Wednesday, July 31, 2019

EPA Withdraws Protections for Bristol Bay

Only four weeks after releasing comments critical of a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the proposed Pebble mine project, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn safeguards critical to the Bristol Bay watershed – the 2014 Proposed Determination issued under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

EPA Region 10 administrator Chris Hladick said his agency has worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers on the proposed project, resulting in an expansive public record, “including specific information about the proposed mining project that did not exist in 2014.”

EPA Region 10 General Counsel Matthew Leopold said the decision restores “the proper process or 404(c) determinations, eliminating a preemptive veto of a hypothetical mine and focusing EPA’s environmental review on an actual project before the agency.

On July 1, Hladick said in a letter to the Corps that the DEIS “appears to lack certain critical information about the proposed project and mitigation, and there may be aspects of the environmental modeling and impact analysis which would benefit from being corrected, strengthened, or revised. Because of this, the DEIS likely underestimates impacts and risks to groundwater and surface water flows, water quality, wetlands, aquatic resources, and air quality from the Pebble project.”

Mine backers, including the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, Alaska, and its parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals in Vancouver, British Columbia, thanked Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for his efforts in getting the proposed determination withdrawn. Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said Dunleavy “appears to be fulfilling his pledge to make sure the world knows Alaska is open for business, and supports responsible resource development.”

Mine opponents, including US Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., were angered.

“The Bristol Bay watershed supports fishermen, shipbuilders, suppliers, sportsmen, restaurant and over 50 million salmon that make up a $1.5 billion economy,” Cantwell said. “The Trump administration’s reckless action today threatens our salmon, our maritime economy and the livelihoods of thousands of Washington fishermen.”

Veteran Bristol Bay fisherman Robin Samuelsen of Dillingham was furious.

Speaking on behalf of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, Samuelsen said that the EPA’s decision “reeks of collusion and politics. Even those who are extremely pro-development have raised concerns about the negative impacts of this mine on Bristol Bay. In the face of those concerns, it is shocking that what few protections remain for this region are being further eroded.”

Alaska Salmon Harvest Tops 97 Million Fish

Commercial harvesters in Alaska have delivered an estimated 97 million salmon to processors so far this season.

Preliminary catch reports compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) show that as of July 30, the harvest included nearly 52 million sockeyes, 35 million humpies, 9.5 million chum, 620,000 silver and 207,000 Chinooks.

Between 50 and 60 percent of the annual harvest occurs past this point in the season in an odd-numbered year, notes Garrett Evridge a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group, who produces weekly updates on the fishery on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Most of the volume will come from pink salmon harvests, which have slowed in the last two weeks. Keta, coho and Chinook harvests are also slow, in contrast to strong sockeye landings.

The sockeye harvest is supported by strong landings in Bristol Bay and other regions. Still, Southeast Alaska is about 14 percent behind last year’s numbers and less than half of the long-term average. The harvest typically peaks in that region during the second week of August.

This week and the next two weeks usually represents the peak of the humpy harvest. Landings over this period can exceed 20 million fish per week. Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands are having strong seasons, while Southeast and Prince William Sound are lagging.

The Keta harvest year-to-date is approximately 25 percent lower than 2018 and the long-term average. Evridge said that fishing has been particularly challenging in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Southeast, which are 58 and 70 percent behind respectively compare to the 2018.

Year-to-date coho landings are 37 percent behind last year and half the five-year average. Chinook harvests are 12 percent below the same date last year.

The preliminary commercial salmon harvest from ADF&G is posted with daily updates online at

Robotics May Aid in Successful Rebuilding of Fish Stocks

A California university study suggests that current approaches to rebuild fisheries based on maximizing harvest and stock size are insufficient, and more rigorous and computationally intensive approaches could facilitate conservation planning and resource management.

