Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Warming Climate, Competition Affect Pacific Salmon

Fisheries scientists at the University of Washington this week published their findings on the effects of warming climate and competition on Pacific salmon in the research publication Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The study by Timothy Cline, Jan Ohlberger and Daniel Schindler of UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences found that species with complex life cycles, including those migrating between different habitats to complete their life cycles, may be particularly sensitive to global change. This is because each life cycle stage is influenced by a unique set of natural and anthropogenic stressors, the report said. The research involved using of multivariate time-series models to quantify changes in the prevalence of different life-history strategies of sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, Alaska, over the past half century looking specifically at how they partition their lives between freshwater habitats and the ocean. During their life cycle, distinct life stages differ in their sensitivity to individual stressors, particularly temperature, the report noted. And effects of environmental change experienced by a population in one habitat affect their ecology in other life stages through developmental links in the process of completing their life cycle.

Researchers contend that climate warming has decreased the time spent by salmon in their natal freshwater habitat, as climate-enhanced growth opportunities have enabled earlier migration to the ocean. They also concluded that migration from freshwater at a younger age and increasing competition from wild and hatchery-released salmon, have tended to delay maturation toward spending an additional year feeding in the ocean.

According to the report, these stressors combine to reduce the size-at-age of fish vulnerable to commercial fisheries and have increasingly favored a single-age class, potentially affecting the age class complexity that stabilizes this resource.

New Canine Treats Boast Alaska Fish Oil/CBD Isolate

Wild Alaska fish oils, known for their nutritional value, are turning up in an increasing number of pet treats, including the new Alaska Ruff canine treats, a product line from Wasilla, Alaska, that includes cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound from the cannabis plant.

Entrepreneurs Kayla Thomas and Sara Buie introduced their four Alaska Ruff canine treats, with recommended dosage on the packaging, at Alaska outdoor markets in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley earlier this spring. The products are also available online at

Their Alaskan Fish Oil + Peanut Butter, Alaskan Fish Oil + Hemp Seed Hearts, Carrot-Peanut Butter and Apple-Peanut Butter flavors also contain spent barley, plus a CBD isolate to provide relief for dogs dealing with neuropathic pain, anxiety and hyperkinesis. CBD isolate is crystalline powder that contains 99 percent pure CBD, with all other plant matter removed.

The only preservative is rosemary, a natural ingredient that dogs love the flavor of, noted Thomas, who created the recipes labels for the products, with help from an Oregon friend who also manufactures dog food.

The two women, good friends and dog lovers, had discussed going into business together and came up with the idea of dog treats, which they currently produce at home, but they are already looking into commercial kitchen options for expansion. “We wanted to make a product we would give to our own dogs,” said Buie, who has a degree in business management and accounting, while Thomas’ forte is quality control assessments.

“A lot of customers have told us ‘we just want something from Alaska’,” Thomas said. “We are pretty determined women. We are paying attention and doing the research.” A lot of customers are more drawn to the CBD infusion and minimal number of ingredients too, Buie said. The Alaskan Fish Oil + Peanut Butter treats, for example, include spent barley, oat flour, pure Alaskan fish oil, peanut powder, local co-op eggs, whole ground flaxseed meal, ground rosemary and CBD isolate. Spent barley offers fiber, proteins, amino acids and minerals.

While the CBD isolate is recommended for relief from neuropathic pain, anxiety and hyperkinesis, the product label also warns that the product is not intended to treat any disease.

As they expand their business through the first year of production, Thomas and Buie are also having their canine treats tested by a licensed food inspection laboratory in the Matanuska Valley. The lab uses a mass spectrometer–a machine that produces charged particles from the substances being analyzed and records the relative abundance of each particle type. This is a way to check for any impurities and inform the producers of the percentage of every ingredient in the product.

Chemical Signatures Tell Critical Story About Habitat

A new study by University of Washington fisheries researchers documents how chemical signatures imprinted inside the ears of fish show that two of Alaska’s most productive salmon populations and the fisheries they support depend on the entire watershed.

