Wednesday, January 31, 2018

EPA Takes New Look at Mining in Bristol Bay Watershed

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has suspended withdrawal of proposed restrictions for hard rock mining of the Pebble deposit in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region and will solicit additional public comment on the impact of mining applications.

Pruitt said the decision neither deters nor derails the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed project, but that their permit application must clear a high bar, because the EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable.

Pruitt said on January 26 that based on hearing directly from stakeholders and others in Alaska that the EPA would leave the proposed restrictions in place while the agency gathers more information on the potential impact of the copper, gold and molybdenum mine on the world class salmon fisheries and natural resources of this region of Southwest Alaska.

“…it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there,” Pruitt wrote. “Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection. This action, “will allow EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”

“EPA has serious concerns about the impacts of mining activity in the Bristol Bay watershed,” Pruitt said. “From public comments to community meetings, stakeholders stressed the importance of balancing a singular mine venture with the risk to one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries. Second, for EPA not to express an environmental position at this stage would be disingenuous.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Alaska Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon and entities representing both the Alaska Native community and fishing industries welcomed the announcement, while the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) said the news does not change its approach toward the permitting process.

Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., of which the PLP is a subsidiary, expects that the permitting process for Pebble will “advance expeditiously over the next few years and that the draft and final environmental impact statement will be completed upon which final permitting decisions for the Pebble project will be made.”

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. said that the PLP “had painted a picture to its shareholders that they seemingly have the EPA in their back pocket and this clearly demonstrates that they don’t. It looks like even for the Trump administration that there can be mines that are too toxic,” he said.

IPHC Adjourns Without Agreement on Halibut Harvest

No agreement was reached on 2018 conservation cuts by United States and Canadian parties to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) before adjourning its annual meeting this past week in Portland, Oregon.

A spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries says the agency is considering the implications of the IPHC meeting and determining what steps to take next. Without an agreement in place on the harvest limits, last year’s catch limits will be in place, but still both nations are expected to make some cuts.

US Commissioner Bob Alverson, manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, Washington, said he hopes the IPHC will consider another meeting to resolve their issues.

“I think we have an excellent corps of scientists and the inability of the commissioners to come to an agreement is unfortunate,” he said. “I think it is worth one more shot for the commissioners to try to figure it out. I knew it was going to be difficult going in to it.”

The IPHC did agree that the 2018 fishery should begin on March 24 and conclude on November 7.

The question now, said Alverson, is whether the US government will have regulations for domestic fisheries in place, and have the quota share allocations to the fleet in time for the opening.

Alverson noted that in 2014 harvest reductions put in place included 33 percent in Area 3A, 30 percent in Area 3Bl, 42 percent in 4Ak, 20 percent in 4B, and 20 percent in 2C, but Canada did not take such aggressive reductions. So US percentage reductions are less for this year, whereas Canada needed almost a 42 percent reduction and it was too much to bite off, he said.

Some 31 million pounds of halibut were harvested commercially last year, including roughly 8 million pounds in Canada and 22 million pounds in the US, with an average price to harvesters of $6.50 per pound, which added up to about $130 million to $140 million for US harvesters and about $70 million for Canadians.

Alaska Delegation Want Chukchi, Beaufort seas, Cook Inlet Kept in OCS Program

Opportunities are fast approaching for the fisheries industry to voice opinions about the proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing program for 2019–2024.

Open house public meetings on the draft proposed OCS program are scheduled in 23 coastal states through March 8, including Tacoma, Washington’s Catering and Convention Center on February 5; the Red Lion Hotel in Salem, Oregon, on February 6; the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, California on February 8 and the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage on February 21.

Registration is voluntary, but the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is asking people to do so to help them in planning and managing logistics for each meeting site. Sign up for any of these meetings at

Meanwhile, Alaska’s congressional delegation is urging the Interior Department to keep the Chukchi and Beaufort seas planning areas and Cook Inlet in the Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program for 2019–2024.

The delegation points to the Interior Department’s draft proposed program data, which says the Chukchi and Beaufort seas contain the second and fourth largest estimated undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of all OCS planning areas. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, they said the offshore program focused on the Chukchi, Beaufort and Cook Inlet would reflect areas with the broadest support for development among Alaskans.