The University of California Berkeley research team analyzed decision-making processes for setting fish harvest quotas and estimated biomass, catch and profit for 109 fisheries through 2050. They concluded that current methods fail to rebuild many fish stocks, achieving a 55 percent recovery rate on average, while methods borrowed from robotics reached 85 percent global fish stock recovery by 2050, and increased economic returns.

Many fisheries that have been historically over-exploited are now considered to be rebuilding, with hope that current best practices could ensure the recovery of most overfished species by mid-century. The results from the UC Berkeley research team, which included Milad Memarzaden and Carl Boettiger, appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The analysis suggests this optimism may be premature, as current projections typically assume managers can have perfect measurements of current stock sizes.

The research demonstrates how such an assumption can undermine rebuilding efforts under current best practices and even drive unintentional stock declines.

“I’ve never really thought about it nor am I very familiar with the field of robotics but there is nothing prescriptive in our management to preclude innovative analytic tools that could be employed to best estimate time frames to rebuild,” said Diana Stram, plan coordinator for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, Alaska.

“For stocks such as groundfish where we may have better information and understanding of recruitment we can do a fairly good job of projecting stock status, but for stocks with highly variable or very low levels of recruitment such as some crab stocks at low levels of abundance, we are really dependent on estimation of random recruitment into the future to estimate rebuilding times,” she said.

Memarzaden noted that his understanding is that salmon management in the Pacific Northwest is based on a constant escapement approach, while commercial marine fisheries are managed using constant-mortality targets. Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is the maximum average annual catch that can be removed from a stock over an indefinite period under prevailing environmental conditions. As defined this way, MSY makes no allowance for environmental variability.

Fisheries scientists worked out MSY in the 1950s, and almost two decades later they discovered more dynamic strategies of which the most profitable was a so called “bang-bang strategy,” Boettiger said. In short, if the stock size is 150 percent of the biomass calculated by the MSY, increase the allowable harvest to get that biomass down or if 50 percent below the MSY, halt fishing.

The research team noted that many fisheries that have been historically over-exploited are now considered to be rebuilding, supported by the hope that current best practices could ensure the recovery of most overfished species by mid-century. They suggest by borrowing novel decision methods from the field of robotics that stock rebuilding can be achieved in the face of measurement and environmental uncertainty, while also achieving higher economic returns than expected under current approaches.

The complete study is available at EurekAlert, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is online

Researchers Launch Alaska Salmon and People Website

A new website produced by the state of Alaska’s Salmon and People (SASAP) is now live. It offers access to a vast amount of data and research to help people better understand the evolution and interdependence of salmon and people.

The project promoters say is the first-ever knowledge and data web portal about the 10,000-year-long relationship between Alaska’s people and salmon.

The collection represents the work of over 100 experts from Alaska and beyond who synthesized fundamental and current understandings about salmon that are important for sustainable management.

The SASAP project is co-led by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and Anchorage-based Nautilus Impact Investing, and is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

NCEAS is a research center affiliated with the University of California Santa Barbara that conducts transformational science to inform solutions that will allow people and nature to thrive.

Major partners in the project include the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the University of Alaska, and representatives from tribes, nonprofits, businesses and other academic and government institutions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Alaska’s Salmon Catch Nearly 84 Million Fish

Alaska’s commercial harvesters have delivered nearly 84 million salmon to processors to date, a leap of 13 million fish since last week.

With the Bristol Bay fishery winding down, and the focus of Alaska’s salmon harvest shifting to pink salmon, the year-to-date harvest is slightly ahead of the long-term (odd year) average of 75 million fish, noted McDowell Group fisheries economist Garrett Evridge, who produces weekly in-season salmon harvest updates on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Preliminary statewide season totals compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (AD&G) put the red salmon harvest in excess of 49 million fish, along with more than 26 million humpies, 8.1 million chum, 402,000 silver and 198,000 kings.

The red salmon harvest has reached 7 million fish above the AD&G forecast of 42 million sockeyes.

