percent increase from last year’s value of $407.3 million, ranking 2017 third in terms of both pounds landed and value in over 40 years.

While fish are still being caught, the majority of the 2017 salmon season is over.

ADF&G noted that despite unfavorable market conditions of a strong dollar – which made Alaska seafood significantly more expensive to foreign buyers – and an embargo due to conflict in roe markets, nearly $300 million in additional ex-vessel value went to the pockets of Alaska salmon fishermen aided by a large harvest and continued investments in quality, product development and marketing.

“Tremendous harvests occurred across Alaska, from Kotzebue to Southeast, highlighted by an all-time record statewide chum salmon harvest,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

Bowers noted that 2017 is also the third year in a row statewide sockeye salmon harvest exceeded 50 million fish. “Record wild salmon harvests like these are a testament to Alaska’s sound, science-based management, the professionalism of ADF&G’s staff, and thoughtful stakeholder engagement,” he said.

The Bristol Bay harvest alone – with 37.7 million salmon delivered – was valued at $209.9 million.

Other fisheries also saw record salmon harvests, notably in Norton Sound, in Western Alaska, where a strong coho salmon return brought a harvest of 191,000 silvers.

These are all preliminary numbers. The final value of the 2017 salmon fishery will determined in 2018 after seafood processors, buyers and direct managers report the total value paid to fishermen.

Coast Guard Issues Vessel Documentation Fraud Alert

The US Coast Guard says a new scam is targeting boat owners looking to save a little time online.

The culprit is websites offering of documentation renewal services or a fee.

These websites lure boaters with the appearance and convenience of an official government website, but the Coast Guard warns that using these websites can result in spending three times the standard fee. The Coast Guard also noted that Coast Guard boarding officers will not accept their vessel’s documentation as valid. This is because the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center in West Virginia is the only authorized entity to issue certificates of documentation required for vessels engaged in commercial trade.

The center is aware that there are commercial entities offering to manage the certification and renewal process on behalf of vessel owners for a fee. However the Coast Guard does not endorse any of these companies and these companies do not operate on behalf of the Coast Guard in any way. While the services they provide are legal, the certificates issued are not deemed in compliance.

According to Russell Hazlett, commercial fishing vessel examiner for the Coast Guard in Anchorage, there are companies similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles that have satellite officers open on weekends and after hours legitimate companies.

More information on certificates of Documentation is online at

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak Now Open at Cold Bay

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrews have come to Cold Bay in advance of the winter fishing season, there once again to reduce search and rescue response times around Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands.

The Cold Bay forward operating location at Cold Bay will consist of one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter with a rotating aircrew from. The Kodiak based air station will continue to have helicopter and HC-130 Hercules aircrews who are available at a moment’s notice if needed to assist with other search and rescue incidents or assist in complex long ranges.

A Coast Guard cutter equipped with an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Kodiak also will be on patrol in the region for the rest of the season.

Air Station Kodiak issues FOLs all over Alaska to reduce response times to mariners in distress.

Air Station Kodiak public increases the effectiveness of Coast Guard response can make a difference between life and death.

Pebble Related Hearings Held in Southwest Alaska

EPA officials were in the Bristol Bay region again this week for two more hearings related to development of the Pebble Mine. This time it was on EPA’s proposal to withdraw proposed Clean Water Act restrictions for Pebble, which lies in the Bristol Bay watershed. The July 2014 decision in favor of the Clean Water Act Proposed Determination would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with Pebble mine.

Norm Van Vactor of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. said he thought the hearings went very, very well. There was an awful lot of testimony, he said, from small children to adults in need of translators. But Van Vactor also said it was frustrating to have to go back to the drawing board again.

“Sadly it can also be said that this isn’t about mining or minerals, he said. “It is about mining in the stock market and people making a play to make a lot of money quickly in the stock market and leaving other people holding the bag, he said. But meantime the rest of us have to spend a lot of time working on an issue that should be over and done with,” he said.

Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole said he felt that the EPA heard a more balanced mix of views in Iliamna.