The study notes that sockeye and Chinook salmon born in Nushagak River in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, and its network of streams and lakes use the whole basin as young fish to search for the best places for prey, shelter and safety from predators. From birth until these young fish migrate to the ocean a year later is a critical period for them to eat and grow.

The study by lead author Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, notes that different parts of the Bristol Bay watershed are hot spots for salmon production and growth, and these favorable locations change annually, depending on how climate conditions interact with local landscape features.

The study, published in the May 24 edition of Science, analyzed the tiny ear stones, known as otolith, that form in the fish.

“Habitat conditions aren’t static, and optimal places shift around,” Brennan said. “If you want to stabilize fish production over the years, the only strategy is to keep all of the options on the table.”

“The overall system is more than just the sum of its parts, and small pieces of habitat can be disproportionately important,” said Daniel Schindler, a UW fisheries professor and senior author of this study. “The arrows point to the need to protect or restore at the entire basin scale if we want rivers to continue to function as they should in nature.”
Release of the study coincides with renewed efforts of Canadian miners to get permits for development of the proposed Pebble mine, to extract copper and gold from near the headwaters of the Nushagak River. The deadline for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement was recently extended to July 1, 2019 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of the study, researchers reconstructed the likely geographic locations of nearly 1,400 adult salmon, from their birth in a Nushagak stream until their migration to the ocean. By looking at the otolith of each fish, they could tell where the fish lived by matching the chemical signatures imprinted on each growth ring of the otolith with the chemical signatures of the water where they swam.

“Results like those we’re presenting in this paper hopefully will get people to think about what they stand to lose by starting to develop and eliminate habitat in places like the Nushagak River,” Schindler said, “The Pebble mine environmental impact statement, which is supposed to be a mature, state of the science assessment of risks, really does a poor job of assessing risks of this specific project.”

Copper River Salmon Catch Tops 180,000 Fish

The Copper River salmon fishery in Alaska is so far coming in as forecasted, with upwards of 180,000 Chinook, sockeye and chum salmon delivered to processors in Cordova since the first opener. Retail prices are holding fairly firm.

Preliminary catch figures for the fourth opener on May 25 were still being compiled by Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) officials, but as of early today that count stood at 180,088 fish, accounting for 168,336 red, 7,041 Chinook, 4,710 chum and a single humpy.

The first opener on May 16 brought in a total of 22,966 fish, the second accounted for 56,803 salmon and the third 66,919. As of late Tuesday, May 28, fish tickets added up to 33,400 fish, but ADF&G gillnet fishery manager Jeremy Botz said that was just a partial count.

Harvesters made 473 deliveries to processors in the first period, 483 in the second and 569 in the third.

Copper River kings and sockeyes were starting to show up as seafood entrees in more fine dining restaurants, like Jens, in Anchorage, Alaska, where a fresh Copper River king salmon grilled and served with Romesco sauce and roasted corn salsa was offered for $50.

For those preferring to prepare their own seafood at home, the best deal in Anchorage this week was fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $13.99 a pound at Costco stores, and shoppers were snapping them up quickly.

10th & M Seafoods had Copper River sockeye fillets for $21.95 a pound and king fillets for $59.95 a pound. New Sagaya, the other top seafood shop in that city, was offering five pounds of Copper River red fillets for $209.95, or $41.99 a pound. Online Anchorage retailer FishEx had sockeye portions for $46.95 a pound and king portions for $86.95 a pound.

In Seattle, Pike Place Fish Market had dropped prices on whole Copper River kings to $39.95 a pound and king fillets for $49.99 a pound, while Copper River sockeyes were $99.95 per fish and $29.99 a pound for fillets.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Copper River Salmon Make their Seasonal Debut

Copper River sockeye and Chinook salmon are back in seafood shops and upscale restaurants from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Wash., and beyond. The 12-hour season opener on May 16 brought in an estimated 20,534 red and 2,309 king salmon, some of which were being served up for dinner in Anchorage even before the first period closed that evening.

