Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ASMI Sees Opportunity in Southeast Asia

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is looking to Southeast Asia for substantial opportunities in marketing the state’s seafood, according to an ASMI report presented on Oct. 30. With a population of 641 million, increasing economic stability, a growing demand for quality and healthy food products, as well as a developing processing sector, ASMI sees Southeast Asia’s potential to mitigate the financial and market damages of the current tariff war between the US and China, according to the report presented during ASMI’s All Hands meeting at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage Oct. 29-31.

The report notes that the current trade conflict has resulted in Alaska seafood suppliers experiencing loss of sales, customers and processing partners in the China market, and their need to redirect their raw materials and end products to new, alternative markets. Southeast Asia is seeing growth in seafood processing sectors in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, in particular, has become one of the largest seafood exporters in the world. Such conditions have Alaska seafood suppliers looking to redirect their fisheries products to expanding markets in Southeast Asia to mitigate financial damage from recent tariffs imposed on US products entering China markets.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s International Agricultural Trade report issued in July, US food exports to Southeast Asia reached $11.8 billion in 2017, a 68 percent increase from 2008, making Southeast Area the third largest regional market for US agriculture products, behind East Asia and North America, and total agricultural imports exceeded $91 billion by year.

The report notes that while some areas in Southeast Asia have made significant improvements in processing technology and capacity, the region requires specific technical assistance when dealing with Alaska seafood products, whose qualities differ from farmed and tropical seafood. Processing Alaska pink and keta salmon in this region will differ from Norwegian farmed salmon and must be handled accordingly, particularly in the warm, humid climate.

FAS has done much work in Thailand and Vietnam to open these markets to US exports, including tariff reduction in Thailand and leveling import restrictions in Vietnam.

As Southeast Asia becomes more urbanize, the growing middle class, influx of expatriates and growing tourism industry has created favorable conditions for domestic consumption of a variety of Alaska seafood.

Many Alaska products that appeal to traditional Japanese preferences have historically suffered from a single market, the report notes. Southeast Asia was identified as a growing market of Alaska species that are losing market share in Japan and now China, and for other under-utilized Alaska species, including salmon, pollock, herring and cod roe, flatfish species, surimi seafood, black cod, yellowfin sole and geoduck clams. Promotions of these species from the Japanese market can be applied to audiences with similar preferences in Southeast Asia, the report said.

NOAA Studies Effect of PBDEs on Chinook Salmon

Federal fisheries researchers, hoping to learn more about juvenile Chinook salmon and stressors they are exposed to, are taking a close look at chemicals used in flame retardants in consumer products.

“Salmon occupy an important place in the food web,” said NOAA Fisheries’ Mary R. Arkoosh, a supervisory research microbiologist and lead author of a new paper on dietary exposure to a binary mixture of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBE). “For example, small juvenile Chinook salmon in Puget Sound feed on plankton while larger juvenile Chinook salmon feed on herring and other fish, and Chinooks themselves are prey items for endangered southern resident killer whales.”

Researchers are interested in identifying the causes contributing to the decline of these fish, Arkoosh said. “We determined that PBDE exposure in Chinook alters thyroid levels and immune function as well as an impaired the ability of these salmon to fight off a disease.”

“Contaminants that increase disease susceptibility have the potential to influence population numbers of endangered or threatened salmonids,” Arkoosh said. “Even a modest reduction in first year mortality, on the order of 10 percent during juvenile residence in either the river or the estuary ecosystem, can lessen current population declines of Chinook salmon. Therefore, even a small reduction in disease resistance due to chemical exposure can potentially have a significant impact on salmonid population,” she said.

The research results, which were published online by Elsevier, also notes that the researchers examined how juvenile Chinooks exposed to PBDEs responded to bacteria that are capable of killing them. They found that exposed salmon had reduced survival rates and that the response was complex. The function of macrophages, a critical cell of the immune system in fish, was also examined.

Researchers found that macrophages from juvenile Chinooks exposed to PBDEs did not function as macrophages do from fish not exposed to it. “This change in function of an important immune cell may impact the ability of Chinook to defend themselves against disease.” Arkoosh noted.