In a related manner, United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission say they will announce their intent to formalize today their efforts to stop proposed mega-mines in their respective regions. Veteran Bristol Bay fisherman Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said they are uniting efforts to protect their peoples’ way of life from mega-mines threatening their continued existence.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Stand for Salmon” Ballot Measure Moves Forward

Alaska Superior Court Mark Rindner has issued a ruling allowing the “Stand for Salmon” ballot measure to move forward. The measure aimed at updating and strengthening regulations to protect fish habitat.

“The judge agreed with us that Alaskans have a constitutional right to say how fish habitat is protected,” said Valerie Brown, legal director for Trustees for Alaska. Brown argued the case for the plaintiff, Stand for Salmon, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations concerned about protecting fish habitat.

“What this means is that the initiative will get certified and Stand for Salmon can start collecting the signatures it needs to get the initiative on the ballot,” she said.

Last month Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott declined to certify the “stand for Salmon” initiative after he received a legal opinion that it would limit the ability of the state’s Legislature to allocate state assets.

The Stand for Salmon initiative proposes updates to the state’s 60-year-old law governing development in salmon habitat.

“This ballot measure is an important step back to the levels of protection for salmon that were intended by the authors of the Alaska constitution,” said Gayla Hoseth, an initiative sponsor and subsistence research specialist with the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham. “These are needed updates to an outdated law that will balance responsible development with protecting Alaska’s wild salmon, one of the state’s most vital natural resources from a cultural, economic and recreational perspective.”

“We need to have clear rules for projects proposed in sensitive salmon habitat to ensure they’re being done responsibly – as well as provide more certainty in the permitting process for the industry proposing the project” said Mike Wood, another initiative sponsor and commercial set netter in Upper Cook Inlet.

More information on the initiative is online at

Bering Sea Snow Crab TAC Set at
18.9M Pounds, Tanner at 2.5M

Harvest limits for Bering Sea snow crab fishery are set at 18,961,000 pounds, with 17,064,900 pounds for holders of individual fishing quota and 1,896,100 pounds for community development quota entities. That’s down from the 2016 TAC of 21,570,000 pounds, which was down dramatically from the previous year’s TAC. The fishery will be open in the Eastern Subdistrict on October 15 and remain continue through May 15, 2018 and through May 31, 2018 in the Western Subdistrict.

The Bering Sea tanner crab fishery, which also starts on October 15, runs through March 31, has a TAC of 2,500,200 pounds for west of 166 degrees, with 2,250,180 pounds for IFQ and 250,020 pounds for CDQs. The fishery is closed east of 166 degrees west longitude.

Last year the entire Bering Sea tanner crab fishery was closed over conservation concerns.

The TACS were announced this past week by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), in the wake of an announcement that the Bristol Bay red king crab season, which runs through January 15, has a TAC of 6.6 million pounds, down 22 percent from the 2016-2017 quota.

ADF&G has also closed Pribilof district red and blue king crab and Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fisheries for the season for conservation reasons.

Survey Shows Substantial Drop in Gulf of Alaska Cod Stocks

Results of 2017 surveys and preliminary modeling for the 2018 Pacific cod stock assessment show a 71 percent reduction in the Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl survey Pacific cod biomass estimate from 2015 to 2017. The news came to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee and Advisory Panel on October 3 in a presentation from Steve Barbeaux, a research biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, who said the drop was particularly pronounced in the central Gulf of Alaska.

The Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) said Barbeaux also presented additional data that appeared to corroborate the trawl survey results, including a 53 percent drop in the National Marine Fisheries Service 2017 longline survey and low estimates in recent years by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game large mesh trawl survey. Pacific cod fishery data from 2017 indicated slower rates of catch accumulation and lower catch per unit effort over the season, at least in the central Gulf, compared to recent years, as well as a change in depth distribution toward deeper waters.

The survey results, Barbeaux said later in an interview, were not what he expected. “Recruitment in 2011-2012 was strong,” he explained. “We expected that would carry us to 2019. We expected a drop in 2019 because we had low recruitment in 2013-2015.” There are still three levels of review to go, by the stock assessment team, the Groundfish Plan Team, and the SSC before the numbers are finalized.