Skip Winfree of 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage arranged for a helicopter to pluck a brailer of wild salmon from a fishing vessel in the Copper River several hours into the opener, and deliver the fish to Cordova’s airport to be flown into Anchorage, where it was rushed to four upscale restaurants.

“We were tired of Seattle getting all the first fish,” said Winfree, who partnered for a third year in a row with 60° North Seafoods to get fresh wild salmon to Anchorage on the day of the first opener. Some first night diners paid approximately $65 a plate for the Copper River sockeye entrée. Six days later fresh Copper River sockeye entrées were being offered at $38.95 and fresh Copper River king fillets for $48.95 at another popular restaurant.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Alaska Air Cargo delivered some 18,000 pounds of fresh Copper River salmon on the morning of May 17 on board the Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon, a jet painted to look like a gigantic king salmon. Later in the day a second jet brought another 50,000 pounds of fresh kings and sockeyes for distribution to grocers and restaurants nationwide.

Pike Place Fish Market offered whole Copper River kings for $44.99 a pound and fillets for $59.99 a pound, as well as whole Copper River sockeyes for $199.95 per fish.

The second opener, on Monday, May 20, brought the harvest to a total of 73,766 sockeyes weighing in at 416,259 pounds, 4,064 kings for a total of 73,559 pounds, and 1,765 chum salmon totaling 11,463 pounds. Kings came in at an average of 18.7 pounds for the first period and 17.4 pounds on the second round, while sockeyes averaged 5.5 pounds and 5.7 pounds respectively for those same periods, and chums were at 6.5 pounds on average, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists.

Superior Court Dismisses Pebble-Backed Lawsuit

Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the right of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) to advocate on behalf of others challenging potential impacts of the Pebble mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed area.

The lawsuit, filed by six Bristol Bay fishermen and financed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, alleged that the BBRSDA was spending funds outside of its statutory purposes.

Lamoureux found, in her May 17 decision, that the BBRSDA acted within its statutory purpose of promoting the Bristol Bay fishery in opposing the proposed Pebble mine, which mine opponents contend could have a devastating impact on the world’s largest wild salmon fishery.

The Pebble limited Partnership declined comment on the judge’s decision.

Scott Kendall, legal counsel for the BBRSDA, meanwhile hailed Lamoureux’s decision as a complete vindication of the fisheries association. “She agreed with us that Pebble’s case was entirely without merit, and now the Association can get back to its work of promoting the one of a kind Bristol Bay fishery,” he said.

“This frivolous lawsuit was a desperate attempt to bully and silence those who are digging for the truth about Pebble’s deeply flawed and highly misleading mine plan,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB).

The BBRSDA had entered into contracts with SalmonState and UTBB to provide outreach, education and a review related to the draft environmental impact statement on the proposed mine, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson, the diversified Canadian-owned global mining group proposing to build the Pebble mine.

Alannah Hurley, executive director of UTBB, hailed the ruling for clearing the way for Bristol Bay residents and fishermen to focus on preparing for the return of 40 million salmon this summer and fighting to protect this run for future generations The decision “confirms that the people and fishermen of Bristol Bay have the right to fight for our way of life,” she said.

The judge’s decision explained that state statutes give some guidance on ways regional seafood development associations may band together, tax themselves and use those funds to promote the monetary value of seafood products harvested in the region. These options, she wrote, “include promoting the product, investing in infrastructure to preserve or increase the value of seafood, educating the public on the seafood, researching the product, advertising the product, researching markets and cooperating with other entities for quality control measures and commodity standards.” The judge also found that it is not outside the BBRSDA’s power or authority to conduct technical research of a proposed mine, which relates to and may affect seafood in the region, to conduct outreach and advocacy on the same, or to participate and encourage others to participate in commenting on the draft environmental impact statement as to the potential effect of the mine on their marketable seafood resource.