According to Evridge, of the last 12 seasons, only 2017 exceeds 2019 for year-to-date sockeye harvest. With Bristol Bay past its peak, statewide production of sockeyes is expected to drop quickly over the next two weeks. While Kodiak, Cook Inlet and other regions will continue to see modest sockeye volume, there is hope that Chignik will see improvement before the year’s run ends.

Pink salmon production has waned over the past two weeks to an overall pace 6 percent lower than 2017 but is similar to the long-term average. Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands harvests are on track, however the humpy harvests in Cook Inlet are down by approximately 27 percent compare to 2017. Prince William Sound shows numbers 40 percent lower while Southeast Alaska is down 87 percent, according to the report.

Keta production is lagging behind last year’s numbers by about 25 percent. Keta harvests this week brought in 8 million fish, which is 27 percent of the 29-million-fish forecast. Prince William Sound is the only bright spot for keta with all other areas of the state behind last year’s catch.

Evridge noted that harvests of silver and king salmon are also less than a year ago, but production of both species has improved compared to last week.

PSPA Names New President

Glenn Reed will step down at year’s end after more than 20 years as president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association. He will be handing over leadership to Coast Guard veteran Christopher Barrows.

The July 22 PSPA announcement said that Barrows would take over as president on August 15.

Reed said the greatest accomplishments during his tenure as president belong to his staff and members, who worked with him as a team.

“Our members were able to achieve positive outcomes in rationalizing Alaska’s Pollock and crab fisheries, strengthening our community ties on hunger relief through SeaShare and sponsorship of the annual Beans CafĂ© Toast to the Coast in Anchorage,” he said.

Major issues facing PSPA members today “include continued funding and support for science-based fisheries management to insure the sustainability of our renewable resources, better understanding and adapting to a changing climate, and maintaining and growing meaningful representation in the state and federal regulatory processes that govern us,” Reed added.. “Through those efforts we can offer expertise and participate in the design of important fishery management programs in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf of Alaska; improve trade and compete in the global markets where Alaskan seafood is in demand; and ensure that we have access to available labor. These are some of the things that allow us to improve the value of Alaska fisheries for all participants.”

“We also work consistently to illustrate to policy makers the investments the seafood industry has in Alaska communities, and continues to make year after year,” Reed said.

Reed’s connection with the fishing industry began when, as a 12-year-old boy he fished a setnet site at Clam Gulch on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, then aboard a drift gillnetter for several years out of Port Moller. He served as city administrator for Sand Point before becoming the assistant city manager at the city of Unalaska/Port of Dutch Harbor, and then in 1992 the deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

In April of 1997 he became the executive director of the North Pacific Seafood Coalition, a post he held until becoming president of PSPA in January of 1999.

Salmonfest Comes to Kenai Peninsula Aug. 2–4

Salmonfest 2019, a three-day music festival in celebration of and rallying cry for protecting wild salmon and their habitat, will open on Aug. 2 at Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds.

Headliners among over 60 bans on four stages are Grammy award winders Ani DiFranco and Jason Mraz. Perennial favorite Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, from Ketchikan, Alaska, will be back, as well as Seward’s Blackwater Railroad Company and the California Honeydrops, from Oakland, Calif.

Along with the music, attendees will enjoy a salmon parade and a smoked salmon superbowl competition, as well as food and crafts booths. The festival’s Salmon Causeway will feature educational booths, a science symposium and daily children’s programming.

The annual festival, which draws thousands of people, began in 2011 as Salmonstock, and quickly became a force in advocating for protecting salmon habitat and a voice in opposition to the proposed Pebble mine. Long-time supporters include the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society and Cook Inletkeeper, both of Homer.

Festival producer Jim Stearns says tickets are going fast for the family-friendly event, particularly for Aug. 3.