Results of this work at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Wash., have been used in conjunction with monitoring studies to determine the proportion of salmon in Puget Sound that had levels of PBDEs that may impact the endocrine and immune system. The hope is that genetic studies now underway will help determine if other physiological systems may be impacted in Chinooks from exposure to PBDEs.

Canadians Study Effects of Oil Spills on Salmon

As Canada eyes expansion of its crude oil export capacity, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, are taking a closer look at the potential impact of oil spill disasters on regional salmon populations.

“Crude oils are a complex mixture of chemicals, represent a pervasive environmental stressor. Canada sits on the world’s third largest crude oil reserve, found as bitumen in the Athabasca oil sands. Ninety-eight percent of Canada’s oil comes from the oil sands, and 99 percent of our exports go to the US,” said study author Sarah Alderman. “As plans to bolster the export capacity of this resource intensify, so too do concerns for the added risk of spills and environmental contamination.”

New pipeline projects, including the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, have the potential to increase diluted bitumen shipped through salmon habitat to seaports on the West Coast.

Alderman’s research has shown that crude oil exposure seems to be toxic to the fishes’ hearts, including molecular- and tissue-level changes that could potentially impair their ability to successfully migrate between freshwater and ocean, as well as the fishes’ ability to acclimate to saltwater. The ability of salmon to migrate – from freshwater at birth to saltwater, where they grow to adulthood, and back to freshwater for spawning– is natural and necessary throughout the course of their life and reproductive cycle.

Alderman found that crude oil exposure early in fish development can lead to long-term consequences, including mortality months after fish are removed to uncontaminated water and brain changes that are apparent for nearly a year after exposure. Her research also revealed changes to plasma proteins that signal damage to tissues and biomarkers that could be used to test whether an animal has been exposed to crude oil.

Alderman’s research was made in collaboration with researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Findings were reported by EurekAlert, an online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on Oct. 28, the same day as they were to be presented at the American Physiological Society’s Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Materials provided by American Physiological Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

California Approves Ocean Acidification Action Plan

An action plan approved in late October by the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) lays out steps to reduce effects of ocean acidification and boost the resilience of coastal industries and communities.

The concern is that acidification is making it difficult for zooplankton, oysters, crabs and other animals at the base of the food web to build and maintain their shells. This could have negative impact on the productivity of California’s coastal and marine ecosystems and the communities and industries dependent on them.

“With so many livelihoods at stake, inaction is no longer an option,” stated California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, who chairs the OPC.

California’s joint efforts to deal with acidification began following a widespread oyster die-offs in the Pacific Northwest from 2006 to 2009. The state is a founding member of the 74-member strong International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification. The council’s action plan identifies six key strategies and outlines five-year goals and actions for each including reduction of pollution causing ocean acidification and deploying living systems to store carbon and slow acidification.

The plan calls for a comprehensive assessment to identify current and future risks to valuable fisheries like Dungeness crab and salmon, as well as the California’s ocean-dependent tourism industry.

Over the course of the year, the council will share the plan across the state and at international forums, then use it as a roadmap to make investments and decisions that advance its efforts to combat ocean acidification. More information is available online at

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Report on Arctic Ocean Acidification

A new report by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) says that acidification levels in the Arctic Ocean could have significant consequences for northern communities, as well as the rest of the world.

The 2018 Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment was released during the 2018 Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Rovaniemi, Finland, in mid-October, and reported on Radio Canada International. The assessment is based on case studies from Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and the Barents Sea, and suggests unchecked acidification levels would have grave impacts in these areas in coming years.

“This uncertainty underscores the urgent need for increased monitoring in the region, and for research that looks at the effects on species of a number of environmental stressors acting in combination,” the AMAP report said.

“The AMAP report warned that falling ocean pH levels, which are changing most rapidly in the Arctic, are acting in tandem with other environmental stressors, such as rising air and sea temperatures, driving significant changes in marine ecosystems.

The complete AMAP report is available at

Salmon Hatcheries Make $600 Million Impact on Alaska

A report produced for eight private, nonprofit hatchery associations concludes that Alaska’s salmon hatcheries generate $600 million in economic output, with impacts throughout the state’s economy.