O’Shea Honored with NPAFC International Award

Retired US Coast Guard Captain John O’Shea, who has worked on marine fisheries policy issues at the regional, national and international levels, has received the 2019 International Award from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC).

The award is given annually to an individual or group whose sustained and significant contributions in scientific research, enforcement, international cooperation, or management have helped improve the conservation of anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean.

O’Shea was presented with the award on May 17 at the commission’s 27th annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.

NPAFC officials said O’Shea is being recognized for his contributions in the areas of compliance and enforcement to the commission’s mission to conserve and manage anadromous salmon and steelhead stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.

He has contributed substantially to the functioning of the commission’s Committee on Enforcement for many years. From 1991 through 1996, he served in US Coast Guard headquarters’ Office of Law Enforcement as program manager for fisheries law enforcement. There he was responsible for policy and resources for all Coast Guard fisheries law enforcement domestic and foreign activities.

O’Shea coordinated Coast Guard participation in the NPAFC as part of the Coast Guard’s ongoing operations in the North Pacific against use of large-scale high seas driftnets.

Pact Aims to Reduce Environmental Impact of Fishing and Seafood Industries

A new pact signed by Norway and Washington state calls for cooperation on next-generation maritime technologies and clean energy innovations, with the goals of further modernizing and reducing the environmental impact of fishing and seafood industries.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in Seattle, Wash., this past week by representatives of Innovation Norway and Washington State, during the Nordic Innovation Summit at the Nordic Museum, according to a report in GeekWire, a technology news site with strong roots in the Seattle region. The pact specifically calls for decarbonization of vessels, ocean technology innovation, modernization of fish and seafood industries, and use of maritime digitalization.

Signers agreed to cooperate and support business development activities between designers, suppliers, builders and operators of hybrid, full electric and alternative fueled vessels, and associated infrastructure that includes but is not limited to electric ferries.

They also agreed to support technology development and expand opportunities for ocean science technology into maritime markets, including, but not limited to, offshore marine renewable energy, subsea sensors, gliders, autonomy and robotics.

They called for modernization of fishing and seafood through engagement of sustainable fishing companies equipment suppliers, processing technology developers and sustainable aquaculture for business development, knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

In addition, they agreed to share market opportunities for growth in big data analytics.

The statement was signed on stage by Chris Green, director of the Washington state Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness, and Gro Eirin Dyrnes, regional director of Innovation Norway. The conference came in the wake of an event in which representatives of the tech industry and maritime leaders discussed ways to collaborate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Pebble Mine Legal Challenge

Proponents and opponents of the proposed Pebble mine are awaiting an Alaska Superior Court decision in the latest litigation challenging the right of a regional seafood development association to use its funds to oppose the mine.

The lawsuit against the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Salmon State was filed by six BBRSDA members and paid for by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), which is seeking permits to proceed with development of the mine project. One of the plaintiffs, Abe Williams, is the director of regional affairs for the PLP.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has sided with the plaintiff fishermen by filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and their opposition to the BBRSDA’s motion to dismiss.

In more than three hours of testimony on Monday, May 13, plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that the BBRSDA was using state funds for ultra vires – purposes beyond the scope of their legal power – for promotion and marketing of Bristol Bay salmon, justifying the request for a preliminary injunction to stop them from doing so.

Attorneys representing the BBRSDA countered that BBRSDA is using its own money from a self-assessed tax greed on its members, rather than state money to fight the proposed mine.

They argued that plaintiffs are trying to create new restrictions on money drift gillnetters pay in taxes based on the harvest.

The BBRSDA noted that state statutes explicitly permit the association to cooperate with other public and private boards, organizations or agencies for joint programs, including consumer education, research and sales promotion programs for seafood products harvested in the region. The brief also argued that the BBRSDA is a development as well as a marketing association, and that there is no question that public and market awareness of the Pebble mine and its potential impact on Bristol Bay salmon is very high. “Plaintiffs’ whole case depends on pretending that the mine and fishery inhabit separate worlds, but of course the proposed mine and the fishery are in the same geographic region and one is rarely mentioned in the same breath without the other,” the BBRSDA’s attorneys said. Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux took the matter under advisement.