The proposed plan includes three sales in the Chukchi Sea, three sales in the Beaufort Sea, two sales in Cook Inlet and one each in 11 other program areas.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently boosted its estimate for the Beaufort Sea by 700 million barrels to a total of 8.9 billion barrels. BOEM’s Chukchi Sea estimate is for 15.4 billion barrels of oil. Cook Inlet was described as a mature basin that remains a critical source of natural gas for Southcentral Alaska.

The delegation also urged Zinke to remove from the draft proposed program the Hope Basin, Norton Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Navarin Basin, Aleutian Basin, Bowers Basin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Shumagin, Kodiak and the Gulf of Alaska.

Expeditions Will Study North Pacific Stock Recruitment

Summer and winter expeditions of up to five research ships are being planned in the North Pacific high seas to provide estimates of salmon spawning stock recruitment for three to four age cohorts of chum and sockeye salmon.

The expeditions, announced by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, are a signature project of the NPAFC’s International Year of the Salmon Initiative, in partnership with the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

The goal is for data gathered on these expeditions to be utilized for fishery forecasting in subsequent years. Dick Beamish, an internationally recognized scientist for his work on conservation of salmon in the marine phase of their life history, has already raised over $1 million toward chartering a Russian research vessel. NPAFC has also made requests for ship time from partners in Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States.

The International Year of the Salmon technical team met in the offices of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in mid-December, to develop discussion documents for meeting agendas for the North Pacific and North Atlantic steering committees and the coordinating committee. The three committees are slated to meet in the next few days.

More about these expeditions and other wild salmon research issues are included in NPAFC’s January newsletter. It can be found online at

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Passage of Alaska House Bill Could Override Salmon Initiative

Legislation under consideration by the Alaska House Fisheries Committee could keep a salmon habitat initiative off the ballot in an upcoming statewide election, and committee chair Louise Stutes says she’s extremely hopeful this will happen.

“We are putting everything out on the table,” said Stutes, a Republican from Kodiak, Alaska, after the committee’s first hearing January 23. “We all have to come together and that’s the bottom line,”

House Bill 199, as well as the proposed salmon habitat initiative, would update a 60-year-old law regulating permitting for any project that would impact salmon streams, including the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska and Donlin gold mine some 280 miles northwest of Anchorage.

“I’m willing to talk to people, to compromise with people,” Stutes said. “Everybody has to win a little bit.”

Initiative backers gathered over 49,000 signatures of registered voters, far more than needed to put the initiative on the statewide ballot, and on January 23 delivered to Stutes’ committee over 6,000 hand-signed letters supporting HB 199, adding to the already delivered 2,000 letters.

Melanie Brown, of Juneau, a Bristol Bay harvester who works with Salmon State, an organization focused on protecting salmon habitat said Salmon State supports both the initiative and HB 199. The difference is that if HB 199 is approved by the House and Senate before the end of the current session and signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker then the initiative would be void. Brown says the bill has a great chance of getting through the legislature with the initiative hanging out there, because "it creates the will to come and sit down to the table.”

Seiner Captain Sentenced for Fishing in Closed Waters

A magistrate on Prince of Wales Island handed down the sentence on January 10 against Curtis Demmert, 32, of Klawock, Alaska. It includes a $32,728.79 fine, 180 days of suspended jail time, forfeiture of $17,728.79 from his illegally caught salmon and forfeiture of the F/V Tlingit Lady, the seine skiff, seine nets and everything on board the vessel to the state of Alaska.

Demmert pleaded guilty on December 19 to commercial fishing during a closed period, fishing too close to a salmon spawning stream and falsifying his commercial fish ticket.

The Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions said state wildlife troopers received a report on September 13, 2017 that the 58-foot commercial seiner captained by Demmert was seining for salmon at the head of Coco Harbor, roughly 65 miles into closed waters. The harbor is home to several salmon spawning streams and has been closed to commercial fishing for nearly 30 years. Later that evening the caller reported again that the vessel was making an additional set in Coco Harbor. After the final set the vessel blacked out its lights and left the area in the dark.

The next morning Demmert offloaded 23,159 pounds of salmon to a commercial fishing tender, authorities said. Demmert claimed his catch came in open water near Mclean Arm, some 65 miles away from Coco Harbor. The average seiner catch in the open area was 9,000 pounds.

Based on the distance into closed water and the fact that Demmert was fishing near a salmon spawning stream, an illegal practice known as creek robbing, wildlife troopers seized the vessel and everything on it, including the skiff and seine nets.