According to the study released in October by the McDowell Group in Juneau, Alaska, commercial fishermen harvested an annual average of 222 million pounds of hatchery-produced salmon worth $120 million in ex-vessel value during the 2012-2017 study period.

Chum and pink salmon were responsible for 39 and 38 percent of ex-vessel value respectively, followed by sockeye 16 percent, coho four percent and Chinook two percent.

Some 57 percent of the hatchery salmon ex-vessel value went to seiners, while gillnetters pulled in 38 percent and trollers took five percent.

From the regional perspective, Prince William Sound harvests generated $69 million in ex-vessel value annually. Southeast harvests brought in $44 million for fishermen followed by Kodiak at $7 million and Cook Inlet with $500,000.

According to the research, hatchery derived salmon represent 22 percent of the total salmon ex-vessel value for the 2012-2017 period. The percentage ranged from a high of 28 percent in 2013 to a low of 15 percent in 2016. The hatchery contribution was highest in Prince William Sound at 65 percent, followed by Southeast at 31 percent, Kodiak at 16 percent and Cook Inlet at two percent.

Some 52 million hatchery-produced salmon are harvested on average annually in Alaska’s common property commercial fisheries. They are caught by nearly all commercial harvesters fishing in Southeast Alaska, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Cook Inlet. Over the study period an annual average of 3,840 permit holders and an estimated 4,860 crew benefitted from hatchery product, the report said. Prince William Sound seiners generally source most of their harvest from hatchery fish, while Kodiak set gillnet fishermen have much less of a direct connection to hatchery fish.

For the seafood processing sector, the first wholesale value of products produced with hatchery-produced salmon was estimated to average $361 million during the study period.

Hatchery fish also contribute substantially to sport fishing, personal use and subsistence harvests, with an estimated 10,000 hatchery-reared Chinook, 5,000 chum, 100,000 coho, 19,000 pink and 138,000 sockeyes caught annually in sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries in Alaska.

Cod Fishery Gets Allocation Increase for Alaska Area O

Alaska’s Board of Fisheries has increased both the allocation and area of the state water cod fishery in Area O, near Dutch Harbor/Unalaska.

The board’s action, during its Pacific cod meeting in Anchorage Oct. 18-19, raised the allocation from the previous 6.4 percent of the overall Bering Sea cod harvest to eight percent, with an additional one percent added each year until that allocation gets to 15 percent.

Harvesters in this young, but successful fishery use pot gear on their vessels of under 60 feet. Todd Hoppe, president of the Under Sixty Cod Harvesters, described the board’s action as “a difficult but excellent decision.”

Under Sixty Cod Harvesters, formed earlier this year, was the primary driver behind the expansion effort. “We applaud this board for recognizing how important these open-access state water fishing opportunities are for our community-based fishermen, and for the young fishermen coming up in the industry,” Hoppe said. “These vessels work year-round and are rooted in Alaska’s communities.They deliver fish and income straight into local economies. Supporting this fishery was a good move for the state of Alaska, and I think we’ll see the positive effects of that decision for a long time to come.”

The board approved RC (record copy) 12, submitted by board member Israel Payton as substitute language for four proposals 10, 12, 13 and 14, all supporting opportunities to fish locally and provide cod needed by local shore-based processors. In its proposal, the Under Sixty Cod Harvesters argued that the potential and strengths of the fishery had outgrown the modest allocations it started with, warranting an allocation increase and area expansion.

Coast Guard Concludes Arctic Summer Mission

Crew aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy have completed another Stratified Ocean Dynamics in the Arctic (SODA) study for the Office of Naval Research, part of a multi-year effort to help predict ice coverage in the region.

The goal of this second mission focused on better understanding how the Arctic environment affects different water layers of the Arctic Ocean. The Healy’s Arctic West Summer 2018 deployment was led by Craig Lee of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington. The mission began at Dutch Harbor on Sept. 14 and concluded on Oct. 18.