Meanwhile early today, Iliamna Natives Limited, an Alaska Native village corporation in the Bristol Bay region, announced it had reached agreement with the PLP to provide transportation corridor access on its lands in support of the proposed mine.

Copper River Salmon Fishery Opener is Hours Away

With the famed Copper River salmon fishery opener just hours away, the excitement is mounting even as weather forecasters predict rain showers and temperatures ranging from 41 to 52 degrees.

“Rain and fog can impact things,” noted Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Jeremy Botz in Cordova, Alaska “Still, I think the weather is going to be pretty decent, so we’ll get a good look at what’s out there. So far, several hundred commercial harvesters registered for the fishery, they seem pretty positive, which is pretty typical for the start of the season,” he added.

Some of that optimism may be because while there are no indications of a whole lot of sockeye salmon out there, there are definitely more than this time last year as reported by those with educational permits.

The forecast is for a run of 1.5 million sockeyes in the Copper River and some 55,000 Chinook salmon. The projected commercial harvest is 756,000 reds and 31,000 kings, including in-river fisheries, rather than just the commercial catch, according to Botz.

Water temperatures currently are average, a bit warmer than the cooler waters noted at the start of last year’s fishery.

10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska, is scheduled to receive a load of sockeyes and kings from the opener mid-afternoon on May 16 and deliver them to about a dozen area restaurants.

Chef Travis Haugen at the Southside Bistro is one of several chefs bracing particularly for the delivery of Chinooks. “As soon as I have one in my hands, I will put it on the menu,” he said.

NPFMC Accepting Comments for June Meeting

Comments on Gulf of Alaska pollock and cod seasons and allocations are currently accepted by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in advance of final action slated in Sitka, Alaska, in June. During its December meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, the council adopted for public review an analysis of alternatives intended to relieve operational inefficiencies for the trawl catcher vessel pollock and Pacific cod fisheries in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska.

For Pollock, council staff noted, additional flexibility would be found by moving from the existing equal four-season total allowable catch allocation to equal two-season allocations. Under the seasonal modification, the Pollock A and B seasons would be combined into a season running from Jan. 20 through May 31 and the C and D seasons would be combined into a single season from Aug. 25 through Nov. 1.

The council also agreed to continue to consider whether increasing the 20 percent cap on in-year seasonal rollovers of unharvested Pollock TAC provides flexibility to better utilize the available harvest. The council’s preliminary preferred alternative would increase that cap to 25 percent. For Pacific cod, the goal is to reduce the under harvest of B season TAC in the trawl catcher-vessel sector by moving some of the seasonally allocated TAC to the A season.

During the December meeting the council re-specified options for the amount of the seasonal reallocation to clarify that sectors other than the trawl catcher vessels would not be impacted. The preliminary preferred alternative would result in an A/B seasonal TAC ratio across all sectors, of 64 percent/36 percent, compared to the status quo of 60 percent/40 percent.

Final action is also scheduled in June on the community quota entity (CQE) individual fishing quota halibut in Area 3A. The proposed amendment would allow community quota entities in Area 3A to fish D class halibut IFQ on C or D class vessels.

The CQE program was developed to allow for a distinct set of small, remote, coastal communities with few economic alternatives to purchase and hold catcher vessel quota share in the Gulf of Alaska to help facilitate access to and sustain participation in the commercial halibut and sablefish individual fishery quota fisheries.

More information, and to comment on these and all other items coming before the council June 3-10 go to

NOAA Researchers Learning More About West Coast Ecosystem

Research scientists at the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center say they are learning more about great volumes of nutrient-rich water welling up from the deep ocean to fuel great diversity of marine life on the nation’s West Coast.