During sentencing, the attorney from the Office of Special Prosecutions argued that Demmert took a calculated risk in fishing far into closed waters for potentially significant monetary gain and that his actions put a salmon run in peril.

“Without vigorous enforcement of the regulations, fish in Alaska could be wiped out, and the employment, sport, subsistence and traditions of Alaskans gone with them,” argued Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson, who prosecuted the case.

Peterson urged forfeiture of the fishing vessel, saying that “other commercial fishermen and the general public must know that if a fisherman commits an offense this egregious, the vessels and instrumentalities used in aid of the violation will be lost to them.”

PWSRCAC Takes a Stand on Oil Tankers in Prince William Sound

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (PWSRCAC) has taken the position that oil tankers and escort vessels should not be permitted to transit through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska in weather conditions deemed to be unsafe for personnel training by the industry.

The unanimous vote on the resolution, which does not require action by the industry, came during the January 18 PWSRCAC meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. It will be shared with officials at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the US Coast Guard.

“We understand there is disagreement with the industry, but are hopeful that this will lead to continued discussions on this topic,” said Brooke Taylor, director of external affairs for the council. “While the council has had a previous policy with similar elements to it, this is a new iteration of that topic because of the new contractor,” she added.

The resolution was prompted by the upcoming change in marine service contract providers by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System from Crowley Marine Services to Edison Chouest Offshore, effective July 2018.

“The oil tanker escort system in Prince William Sound is an essential oil spill prevention measure that is vital to reducing the risk of another catastrophic event, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill,” said Donna Schantz, executive director of the council. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, owned by Exxon Shipping Co., struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil, creating one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters on record.

“If it is unsafe to train personnel, it is unsafe to transport oil,” said Amanda Bauer, council board president. “This position does not just apply to the incoming contractor, but sets the standard to which the council feels all future new contractors, equipment and crews should be held. We believe strongly that these standards are needed to ensure the economic and environmental safety of the communities and groups we represent.”

The council believes it is unsafe to require crews to respond to a vessel emergency in Prince William Sound in adverse weather with inadequate or no training or experience in these conditions, and that new crews must receive training and experience in the full range of operating conditions in which they are expected to perform. The council also believes it is reasonable, prudent and safe to limit laden tanker transits through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska to the same range of weather conditions in which escort vessels are certified and crews trained.

“We agree with industry and regulators that crew safety is the first priority,” Schantz said. “We believe that drills and exercises, including in adverse weather, are controlled events, as they can be stopped at any time that the risk to crews or vessels becomes unacceptably high.”

The council acknowledged that the transition to Edison Chouest Offshore will bring many vessel and equipment improvements to the oil spill prevention and response system for Prince William Sound, but that any time a system goes though transition, in any industry, risk is introduced.

Federal Court Rejects NMFS Catch Limit on Northern Anchovy

A federal court in San Jose, California, has struck down a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to set a 25,000 metric ton catch level for the central population of northern anchovy, based on a finding that NMFS’s decision was not based on the best science available but rather on decade-old data.

US District Court Judge Lucy Koh found that NMFS had not adequately considered whether its management prevented overfishing. NMFS must now promulgate new management limits based on the best available science. Koh granted a motion for summary judgment on January 19 to the conservation organization Oceana, which was represented by Earthjustice in the litigation naming the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NMFS.

The 33-page ruling noted that optimum yield from a fishery must provide the greatest overall benefit to the nation, taking into account protection of marine ecosystems.

Northern anchovy, a filter feeder that consumes various types of plankton, is an important forage fish for ocean predators off central California, including sea lions, brown pelicans, Chinook salmon, humpback whales, dolphins, shark pups and sea birds.

In October 2016, NMFS set an annual catch limit for the central subpopulation of northern anchovy at 25,000 metric tons, the same limit in place since 2000. That decision was based on a 1991 study using data from 1964 to 1990 and estimated anchovy biomass of more than 700,000 metric tons, while the agency’s own estimates of the 2015 population size, which ranged from 15,000 to 32,000 metric tons, represented more than a 95 percent decline since 2005, Oceana said.

The decision holds NMFS to fundamental standards intended by Congress, which require the government to sustainably manage the nation’s fisheries for the benefit of both fishermen and dependent species, said Mariel Combs, Pacific Counsel for Oceana.