Thirty scientists and engineers joined some 100 Coast Guard crew in deploying an array of scientific equipment, which will be used to monitor the region for the next year transmitting data back to scientists at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

The 420-foot Healy, one of two icebreakers in US service, is uniquely fitted for such scientific missions, with a full suite of sensors and equipment specifically designed to gather scientific data. Through operations at the ship-based Science Technical Support in the Arctic laboratory (STARC), ship personnel provide technical assistance to visiting scientists gathering data on water conductivity, temperature, depth and sea floor mapping. Last year, STARC personnel used side-scan sonar to locate the sunken shipwreck of the 110-foot crab boat Destination, which capsized and sank in the Bering Sea with a crew of six on board. With decreasing ice in the Arctic, human activity is increasing in the region, through tourism, commercial fishing, global shipping and exploration for natural resources.

SODA is one of several multi-year studies the Navy is using to determine how best to proceed in the Arctic. Naval officials need more research date to better forecast weather and sea conditions for future operations. Such knowledge will also allow the Coast Guard, which leads the Joint Force in the Arctic, to support their missions in the polar regions, to respond to threats, facilitate emerging commercial activities and protect sovereign rights in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the Extended Continental Shelf.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

As Arctic Sea Ice Declines, Phytoplankton Spreads North

A study released by the American Geophysical Union confirms that as Arctic sea ice declines phytoplankton blooms are expanding northward into ice-free waters. The big question is how this expansion will impact marine ecosystems in coming years.

The study, based on satellite imagery of ocean color, shows phytoplankton spring blooms in the Arctic Ocean’s central basin at low biomass, where none were found before, and expanding northward at a rate of one degree of attitude per decade.

Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that form the base of the marine food web, indirectly feeding everything from small fish to whales. They live in water, consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, converting sunlight into chemical energy.

Decline in Arctic sea ice over the past several decades has resulted in areas of open water where phytoplankton can thrive. Researchers are not sure how the expansion of phytoplankton will impact the food web, but their results suggest the decline of ice cover is already impacting marine ecosystems in unforeseen ways, and that as phytoplankton spring blooms move north these changes could affect the fate of the Arctic Ocean as a carbon source or a carbon sink.

“If the ice pack totally disappear in summer, there will be consequences for the phytoplankton spring bloom,” said Sophie Renaut, a doctoral student at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, and lead author of the study. “We cannot exactly predict how it will evolve, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be drastic consequences for the entire ecosystem.”

Phytoplankton growth is dependent on availability of carbon dioxide, sunlight, nutrients, water temperature and salinity, water depth and grazing animals, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean typically bloom every spring. In the past, such blooms have not been found in the highest Arctic latitudes, because they were usually covered by sea ice.

To learn if sea ice declines had any effect on spring phytoplankton blooms, researchers used satellite observations of ocean color to track changes of blooms each spring from 2003 to 2013. They found that in spring and summer months, net primary productivity in the Arctic Ocean increased by 31 percent between 2003 and 2013, and that these blooms in the Barents and Kara seas north of Russia are expanding north at a rate of one degree of latitude per decade.

The research was shared by the American Geophysical Union via EurekAlert, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It was first published in Geophysical Research letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

NPAFC Launches International Year of the Salmon

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) is planning a high seas expedition to the central Gulf of Alaska to learn more about salmon stocks in its five-member nations.

The expedition is scheduled to take place from late February through late March 2019 aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Kaganovsky. Scientists from the five NPAFC countries, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States will be on board.

NPAFC officially launched its International Year of the Salmon in the North Pacific on Oct. 11, the commission said in a statement from its headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Gulf of Alaska expedition is one of the signature projects for International Year of the Salmon (IYS) outreach and research across the northern hemisphere.

The IYS is an initiative of the NPAFC and its North Atlantic partner, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, to establish a new hemispheric-scale partnership of government, indigenous peoples, academia, non-governmental organizations and industry to connect hundreds of organizations that have the capacity and desire to address scientific and social challenges facing salmon and people in an increasingly uncertain environment.

The partnership plans a call to action for outreach and research through 2022 to fill knowledge gaps and develop tools to equip and train the next generation of scientists and managers. The group also wants to raise awareness of decision makers to achieve conditions necessary for the future resilience of salmon and people in a rapidly changing world.