Information on ticket purchases, performers, volunteering, campground reservations and more is available at

Canada Ratifies Port State Measures Agreement

Top officials with Canada’s Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard have ratified the Port State Measures agreement, the first binding international agreement specifically targeting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“Canada is serious about ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “By preventing fish and seafood products derived from IUU fishing from entering our ports, we will not only help level the playing field for Canadian harvesters and Canadian businesses involved in the fish and seafood trade; we are also sending a very strong message that Canada's ports have zero tolerance for illegally caught fish."

The document’s objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in such activities from using ports and landing their harvest.

The agreement, which took effect in Canada on July 20, grants officials additional powers to deny port entry and use of port services for vessels carrying illegally harvested fish. It also increases protection and monitoring at Canadian ports during all stages of fishing operations, including vessel registration, fish harvesting and fish trade.

Since all fish must come through a port before entry into markets, limiting port access is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to eliminate IUU fishing, Canadian officials said.

The agreement was approved by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ conference in Rome in November 2009.

One in every five fish caught around the world every year is thought to originate from IUU fisheries, valued at $10 to $23 billion annually.

There are currently 61 signers to the agreement, including the United States of America, Japan, the European Union, Chile, the Republic of Korea, Iceland and Norway. A complete list of current signers is available online at

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Alaska’s Salmon Harvest Nears 71 Million Fish

Harvests of Alaska’s wild salmon, through July 16, jumped to nearly 71 million fish, up from 49.5 million just a week earlier. A sockeye harvest of more than 42 million fish, 36 million of them from the Bristol Bay fishery, brought this boost of 18 million reds overall.

Humpy harvests surged from 15 million a week ago to more than 21 million of which more than 13 million were caught in Alaska’s westward region. The total chum harvest reached 6.8 million, up from 5.1 million, with 4.3 million coming from Prince William Sound.

The preliminary harvest totals are produced weekly during the salmon season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).

Jeremy Botz, a management biologist with ADF&G at Cordova, said sockeyes in Prince William Sound are larger than they have been for the past few years, while chum are smaller. Some of the fish were holding offshore in deeper water during the recent heat wave, but with the cooler weather, “We are definitely getting another bump in the harvest,” he said.

Other management biologists in Bristol Bay also noted the dire impact of warmer ocean waters. ADF&G’s Aaron Tiernan at King Salmon said the Ugashik has been closed for a week because of low escapement numbers, but fishermen are still out there waiting for the area to reopen. In Egegik, where the harvest has reached more than 12 million salmon, the catch is slightly above forecast and Ugashik is currently below projections, “but I can’t say if the run is low or late. The jury is still out on that one,” Tiernan said.

Meanwhile on the Igushik River in the Nushagak district, on the west side of Bristol Bay, the water temperature is so warm it created a thermal barrier. Management biologist Tim Sands said people have reported seeing dead fish everywhere on the banks of the river, with similar incidents happening elsewhere in the state. “With the rain and cooler temperatures coming in, we are hoping that will break down the thermal barrier and the fish will be able to get up the river to spawn,” Sands said. He noted that troubles on the Igushik aside, it is one small part of the Nushagak district, where the harvest is nearly reaching 15 million fish.

“Fishermen overall are pleased with the 2019 fishery,” says Dave Harsila, president of the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association, who fishes in the Naknek-Kvichak where the harvest is close to 10 million fish. “The sockeyes look really good, averaging five to six pounds” he added in an interview from his boat on July 16. Harsila also noted that some processors were talking about sea water temperatures reaching 62 degrees, the warmest he’s ever seen, but otherwise hasn’t seen anything else unusual about the fishery.

Alaska Sockeye Landings Exceeding Expectations

McDowell Group fisheries economist Garrett Evridge, who produces weekly salmon harvest reports on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), says sockeye landings statewide are exceeding expectations, pink volume is generally strong and keta production slow.