The year-round fishery, which remains open, has a value of about $100 to $150 per metric ton. Last year’s landings totaled some 5,581.85 metric tons.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grants Expand Electronic Monitoring Program

Twelve projects set to receive grants under a third-year round of funding for electronic monitoring and reporting program, will expand monitoring in Alaska, and Washington state.

The announcement of more than $3.59 million in grants in early January came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Kingfisher Foundation. Those grants generated $3.15 million in matching contribution, for a total conservation impact of more than $6.75 million.

Among the projects receiving funding one supports electronic monitoring pre-implementation in the Alaskan pot cod fishery by increasing the number of vessels carrying electronic monitoring devises. Under that $891,734 grant, Saltwater will install electronic monitoring units on up to 15 additional vessels. The project will test an alternative service delivery model focused on building cost effective data collection infrastructure, data review and management processes to provide timely data to fisheries managers and facilitate electronic monitoring data integration.

A $1,177,959 grant to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (AFLA) will allow ALFA to improve the electronic monitoring program for vessels participating in sablefish, halibut and Pacific cod fixed gear fisheries by providing electronic monitoring hardware, field service support for vessels and support for stakeholder engagement. The project will provide electronic monitoring of up to 120 hook and line vessels that will reduce bycatch and improve the utility of electronic monitoring data for harvesters and fishery managers.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will use a $608,593 grant to deploy an electronic reporting and monitoring software system for non-tribal commercial harvesters and tribal fisheries in Puget Sound and coastal waters off Washington.

Details on all 12 grants are online at

Alaska Marine Science Symposium Begins January 22

The annual Alaska Marine Science Symposium, the state’s premier marine research conference, will get under way on January 22 in Anchorage, Alaska.

The conference will open with a communicating ocean sciences workshop, followed by keynote speeches from weather experts, a researcher focused on benthic species and a photographer with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Speakers include:

• Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Tim Gallaudet, a retired Navy rear admiral and oceanographer,

• Richard Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska region,

• Lis Lindal Jorgensen, a senior scientist at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, and

• Chris Linder, an expedition multimedia specialist at Woods Hole and also affiliated with the International League of Conservation Photographers.

The symposium has for more than two decades brought together scientists, educators, resource managers, students and interested members of the public to discuss marine research conducted in Alaska waters. Betsy Baker, executive director of the North Pacific Research Board, an event co-organizer, noted that the symposium attracts participants from far beyond the state’s borders.

The event offers established scientists, new researchers and students the opportunity to share their work and network with each other, communities, managers, industry and the public.

Each day of the conference will highlight a special area of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The focus will be on the Gulf of Alaska on January 23, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands on January 24 and the Arctic on January 25.

Sponsoring organizations include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Coastal Marine Institute, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Alaska Regional Collaboration Team, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Alaska Fisheries Science Center, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, North Pacific Marine Science Organization, North Pacific Research Board, Oil Spill Recovery Institute, Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, Prince William Sound Science Center, United States Arctic Research Commission, United States Geological Survey – Alaska Region, United States Geological Survey – Alaska Science Center, University of Washington – School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Conference details can be found at

Salmon Initiative Backers Have the Signatures for Alaska’s Ballot

On January 16, backers of a ballot initiative to update Alaska’s law governing development in salmon habitat have delivered box after box of petitions to the state’s Division of Elections office containing over 49,500 signatures to include the initiative on the ballot in this year’s election cycle.

Ballot sponsor Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said tens of thousands of Alaskans from Nome to Ketchikan in every legislative district favor updating the laws to reflect a true balance between responsible development and protection of salmon.

The initiative proposes updates to a 60-year-old law that guides development projects in areas of salmon habitat. Such projects are currently assessed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game based on what the law defines as “the proper protection of fish and game.” The Stand for Salmon group contends that without clear guidelines on what “proper protection is” the standards for permitting are vague.

From the onset, the goal was to collect 45,000 registered voters signatures, well over the minimum 32,147 required.

The Division of Elections has 60 days to review the petitions to confirmed that they contain the names of the minimum of required registered voters.

The proposed initiative is opposed by a cross-section of other Alaskans, including the Alaska Miners Association Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the economic development corporations for Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Teamsters Union and all 12 Alaska Native regional corporations.

Group Questions Canadian Government’s Salmon Farm Transparency

An environmental group in Vancouver, British Columbia is questioning a Canadian government report that says there is minimal risk of pathogen transfer from farmed to wild salmon.