In addition to the Gulf of Alaska expedition, the IYS signature projects are to include a program to identify key factors affecting survival of salmon from freshwater to the high seas and back, the application of new technologies to unlock mysteries of salmon migration and survival, high-tech solutions to efficiently bring salmon communities together, and the design of modern management systems that includes indigenous peoples.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Rejects ACRs on Hatchery Issues

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has rejected agenda change requests (ACR) to review sooner the matter of limiting the egg take capacity of salmon hatcheries.

During a lengthy work session in Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the board rejected by a vote of 1–6 an ACR from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association related to the increase in egg take capacity permitted in 2018 for the Valdez Fisheries Development Association’s Solomon Gulch Hatchery. The board also rejected by a 2–5 vote a second ACR from former board member Virgil Umphenour urging for a statewide cap on private non-profit salmon hatchery egg take capacity at 75 percent of the level permitted in 2000. Several hundred fish harvesters packed the work session meeting to hear reports from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on both ACRs.

Prior to the meeting, the board received dozens of related comments from harvesters, processors and non-profit entities, mostly in support of current hatchery production, and opposed to reduction of the currently allowed egg take.

During oral comments, most of those at the meeting urged rejection of the ACRs.

“Don’t monkey with something that works,” said retired commercial fisherman and former Alaska legislator Clem Tillion, a past chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council who has served on numerous fisheries committees. “The hatcheries are a success. Handle it with care. Leave a system that works alone.”

Jerry McCune, president of Cordova District Fishermen United, also opposed the ACRs. “I think what we need to be doing here is base everything on science, and not on emotion.” McCune said he felt that more science was needed, because nobody can say for certain what is going on in the ocean. He urged for more research by NOAA.

State law lists three requirements to be considered before the board can approve agenda change requests. They are whether there is a fishery conservation purpose, whether the ACR would correct an error in regulation, and whether the ACR addresses an effect of a regulation on a fishery that was unforeseen when the regulation was adopted. In both cases the board felt both ACRs did not meet those criteria.

Status of Salmon Fisheries and Progress of ASMI Programs Meetings

Two upcoming meetings of interest to commercial fishermen were announced yesterday in Alaska, one of the status of salmon stocks and the other on the progress of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) projects.

First, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, will hold a hearing on Saturday, Oct. 20 in Anchorage, Alaska, to review the health of the state’s salmon fisheries and examine current data needed to maintain healthy, sustainable stocks. The first witness panel includes Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten and Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The second will have representatives of the University of Alaska College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, the North Pacific Research Board, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, Prince William Sound Science Center and the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Then, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will provide those unable to attend the October 29–31 meeting in person with the option to listen in by calling 1-800-315-6388, or 1-913-904-9376 using the access code 05684.

EVOS Trustee Council to Consider Transition Plans

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council will for the first time in its 27-year history publicly consider a proposal to transition to a court-appointed private non-profit foundation or trust.

While the trustee council itself does not have authority to make the transition, the state of Alaska and federal government do, and the perspective of the six council agencies will weigh significantly in any final decision.

The EVOS council is to take up the matter today, October 17, at its board meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, which is scheduled to run until 3:30 p.m. Alaska time. To listen in call 1-800-315-6338 and use access code 72241.

As of Oct. 1, the restoration fund managed by the council had roughly $198 million left, with some $153 million in unencumbered funds available.

The issue of long-term management of the restoration funds has been under discussion privately for years. Last month, the council proposed the transition to a private foundation in an email to all council members, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Alaska Department of Law.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Crab Quota Up for Bering Sea Snow, Down for Bristol Bay Red

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and National Marine Fisheries Service released updates for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands prior to the crab fisheries opening on Oct. 15.

Snow crab stocks in the Bering Sea have rebounded to a nearly 50 percent increase compare to a year ago, while Bristol Bay red king crab stocks continue to slide. The total allowable catch (TAC) for the 2018–19 Bering Sea snow crab is set at 27,581 million pounds, with 24,822,900 pounds set aside for individual fishing quota (IFQ) and 2,758,100 pounds in community development quota (CDQ). Last year’s snow crab TAC was 18,961,000 pounds, down from the 2016–17 21,570,000 pounds.