While upwelling is vital to marine life along the West Coast, until now the tools being used to monitor it hadn’t changed much in almost half a century. Now scientists are employing satellite images, research buoys, ocean models and other ocean monitoring tools that allow them to measure the velocity of the water and amount of nutrients that it delivers. This helps them to better understand the impacts of upwelling on coastal ocean ecosystems.

Michael Jacox, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and other researchers from NOAA Fisheries and the University of California at Santa Cruz recently published the new upwelling measurements in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Upwelling occurs along certain coastlines around the world where winds and the Earth’s rotation sweep surface waters offshore, drawing deep, cold and salty water full of nutrients to the surface. These nutrients fuel growth of phytoplankton that form the base of the marine food web, and ultimately nourish the ocean ecosystem of the West Coast.

Researchers studying fisheries or other marine life can use the indices to understand how fish and marine mammals respond to changes in upwelling and nutrients in the ecosystem. The indices are also helping to reveal effects of shifting ocean conditions off the West Coast, which has in recent years seen unusually warm temperatures that affect many species.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Copper River Opener Set for May 16

With the celebrated opener of the Copper River salmon fishery a little over a week away, the excitement is growing from Seattle, Wash., to Anchorage, Alaska and beyond, as are the pre-orders at retail shops for those first run reds and kings. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists in Cordova, Alaska, announced that the first Copper River opener will commerce at 7 a.m. on May 16, for a 12-hour period ending at 7 p.m.

The arrival of those first run sockeyes and kings in Seattle on Alaska Airlines will receive the usual red-carpet treatment.

10th & M’s Rob Winfree says Alaskans have been shortchanged by having the first of the season sockeyes and kings going directly to Seattle two days before Alaskans can get it, so he decided to do something about it. He worked with 60° North Seafoods on getting a helicopter to lift a load of fresh catch off a boat and deliver it to a jet at the Cordova Airport to fly them directly to Anchorage, where 10th & M will deliver it to customers who pre-ordered. “It is small amounts,” he said. “It’s token, but it means a lot.” Some first fish will be delivered in time to several Anchorage restaurants so it can be featured on their May 16 evening menu.

Winfree claimed that last year some of those first run wild salmon were on dinner plates in Anchorage two hours before that first opener ended.

Copper River Seafoods also will celebrate the arrival of the first fish in Anchorage with a special event on Saturday, May 18, at which gourmet chefs will offer a variety of creative wild Alaska salmon appetizers to invited guests.

Pebble DEIS Deadline Extended

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to extend the deadline for comments on its controversial draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the Pebble projects is seen as a small victory by some and an unfortunate event by others.

The extension adds 30 days to the original schedule and pushes the deadline to June 29, 2019, just as the statewide wild salmon fishery is under way, and on the cusp of an expected annual surge of sockeyes into Bristol Bay.

Fishing groups from Bristol Bay, Alaska Native corporations and area tribal groups, along with 20 members of the Alaska Legislature had initially asked for the comment period to be at least 270 days, but it will now be 120 days.

Former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford called the Corps’ decision “a 30-day extension of a very failed process is a small victory. They should start over with a real economic analysis of its feasibility, scientific proof of their proposal and objective analysis of alternatives, including the obvious conclusion that investors have made after hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits that the only option is to say ‘no’,” Halford said.

“While the decision is unfortunate, we are pleased it was for only 30 days,” said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for the Pebble Limited Project in Anchorage. “This is a Corps process and their decision. This does push the comment period into June when most Alaskans are out enjoying summer.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged the Alaska District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 24 to extend the comment period from May 30 for another 30 days.

“After carefully reviewing the DEIS, I’ve concluded Alaskans need more time,” she said. “The Corps permit is one of many the proposed Pebble mine will ultimately need to acquire, but throughout this process I want Alaskans to have adequate time to review and weight in on the project,” she said.

More information is online at

Moratorium Proposed on Finfish Aquaculture Facilities

Legislation introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, would put a moratorium on commercial permitting of marine finfish aquaculture facilities in the federal exclusive economic zone.