The comments come in the aftermath of the government’s announcement in late December that there is minimum risk to wild Fraser River sockeye salmon populations of transfer of IHNV (infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus) from Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands.

Stan Pronoszcz, science and campaign manager for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in Vancouver, BC, served on the federal Canadian science review committee that produced the report.

The Watershed Watch contends that the report is partially based on a secret memorandum of understanding between several salmon farming companies, information that was not made available for examination by committee members. Because of the lack of transparency, the Watershed Watch, Living Oceans Society and the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society are now calling the report’s conclusions into question.

They are asking for revamping of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s science review process, known as CSAS, or the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat. The scientific advice is supposed to inform policy and management options and decisions.

Watershed Watch said an imbalance in pro-industry representation could significantly affect the conclusions of the risk assessment report due to its qualitative nature, as opposed to using a more rigorous quantitative risk assessment.

Government spokespersons were not immediately available for comment. In a report issued from Ottawa on December 20, they said their research concluded that risks of the pathogens transferring from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild red salmon were minimal. The report said that current fish health management practices such as vaccination and eradication of infected fish helped to minimize the risk.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Land Exchange Deal Reached on King Cove Road Project

The battle over road access for medical emergencies from the Aleutians fishing village of King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay appears to again be reaching a conclusion, but it’s not over yet.

A spokesperson for the Aleutians East Borough confirms that an agreement has been reached on a land exchange between the Interior Department and the King Cove Corp. that would allow for completion of some 11–12 miles of road connecting the two communities.

Residents of King Cove, home of a large Peter Pan Seafoods processing facility that operates year-round, support road access to the all-weather airport because weather conditions often make travel by plane or even boat between the two communities dangerous. While a flight between King Cove and Cold Bay in light aircraft in good weather takes well under an hour, travel on a fishing tender or other commercial fishing vessels in rough weather can take up to three hours.

Between 1980 and 1994, a dozen people died during medevac attempts. Since then there have been 68 evacuations by boat or air, with no further fatalities, according to city administrator Gary Hennigh.

Several environmental groups, including The Wilderness Society, say putting a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would cause irreversible harm to the environment and have vowed to challenge the matter in court. Proponents of the road say the route can be completed without causing harm to the environment and area wildlife, including migrating waterfowl, who are legally targeted in the refuge by sport hunters.

According to Laura Tanis, public information officer for the Aleutians East Borough, a formal agreement is to be signed in Washington D.C. later this month, followed by a land appraisal process expected to take several months, and beyond that decisions are still to be worked out on the amount of acreage to be exchanged, the route of the connecting road, and construction dates.

Permitting Process Under Way for Pebble Prospect

Canadian backers of a massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska have filed documents required to apply for a Clean Water Act 404 permit needed for discharge of dredged or fill materials into federal waters, including wetlands.

The US Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged, on January 5, receipt of the application from the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., in Vancouver, British Columbia. Northern Dynasty itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of the diversified global mining group Hunter Dickenson Inc., also based in Vancouver. The PLP was established in 2007 to design, permit, construct and operate the controversial mine.

Ron Thiessen, chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty, said his firm was “pleased by the expediency with which permitting for the Pebble Project has been initiated and that the Corps will serve as the lead federal agency for the rigorous, objective, transparent and science based EIS (environmental impact statement) process.”

The announcement drew a quick response from United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Dillingham, Alaska, whose members include commercial harvesters of the Bay’s sockeye salmon.

“After witnessing more than a decade of Pebble’s deceit in Bristol Bay, it is no surprise that the application released this morning describes a much larger, different project than Pebble presented to Alaskans in the last six months,” said Robert Heyano, a veteran Bristol Bay harvester and president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The science on such a project is already available, and already clear: this mine will devastate the Bristol Bay fishery. Bristol Bay residents will continue to fight this project and protect the water that has sustained our way of life since time immemorial,” he said.

The project is not economically feasible in the smaller footprint that is identified in the permit application; the ore is of such poor quality that it has to be huge to make it pay, he said.

Pebble’s 1,000-plus page application identifies 3,190.55 acres of wetlands and other waters to be filled at the mine site alone, or nearly three times the wetlands losses the EPA identified as posing unacceptable adverse impacts to the ecosystem, the tribal consortium said in its statement. Additionally, the application lists Upper Talarik Creek as one of eight water bodies “directly impacted” by the proposed project, and this runs counter to recent statements by Tom Collier, chief executive officer for the PLP, that the project would not affect Upper Talarik Creek and the Kvichak River watersheds, the tribal consortium said.