Harvesters of Bristol Bay red king crab are allocated 4.3 million-pound quota, much less than the 6.6 million pounds permitted in 2017 and 8.4 million pounds in 2016. The red king crab allocation includes 3.9 million pounds of IFQ and 430,800 pounds for CDQ entities.

According to Miranda Westphal, area management biologist at Dutch Harbor for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the last time the Bristol Bay red king crab harvest limit was that low was in 1985, when the guideline harvest limit was set at 3 to 5 million pounds, and harvesters landed 4.09 million pounds.

Usually, harvests numbers are based on 12.5 percent of legal males, but this year it is calculated on 10 percent of that biomass. “We’ve got a continued downward trajectory for king crab stocks and we don’t see a lot of recruitment coming in,” Westphal explained. “The abundance survey is showing a continued decline for effective spawning biomass of legal males, females and sub-legals and we have low estimated recruitment, so we don’t see a lot of small juveniles coming into the system.”

ADF&G biologists said mature female abundance is more than the harvest strategy threshold of 8.4 million crab and the 2018-effective spawning biomass of 33,275 million pounds is over the threshold of 14.5 million pounds required for the fishery to open.

The western district for Tanner crab will open with a TAC of 2,439,000 pounds, down slightly from 2,500,200 a year ago.

The eastern district remains closed, as it was in 2017.

Pribilof district red and blue king crab are closed due to continued low abundance. State biologists said there is considerable uncertainty surrounding precision of abundance estimates of these crab. The Saint Matthew Island section blue king crab fishery is closed for the season because those stocks were estimated to be below the federal minimum stock size threshold and consequently declared overfished.

Alaska Urges Transboundary Mining Discussion at Bilateral Talks

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and the state’s congressional delegation are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss risks posed by transboundary mining activity in upcoming bilateral talks between the United States and Canada.

The letter sent to Pompeo indicate that if poorly managed Canadian mining projects located near transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Alaska pose a threat to commercial fishing and tourism industries in Southeast Alaska.

In November 2017, the delegation sent a letter to then-Secretary Rex Tillerson urging the State Department to prioritize transboundary watersheds, bringing the issue to the cabinet level. The delegation has continued to push for binding protections, joint water quality monitoring and financial assurances to ensure mining operators in British Columbia would be held accountable for any impacts to transboundary water quality that stand to threaten salmon habitat in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has included in the Senate version of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations package for fiscal year 2019 currently being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee, a $1.5 million fund to cover stream gauges to monitor water quality on transboundary rivers, a one million dollar increase from fiscal year 2017 funding levels. It also direct the U.S. Geological Survey to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes and other agencies to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.

The correspondence requesting that the State Department deliver a strong message to Global Affairs Canada during bilateral talks in Ottawa, Ontario drew kudos from campaign director Jill Weitz of Salmon Beyond Borders. Weitz said that development of large-scale open pit mines in British Columbia is moving “at a mind-blowing pace, while the cleanup of mines like the bankrupt Tulsequah Chief, which has been polluting the Taku River watershed for more than 60 years, is at a seemingly constant stand-still.”

Hatchery Issues Back Up Before the Alaska Board of Fisheries

Comments on a proposal to limit production at the Valdez Fisheries Development Association hatchery are pouring in to the Alaska Board of Fisheries in advance of a work session scheduled for Oct. 15-16 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Prior to the Oct. 3 deadline, the board had received 272 comments for inclusion as record copies in board packets, and remarks are still coming in.

During the work mid-October session, board members will decide whether or not to accept agenda change requests (ARC) on when to consider specific proposals. While public comment will not be heard at the work session, there will be a town hall style public discussion at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 16.