H.R. 2467, the Keep Fin Fish Free Act, would prohibit the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce from authorizing such operations in the federal exclusive economic zone unless specifically authorized by Congress.

“The seafood industry is critical to Alaska’s economy and we must be doing all we can to protect the health and integrity of our state’s wild fish stock,” said Young, who introduced the legislation on May 2. “If not properly managed, industrial aquaculture operations threaten Alaska’s unique ecosystem with non-native and genetically modified fish species.

The Alaska Republican said his bill takes needed steps to prevent “the unchecked spread of aquaculture operations by reigning in the federal bureaucracy, and empowering Congress to determine where new aquaculture projects should be conducted.”

H.R. 2467 was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth, which backs the bill, said efforts were underway to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. “NOAA is pushing to permit this disastrous industry at the expense of the environment and coastal communities, and has no authority to do so,” Templeton said. We applaud Congressman Young for fighting against floating factory farms and protecting our waterways and wild fish stocks.”

Coast Guard Rescues Five Fishermen in Southeast Alaska

Five commercial fishermen forced to abandon their sinking vessel in Southeast Alaska were rescued from their life raft on May 7 by a Coast Guard helicopter crew and brought into Sitka, all uninjured.

Coast Guard watchstanders at the Juneau Command Center monitoring Channel 16 heard “mayday, vessel Masonic going down” at 2:33 a.m. and pinpointed the vessel’s last position south of Cape Decision via their automatic identification system, after attempts to reach the caller on the radio were unsuccessful.

Cape Decision is a lighthouse on Kuiu Island, southwest of Sumner Strait. The helicopter crew was launched and the Petersburg-based Cutter Anacapa headed for the area. A cruise ship in the vicinity also offered assistance.

The aircrew located the life raft on the north side of Coronation Island at about 4 a.m. with all crewmembers aboard wearing cold weather survival suits. The life raft was tied off to the stern of the grounded 62-foot fishing vessel, which is homeported in Sitka.

Coast Guard officials noted that the crew of the Masonic had received a commercial fishing vessel dockside exam prior to heading out on this fishing trip and that a Coast Guard commercial fishing safety specialist had certified the presence of emergency gear. The crew had also conducted an abandon ship drill the day before the exam, including donning of survival suits.

Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau Commander, said the situation highlights how being prepared is critical in this dangerous environment. “I’m thankful that the crew of the Masonic was prepared. It probably saved their lives.”

White said the vessel’s automatic identification system position was instrumental in the Coast Guard’s ability to quickly locate the survivors, taking the “search” out of search and rescue.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Seafood Harvesters Becoming More Specialized

A new study by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers published in the journal Fish and Fisheries says that over the past 30 years Alaska fishermen have become more specialized in their fishing strategies rather than more diverse.

The research team led by Anne Beaudreau, a professor at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, found that the overall number of fishermen with multiple fishing permits declined from 30 percent of permit holders in 1988 to 20 percent in 2014. That data prompted Beaudreau to ask, “…as Alaska fisheries become more specialized, how resilient will fishing communities be to future change?”

The researchers are part of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis working group funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Prince William Sound Herring Research and Monitoring Program, and Gulf Watch Alaska.

Previous studies of Alaska fisheries found that harvesters, vessels and communities with broader access to more species or permit types tend to have more stable incomes due to diversification. Researchers said this reduced diversity may be caused by several barriers such as a limit on the number of fishing permits allowed in many fisheries, including halibut and sablefish. Additional obstacles to diversification may be socioeconomic, as permit prices and equipment costs rose significantly since the 1970s.

Researchers were also interested in how fishery participation and fishing portfolio diversity responded to biomass declines, management changed, fluctuations in prices and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

According to Beaudreau, salmon have become an increasingly important part of fishing portfolios statewide. While harvesters have become less diverse in the permits they hold, many continue to participate and specialize in salmon fisheries.