Pebble’s permit application documents, including the project description, are available online at

The proposed project, according to Northern Dynasty, would include a 230-megawatt power plant at the mine site, an 83-mile transportation corridor from the mine site to a port site on the west side of Cook Inlet, a permanent, year-round port facility on Cook Inlet and a 188-mile natural gas pipeline from the Kenai Peninsula to the mine site.

Fisheries Meetings Stack Up

Updates on fisheries science and technology are on tap at late winter commercial fisheries meetings, organized by state and federal agencies as well as private industry groups.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which holds its 94th annual meeting January 22–26 in Portland, Oregon, features a meeting section that presents the agenda, schedule, documents and reports, as well as a registration links on its new website Register for the meeting on Eventbrite ( if planning to attend in person or ( to listen in on the webinar.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, the 2018 Alaska Marine Science Symposium will be held at the Hotel Captain Cook January 22–26, featuring keynote speakers on the first afternoon while the next three days are earmarked specifically for the Arctic, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, with reports ranging from ocean physics to human dimensions. Program details, including keynote speakers and all presentations, are available at

In Seattle, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council holds its meeting February 5–12. eComments must be submitted at by 5 p.m. February 2. Once the meeting is underway, online audio will be provided. The meeting schedule and documents will be posted at

In Girdwood, Alaska, the 69th Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference will be held February 5–7 at the Alyeska Resort, with presentations from companies that produce machines for groundfish processing, smoking fish, pathogen testing, automated fish processing and more. The conference theme is “Tools of the Trade,” and the gathering will include a discussion on how the regulatory environment adapts with the innovation and growth of the industry. Presenting firms will include GVI, Baader, Environpak, Marel, Neogen and Qualtracx, said PFT president Chris Sannito, a seafood technology specialist and research assistant professor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with the Marine Advisory Program at Kodiak.

26 Lease Sales Proposed Off Alaska and Pacific Region Coastlines

A draft proposal released by the Trump administration on January 4 identifies 47 potential Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sales, including 19 off the coast of Alaska and seven in the Pacific region as part of a five-year leasing program beginning in 2019.

The proposed plan would include three lease sales in the Chukchi Sea, three in the Beaufort Sea, two in Cook Inlet and one each in 11 other areas namely the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak, Shumagin, Aleutian Arc, St. George Basin, Lowers Basin, Aleutian Basin, Navarin Basin, St. Matthew-Hall, Norton Basin and Hope Basin.

For the Pacific region, the plan proposes two lease sales each in Northern California, Central California and Southern California and one for Washington/Oregon.

The announcement was hailed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and the state’s congressional delegation as an important step forward in allowing the state to responsibly develop its natural resources, create jobs and strengthen the nation’s energy security. The governors of nine other states, including California, Oregon and Washington, all oppose offshore drilling plans.

Fisheries and environmental entities remain concerned about adverse impact on the environment, including fisheries resources.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that while nothing is final, the proposed plan offered more good news toward creating jobs, keeping energy affordable and strengthening the nation’s security.

Kara Moriarty, president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said the proposed plan was very consistent with the administration’s goal of making America energy dominant, but cautioned that “none of these lease sales are guaranteed to move forward.”

“Americans rely on oceans for economic well-being, recreation, food security and cultural continuity,” said Michael LeVine, senior Arctic Fellow for the Ocean Conservancy. “The federal government owes it to the American people to ensure that our ocean resources are managed for all of our needs and the needs of future generations. This proposal is further evidence of this presidential administration’s utter disregard for balance, stewardship, or the concerns of many affected coastal residents,” he said.

The announcement comes amidst rising concerns over the impact of climate change and ocean acidification on Alaska fisheries, including salmon, halibut, Pacific cod and shellfish.

Alaska seafood harvesters have a long history of opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration and related activities, heightened by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, and the industry has been vocal about potential adverse impact of these and proposed mining ventures to ocean habitat critical to the state’s multimillion dollar fisheries.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has scheduled open house meetings in Anchorage on January 23, Tacoma, Washington February 5, Salem, Oregon on February 6 and Sacramento, California on February 8.