Attracting the most comments is ACR 1, from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). Back in 2016, the board approved allowing the Valdez hatchery to incubate, rear and release 250 million pink salmon eggs. That total was increased by 20 million eggs for 2018. KRSA contends that the number of hatchery-produced pink salmon in Prince William Sound poses a threat to wild stocks of salmon in the Gulf of Alaska. It seeks to decrease the egg take that went into effect for 2018. In its agenda change request, KRSA argues that the board October meeting is well after the planned 20 million egg take increase.

A second agenda change request to cap statewide private non-profit salmon hatchery egg take capacity at 75 percent of the level permitted in 2000 was submitted by former fisheries board member Virgil Uphenour.

Opposition to ACR 1 and ACR 2 is coming in from a number of commercial fishermen, including Jerry McCune, president of Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU). McCune told the fisheries board in written comments that CDFU believes the statewide hatcheries are well managed and rely on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s research for management decisions for the future of all stocks. “It is imperative that hatchery production be science-based and driven by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s continued research,” McCune said. “Circumventing the permitting process for hatchery production by utilizing a political process, rather than a scientific one, is a breakdown of public trust and jeopardizes the future of Prince William Sound fisheries.”

CDFU recommends that the fisheries board receive an annual report from the statewide hatcheries and ADF&G staff, but that decision-making regarding hatchery production remain with the regional planning team and commissioner of ADF&G.

More work session meeting information and comments are available online at

Alaska Harvesters Sentenced on Tax Charges

Two harvesters from Southeast Alaska who owed more than $300,000 in income taxes from earnings on commercial fisheries will serve a year and a day in federal prison, under sentences handed down in US District Court in Juneau, Alaska.

Judge Timothy M. Burgess sentenced Archie W, Demmert III, 58 and Roseann L. Demmert, 61, on two counts of willful failure to pay income tax. As part of their plea agreements, the Demmerts will pay restitution to the IRS for the calendar years charged covering 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Demmerts both had commercial fishing permits for herring spawn on kelp, and Archie Demmert had an additional commercial fishing permit for a salmon purse seine. The Demmerts admitted in court that they earned income from commercial fishing for over a decade, from 2006 to 2014, but willfully chose not to pay over $300,000 in income taxes, excluding penalties and interest.

Court documents showed they had a long history, dating back to at least 1994, of avoiding most of their tax obligations, and have not made any payments toward their taxes to the present day. Instead they spent their money on travel and gambling in casinos.

The investigation, conducted by IRA criminal investigators, showed that the couple spent thousands of dollars gambling in casinos in Las Vegas and Washington, despite telling the IRS that they had no way of paying their tax bills, according to office of the US, Attorney District of Alaska.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Bristol Bay Sockeye Run Is Largest on Record

Commercial fishermen engaged in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery had a record year in 2018, and in more ways than one.

State biologists say the 2018 run of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon was the largest on record, dating back to 1893, and 69 percent above the 36.9 million average run of the last 20 years. It was also the fourth consecutive year that inshore sockeye runs exceeded 50 million fish, and 21 percent above the preseason inshore forecast of 51.3 million fish. In fact, runs to all districts except Egegik exceeded the preseason forecast. The commercial harvest of 41.3 million reds was 10 percent above the 37.6 million preseason forecast and the second largest harvest on record.

The fishery also met or exceeded all sockeye escapement goals, with a total bay-wide escapement of 21 million fish. Preliminary harvests for other Pacific salmon species in Bristol Bay calculated by ADF&G were 1.9 million chums, 218,998 humpies, 138,466 silvers and 41,696 Chinooks.

Ex-vessel values also reached record levels. The preliminary ex-vessel value of all salmon species in the Bay was $281 million, 242 percent above the 20-year average of $116 million, and 39 percent higher than the $202 million ex-vessel value of the 1990 harvest. The 43.5 million harvest of all species was the second largest in the history of the Bay, surpassed only by the 45.4 million salmon of 1995. The 41.3 million sockeye harvest came second to the 1995 salmon harvest.

Statewide as of Oct. 1 the wild salmon commercial harvest stood at 113,400,000 fish, including more than 50 million sockeyes, 40 million humpies, 20 million chum, 3.5 million coho and 240,000 kings. More than 75 million of those fish came from Alaska’s central region, 21 million from Southeast Alaska, 14.6 million from the westward region and 2.3 million from the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Oliver Replaces Balsiger on IPHC

NOAA Fisheries announced on Sept. 27 that Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Chris Oliver would replace Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska, as the alternative federal commissioner on the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

Oliver, former executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, oversees the management and conservation of the nation’s recreational and commercial fisheries.