Alaska House Fisheries Committee Takes up Fish Tax Bill

The Alaska House Fisheries Committee heard extensive testimony this past week on proposed legislation to repeal the fisheries business tax allocation to municipalities. Those funds are used by the various communities to provide for fisheries infrastructure, schools, health and social services. Officials from Kodiak, King Cove, Akutan, Cordova, Sitka, the Aleutians East Borough and the city of Unalaska were among those telling House Fisheries of the dire economic impact such legislation would have on their communities. All were opposed to House Bill 65, which is backed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The estimated total of the municipal share of the raw fish tax in Fiscal Year 2020 is $29.1 million, according to Matt Gruening, chief of staff and fisheries committee aide to Committee Chair Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

“It is a terrible bill that would have a tremendous impact on every fishing community in Alaska. For many this is the community’s largest revenue source. The loss of this money would be devasting for Unalaska,” said Frank Kelty, the mayor of Unalaska – the nation’s number one fishing port, by seafood volume, in the country.

“Fishing communities in Alaska produce 56 percent of the nation’s seafood,” said Kelty. “We need to keep these communities strong. Unalaska, which uses local tax revenues to pay its own way, just completed a $10 million container dock, which was totally bonded by the city,” he added.

Kodiak’s Pat Branson noted that the state no longer owns the port infrastructure and the city is responsible for its port. “Those fish business tax funds make up 4.5 percent of our general fund revenue,” he explained.

King Cove City Administrator Gary Henning noted that HB 65 would present a daunting challenge, requiring a reduction in city programs and employment. Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said, “losing those funds would cripple the local economy in a community positioned to grow into one of the nation’s top fishing ports.”

Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, was among those specially invited to give testimony. Andreassen remarked that taking away sharing of fisheries business taxes with communities would reduce the quality of life of their residents adding that the fish tax revenues support health and welfare and improves the community’s credit ratings.

As testimony wrapped up, House Fisheries Chair Stutes noted that not one person had testified in support of the bill.

HB 65 was been set aside for further consideration; it currently remains in House Fisheries.

USDA Eager for More Alaska Pollock Fillets

Wild Alaska Pollock fillets are proving popular in the US Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

In its latest solicitation for bids issued on April 29, the USDA is asking for a total of 2,095,600 pounds of Alaska Pollock fish sticks for federal food programs in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington state.

The official request invites bids to be submitted through May 13, with acceptances to be announced by midnight May 20.

Successful bidders must make deliveries between September 1, 2019 and January 31, 2020. Dates of delivery for specific programs are listed on the solicitation.

Meanwhile in Seattle, Wash., the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) is continuing its aggressive campaign to put wild Alaska Pollock in the spotlight. It announced in late April a partnership with Groton’s Seafoods which will see Queer Eye star and food expert Antoni Porowski create new recipes – and buzz – for wild Alaska Pollock.

That project is one of 12 recently funded by the GAPP board of directors aimed at inviting millennials to include more Pollock in their meals. Porowski’s new recipes include Baja Style Fish Tacos, New Orleans Style Fish ‘n Chips, and Baked Crunchy Fish Fillets Puttanesca.

Salmon in the Spotlight at the Anchorage Museum

A new exhibit entitled Alaskans and Salmon opens on Friday, May 3 at the Anchorage Museum as part of the North by North Festival, celebrating the connection and culture across the North Country.

While this third annual event of workshops, exhibitions, performances, presentations and more runs from May 1 through May 5, the Alaskans and Salmon exhibition will remain on display through the first week of January 2020. Admission to the museum is free from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the first two days of that exhibition in the museum’s Northern Narrative Gallery.

Erin Harrington, the daughter of a commercial harvester and executive director of the Salmon Project will be among the exhibit collaborators greeting people on the first evening. She will also be on a panel with three others on the evening of May 4 to talk about how people can prepare for and adapt to the impact of climate change on salmon fisheries in Alaska.

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