Evidence indicates that the “blob” is a likely culprit. The blob is the name scientists have given to a large mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, which adversely affects marine life.

Temperature records indicate very warm temperatures across a broad range of ocean depths from 2014 through 2016 associated with low forage fish amounts in Pacific cod diets. That likely resulted from low prey availability in 2015 and 2016, which was evident in seabird mortalities due to starvation, as well as other ecosystem indicators. In very warm temperatures the cod would have had to eat quite a bit more to grow and survive, but there was less in the water column for them to eat.

“That was the black swan effect,” said Barbeaux. “It has never happened before as far as we know. We have had warm years before, but this blob went on for three years, and throughout the entire water column across the Gulf of Alaska shelf, even in winter.”

The cod would have needed to keep eating a lot more for three years straight, but in fact “they were in the worst condition we’ve seen, the lowest weight for a given length,” he said. “In the central Gulf, it was the same in the longline and pot survey.”

On a brighter note, cod “are a highly reproductive species, so if conditions are right they can bounce back fairly rapidly,” Barbeaux said. Still it would take at least three years for them to become large enough to harvest.

NOAA Celebrates National Seafood Month

October is National Seafood Month, and Chris Oliver, recently appointed assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, is urging everyone to get out there and enjoy some seafood.

“Health experts, say people should double their intake of seafood and the good news is there is plenty to choose from,” said Olive.

The former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, who spent 27 years in Alaska helping to manage some of the nation’s largest and most valuable fisheries, credits much of the success in the United States being a global leader in sustainability to the regional fishery management councils, interstate fishery commissions and stakeholders who work together to rebuild fisheries.

“This unique collaboration − driven by the Magnuson-Stevens Act − managed to effectively end overfishing and is steadily rebuilding domestic fish stocks,” Oliver said in a letter posted October 1 on NOAA’s website ( “At the end of 2016, 91 percent of stocks for which we have assessments were not subject to overfishing and 84 percent were not overfished.”

NOAA Fisheries tracks 474 fish stocks managed under 46 fishery management plans. Since 2000, 43 stocks have rebuilt as a result of fishery management, and overfishing and overfished numbers remained near all-time lows in 2016.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

NOAA Fisheries Proposes Authorizing Halibut RQE

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to authorize formation of a recreational quota entity that could purchase and hold commercial halibut quota shares for use by charter anglers in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.

The proposed regulatory amendment would allow one non-profit RQE to obtain a limited amount of commercial halibut quota shares under a willing buyer-willing seller model. The harvest pounds associated with the quota shares would become recreational fishing quota that could be used to augment the amount of halibut available for harvest in the charter halibut fishery annually under the halibut catch sharing plan.

The proposed rule, recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting this week in Anchorage, was filed on Oct. 2 in the Federal Register. Once published, it opens a 45-day public comment period.

If the RQE obtains enough quota share, restrictions on halibut size and bag limits could be relaxed for charter anglers in years of low abundance, up to a point where charter anglers could potentially retain up to the daily limit for unguided anglers- which is currently two fish of any size each day.

The proposed rule would implement quota share purchase restrictions the by regulatory area.

For Area 2C in Southeast Alaska the RQE would be limited to purchase no more than one percent of the commercial quota shares in any year, and no more than 10 percent of the total commercial quota shares for that area. For area 3A, in Southcentral Alaska, the annual limit of commercial quota share purchases would be 1.2 percent, with an upper limit of 12 percent of the total quota shares in the area.

The RQE would be allowed to hold those quota shares indefinitely, but also allowed to transfer those shares back to the commercial halibut sector – a provision that adds flexibility to the program and contributes to the market-based approach, NOAA officials said.

NOAA also said that the proposed rule is necessary to promote social and economic flexibility in the charter halibut fishery, and intended to promote the goals and objectives of the North Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other applicable laws.

Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, at!docketDetail:D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0158, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. By mail, submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

FN Online Advertising