Under the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, the US is represented on the IPHC by three commissioners who are appointed by the president, including one who must be a NOAA official.

The substitution came on the heels of the reappointment in early September of Robert Alverson (Seattle, Wash.) manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, and the appointment of sportfishing lodge owner Richard Yamada (Juneau, Alaska) who replaces Linda Behnken (Juneau, Alaska), executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. Yamada, a veteran of the charter fishing industry is the first person in the sport fishing industry to be named to the council.

Season Proves Another Record Breaker for NSSP

Record coho and chum salmon runs and continued robust markets for red king crab and halibut added up to another record-breaking season for Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) and infused $8.6 million into communities in Alaska’s Norton Sound region.

NSSP, a subsidiary of Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., paid out $6.4 million to 219 salmon, crab and halibut harvesters. Another $2.2 million was disbursed to 254 seasonal workers in processing plants, at buying stations and on tender vessels.

“It proved to be an incredible season,” said NSEDC Board Chairman Dan Harrelson.

The parent company is one of six community development quota groups in Alaska who were established to provide a portion of fishery quotas in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands exclusively for 65 eligible western Alaska villages.

NSSP received a record 3.6 million pounds of salmon from its small boat fishermen that added up to an ex-vessel value of just over $4 million, shattering last year’s harvest record of 2.5 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of nearly $2.8 million. Silvers harvesters delivered 1.8 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of $2.5 million. NSSP also purchased nearly 1.7 million pounds of chum valued at $1.35 million.

Fifty-two crabbers brought in 321,047 pounds of red king crab worth $2,026,026 and halibut deliveries from 15 harvesters totaled 66,471 pounds valued at $387,912.

NSSP manager William “Middy” Johnson credited the record season to the coho and chum harvest. “Crab and halibut quotas were down, and their markets remained steady, but the coho and chum runs were strong.” Johnson said. “Norton Sound salmon fishers set their nets with every opening, so we not only had a record salmon harvest, but individual fishers had record seasons. These men and women have proven that if fishers are given the opportunity, they will work hard, set, pull and deliver.”

Commercial fishermen delivered directly to NSSP processing plants in Unalakleet and Nome, plus buying stations in Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin and Savoonga.

Citizen’s Coalition Sues Over Salmon Habitat Issues

A state of Alaska decision denying a citizen group’s request for an instream flow water reservation for waters in the Chuitna watershed of Southcentral Alaska has prompted a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court.

This past week, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition filed an appeal to the decision reached by Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack against granting that reserve to protect wild salmon habitat. Mack said he had to take into consideration what is in the public interest in this case, which initially involved a proposed coal mine on lands owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and if there is a need to issue an instream flow water reservation. In this case, the need was not there, he explained.

At the time the coalition first proposed the water reserve, PacRim Coal LP, a Delaware-based corporation owned by a Texas-based energy company, had plans to build what would have been the largest strip mine in Alaska. Their plans would have included destruction of salmon habitat in the Chuitna watershed. Litigation between supporters of the project, including the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and opponents, including wild salmon harvesters and environmental groups, goes back over nine years.

In March 2017, PacRim advised the state of Alaska that it was suspending its effort to get permits for the mine, due to an investment effort failure.

“It’s just not fair,” said Ron Burnett, president of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “The state says mining companies can get rights to take water out of streams permanently, but regular citizens can’t get rights to keep water in our streams for fish. That’s plain wrong.”

DNR did grant the requested instream flow right to the citizens coalition in 2015, but mining, oil and gas corporations appealed the decision. Finally, last December, Mack issued his decision, saying that because the coal company had relinquished its leases, such changed circumstance warranted an entirely new decision. In late September, Mack issued his new decision denying the request to keep water in the streams on grounds that the coal company had pulled out and there was no current competing interest for the water.

FN Online Advertising