Those sockeye harvests are closing in and expected to exceed ADF&G’s forecast of 42 million fish. As of July 15, Bristol Bay was 19 percent ahead of 2018, and last week’s 14.5 million fish harvest was possibly the third-strongest weekly harvest on record, according to Evridge.

Meanwhile Cook Inlet catches are lagging and Chignik has posted no landings.

With about four weeks to go until the peak of the fishery, year-to-date pink landings are nearly one-third above those of 2017. However, “the strength of the 2019 harvest comes from record-breaking early-season volume,” Everidge said. Last week’s slower fishing in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska have dampened the pace. However, landings in Kodiak, the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands continue to top 2017’s volume.

According to Evridge, keta harvests, based on the five-year average, are currently 25 percent behind 2018 and 19 percent below the long-term average. Excluding Prince William Sound, all areas of Alaska are currently below year-to-date 2018 harvest levels.

Coho landing fisheries are still seven weeks away, and the harvest of 161,000 chinook is 15 percent lower than 2018 at the same period in the season.

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Act

Congressmen Don Young, R-Alaska and Jeff Van Drew, D-NJ, have introduced HR 3697, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

The legislation would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Management Act, which was last reauthorized in 2006.

“The bill ensures healthy fisheries,” said Van Drew.

“As the nature of the ecosystem and fishing industry changes, the laws must be updated to keep pace in an evolving world, and that sustainability is not a partisan issue. The reauthorization act takes important steps to protect important renewable resources and ensures that generations of fishermen to come can earn a living by putting sustainable seafood on tables of families across the country,” Young said.

Meanwhile Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has announced a fall listening tour on the proposed Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act legislation, which will include a series of roundtable discussions to tap into the expertise of fishermen and other stakeholders. The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC), which represents over 1,000 small boat, independent fishermen and business owners from Maine to Alaska, is applauding the listening tour. “Small-boat, community-based fishermen are committed to doing their part to inform and improve marine policy to protect these fishing communities for today and generations to come,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, a founding member of the FCC.

GAPP to Host Wild Alaska Pollock Annual Meeting

Processors of wild Alaska Pollock will gather in Seattle, Wash., on Oct. 29 for an industry update on the progress of strategic initiatives of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers.

“We see this as an incredible opportunity to provide our members, and the broader wild Alaska Pollock industry, with an update on GAPP initiatives, but also the forum to share ideas and celebrate our perfect protein,” said Craig Morris, chief executive officer of GAPP.

The meeting at the Seattle World Trade Center, heralded by GAPP as its first industry-wide annual meeting, will also feature speakers offering updates on the state of the industry and opportunities for building demand for and increasing awareness of wild Alaska Pollock, in addition to industry networking opportunities.

The association’s board members recognized “that we need opportunities to bring our industry together and collaborate, but moreover, a recognition that we have a lot to share and celebrate and I look forward to our first-ever annual meeting accomplishing those goals,” Morris said.

A full agenda and registration information will be forthcoming and those interested in helping to sponsor the event are also asked to contact Morris at

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Alaska’s Commercial Salmon Harvests Near 50m Fish

Commercial wild salmon harvesters in Alaska are picking up speed, with the catch in Bristol Bay alone jumping from about 10 million fish a week ago to nearly 25 million, while the preliminary numbers statewide rose from 26 million to nearly 50 million.

As of July 9, initial harvest figures compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) showed the sockeye salmon harvest rising from 12.7 million to 28.3 million reds, of which 24 million have been delivered to Bristol Bay processors. Within the Bay itself, the Nushagak District fishermen caught 11.6 million of those salmon, including 10,994,000 sockeyes, 597,000 chums and 19,000 Chinooks. Egegik had 7.4 million sockeyes and the Naknek-Kvichak district 5.2 million reds.

In Prince William Sound, deliveries to processors have reached over 10 million fish, including nearly 5 million humpies, 3.6 million chum, 1.8 million sockeyes and 45,000 kings.