Those attending the meetings may submit prepared written comments or enter them on a computer terminal on site, transmitting them directly to the agency. The deadline for submitting comments is March 9. All remarks will be posted on the BOEM website.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

OSU Secures Grant to Study Shellfish Industry

Oregon State University has received a $673,000 federal grant through NOAA Fisheries to study how ocean acidification affects the shellfish industry.

“Through this grant support from NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program OSU scientists will take an interdisciplinary approach to advance further understanding of the complex social, economic and environmental issues associated with ocean acidification and the shellfish industry to help inform practical and impactful methods of adaptation,” said OSU spokeswoman Cynthia Sagers.

“Oregon’s economy depends on the health of our oceans and coastal communities,” said Representative Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon. “Ocean acidification threatens our valuable fisheries and thousands of jobs.”

OSU was one of three universities to receive two-year grants through a competitive, merit-based process under the new Ocean Acidification Regional Vulnerability Assessment Competition

Report Says Putting Algae on Menus Could Help Save Seafood

Scientists looking at future needs to feed millions of people in the face of climate change say adding algae to the menu could help save seafood.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), farming organisms such as algae could help counter some effects of climate change on the rest of the food chain. For example, growing more seaweed, a type of algae that has been eaten for centuries, lowers the amount of carbon dioxide in the surrounding water, reduces acidification, and improves the environment for oysters and other shellfish. Managing seaweed harvest correctly will also maintain the dissolved oxygen and nutrient levels in the water, contributing to the overall health of the ocean, said the report from the IAEA’s Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre.

Should there be a need to feed 9.8 billion people by 2050 food from the ocean will have to play a major role, but some 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are already seriously depleted according to the document. IAEA points to a report from Science Advice for Policy by European Academies that proposes harvesting species at lower trophic levels and supporting the mariculture of macroalgae, and marine herbivores and carnivores. That report identifies four main option groups, including improvement utilization of wastes in traditional capture fisheries, fishing new wild species currently not exploited, mariculture of organisms that extract their nutrients directly from water, and mariculture of organisms that require feed.

Making algae a common part of more people’s diets won’t be easy, so any new algae products on our dinner plates will need to be nutritional, attractive and safe to eat. But sticking with the traditional salmon and tuna diet isn’t sustainable, according to the report.

The full SAPEA report is online at

P-Cod Fishery Underway in Southeast Alaska

A directed Pacific cod fishery is underway in Southeast Alaska, with the established guideline harvest range of 750,000 to 1,250,000 pounds, in the wake of decreased participation and a lower harvest in the past year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) noted in a statement released from Sitka on January 2 its plan to monitor the catch of Pacific cod by geographic area to prevent localized depletion and overharvest of spawning aggregations.

State biologists said they will continue to manage the resource as it has in the past, closing specific areas as necessary to distribute effort and harvest throughout the Northern Southeast Inside subdistrict and the Southern Southeast Inside subdistrict.

In 2017, 10 vessels caught 225,191 pounds of Pacific cod as direct harvest and another 47,009 pounds as bycatch, for a total of 272,200 pounds. In 2016,16 vessels caught 572,705 pounds of Pacific cod in the directed fishery and 667,625 pounds as bycatch, for a total of 639,330 pounds. The 2015 harvest saw 882,521 pounds in the directed fishery and 77,657 pounds as bycatch for a total of 960,178 pounds.

The highest overall catch of Pacific cod for that area since 2002 came in 2010, with a direct harvest of 869,828 pounds and 58,574 pounds of bycatch, for a total of 928,402 pounds.

The 2017 annual management report for the Southeast and Yakutat commercial groundfish fisheries is online at

Trump Administration Publishes Regulations for Offshore Safety

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has published in the Federal Register proposed revisions to production safety systems regulations for offshore drilling operations, to reduce what the Trump Administration says is undue burden on the industry.

“By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability,” said BSEE director Scott Angelle. BSEE’s initial regulatory impact analysis estimates that the proposed amendments will reduce industry compliance burdens by at least $228 million over 10 years.

The proposed revisions would remove the requirement for certified third-party inspections to prevent blowouts and add gas lift shutdown valves to required wells safety and pollution prevention equipment.

The current rules came in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, proving a disaster to marine life and exposing cleanup workers and area residents to toxic chemicals. Many in the oil and gas industry contended that the resulting regulations went too far in the efforts to prevent a future catastrophe, and inhibited offshore production.

The public is invited to comment on the proposal by going online at

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