The westward region catch has reached more than 13 million salmon, with 10.6 million humpies, nearly 2 million sockeyes, 670,000 chums, 32,000 cohos and 19,000 kings. Of that total, 11.3 million fish came from the Alaska Peninsula and included more than 9 million pinks, 1.6 million reds, 594,000 chums, 26,000 cohos and 16,000 Chinooks. Kodiak area fishermen meanwhile have brought in a total of 1.9 million fish of which 1.4 million were humpies. Deliveries to Kodiak processors also saw some 360,000 sockeyes, 76,000 chums, 6,000 cohos and 3,000 kings.

Meanwhile on the Lower Yukon, small boat harvesters have caught some 90,000 chums and 3,000 humpies, while in Norton Sound fishermen have delivered 99,000 fish, including 53,000 pink and 44,000 chum salmon, to processors. The Southeast Alaska harvest of some 489,000 fish was led by the Southern seine fisheries delivering 171,000 fish.

Garrett Evridge, who produces a weekly commercial salmon harvest update for the McDowell Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said year-to-date landings are 53 percent higher than in 2018 and nearly equal to 2017.

Evridge noted that the current week usually represents the peak of the Bristol Bay season. Kodiak and Southeast Alaska meanwhile are trending above 2018, although the harvest in both regions is below the five-year average. Chignik remains closed to fishing and Cook Inlet is roughly a third below the 2018 numbers. Prince William South and Alaska Peninsula are ahead of both the 2018 figures and their long-term average.

Pink salmon fishing remains strong, and most of the state’s harvest will come from Prince William Sound fisheries in the coming weeks.

The keta salmon volume of nearly five million fish is a quarter lower than 2018 and nine percent below the five-year average.

Explosion and Fire on Barge Leaves One Person Missing

An explosion on a fixed barge located near the 99-foot fishing vessel Alaganik, on July 8, sparked a subsequent fire that spread to the dock before reaching the vessel. Both boat and barge sank in 60 to 80 feet of water at Whittier’s Delong Dock in Whittier, Alaska.

An air and water search for a man aboard that barge was suspended late in the day. The missing person is from Cordova, Alaska, where the barge was homeported. The cause of the explosion remains undetermined.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said that Robert Eckley, of Cordova, Alaska, whom DEC identified as the responsible party, had contracted with Alaska Chadux Corp. and Global Diving and Salvage for spill response and salvage operations. Diving operations are to begin on July 10 to assess the condition of the barge and determine the remaining pollution threat.

The city-owned pier suffered heavy damage in the fire, which has impacted commercial interests. DEC’s Division of Environmental Health Food Safety Program personnel are working with commercial fishing operators to assess whether seafood stored at the pier facilities had been contaminated.

DEC noted that 1,000 gallons of gasoline, 2,800 gallons of diesel, in addition to hydraulic and engine oil were on board at the time of the explosion. The barge had a maximum fuel capacity of 5,500 gallons.

DEC also reported that there are several anadromous streams in the area that support coho and pink salmon. There is also a terminal king salmon fishery at nearby Cove Creek. There were no initial reports of adverse impacts on fish or the abundant wildlife in the area.

Copper River Seafoods Offers Heat Wave Relief

When a record heat wave hit Anchorage, Alaska in early July, Copper River Seafoods came to the rescue of the Alaska Zoo’s critters, including the 1,136-pound polar bear named Louie and his 706-pound mate, Cranberry. As temperatures rose to more than 90 degrees over the July 4th holiday weekend, Louie and Cranberry cooled off by rolling in large piles of shaved ice provided by the processing facility and swam in their deep water pool. “It’s important that we support the zoo, to give these animals some joy in the hot weather,” said Marty Weiser, chief development officer for Copper River Seafoods. “It’s very exciting for us to see the positive impact [of the ice shavings] on these animals in this hot weather.”

Getting involved with the community is part of Copper River Seafood’s culture, he said. “We are very Alaska centric. It’s a great community and we’re supportive of it.”

Providing shaved ice for the zoo has become a tradition for Copper River Seafoods over the past few years. The company also sends large blocks of salmon and halibut filled ice “cake” for polar bear birthday party each January.

In the midst of its busy commercial salmon fishery season, Copper River Seafoods provides the zoo some 2,000 pounds of ice several times a month.

The polar bears stick their noses in it, then spread it out and roll in it, said Patrick Lampi, executive director of the zoo.

Other zoo fans offer a portion of their catch to the zoo animals, Lampi explained. “Alaskans are good fishermen and they are generous,” he said of the many donations of salmon and other wild Alaska fish coming from residents’ freezers.

NSF Sells Dutch Harbor Lab to Makuskin Bay Resources

NSF International, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently sold its seafood services laboratory located in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Jeff Brammer, who will manage the location but under the name Makushin Bay Resources. All systems, scientific equipment and the state of Alaska registration remain with the lab.

Makushin Bay Resources offers analytical services including customized evaluations to specifications and methodologies, and chemical and microbiological testing. Clients include fishing vessel owners and operators and seafood processing facilities.

Brammer cited the purchase as “a significant milestone and growth opportunity for our staff and the Dutch Harbor community.” The acquisition “will allow us to expand and align services with the current business environment,” he said. “We are committed to this region and plan to be an integral part for the long term.”

Brammer has over 30 years of experience in the seafood industry. As business unit manager for NSF International, he oversaw seafood operations within North America. Prior to joining NSF, he was the owner of North Country Seafood, trading seafood commodities throughout the United States.

More information about Brammer’s company is available online at

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

USACE Receives Thousands of Comments on Draft EIS on Pebble Mine

Upwards of 90,000 comments were submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Pebble mine before the July 1, deadline including a 433-page document from the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska.

That document incorporated findings of two dozen individual scientists drawn upon to delve into details, data gaps and insufficiencies of the draft EIS.

The Trustees’ commentary notes that the Corps’ draft EIS virtually ignores the EPA’s 2014 Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which relied heavily on scientific input and proposed limiting the degree to which streams and wetlands could be dug up or filled during mining in order to avoid unacceptable adverse impacts to the watershed.

Trustees also said that the combination of exposure to contaminants like copper and selenium, with changes in stream flows and temperatures, potential impacts to the food web, the certainty of blocked culverts diverting migration and road runoff silting up streambeds, plus the general hubbub that will come with the project, would degrade what is currently a salmon paradise.

Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, an initiative housed at the New Venture Fund, indicated that when his entity started to look at the EIS in detail, they thought at first they have failed to receive the entire document, but then realized those deficiencies “were a calculated effort to gloss over or outright ignore major issues.”

University of Washington fisheries research professor Daniel Schindler called the draft EIS “careless” and suffering from “a complete lack of rigor.” Schindler said he believes that if that draft EIS was submitted to the standard scientific peer review process it would be soundly rejected. Former Pebble Mine Consultant Molly Welker wrote that chief among her concerns are that the Pebble plans to use untested water treatment plants that do not adequately treat for the mineral selenium, which is known to kill and cause deformities in fish.

The American Fisheries Society also weighed in during the comment period, telling the Corps’ that the draft EIS “fails to meet basic standards of risks to fish and their habitats are underestimated…many conclusions are not supported by the data or analysis provided, and critical information is missing.”

Relief Funds Approved for 2016 Gulf of Alaska Pink Salmon Fishery Disaster

Alaska’s congressional delegation says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has approved $53.8 million to restore losses for Alaska fisheries hard hit by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster.

According to the delegation NOAA has approved and transferred those funds to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the agency tasked with distributing the relief payments to harvesters, processors and for salmon research in affected regions.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young said they were pleased that Alaskans who have been waiting for this economic relief will finally receive it. Areas impacted by the disaster included Prince William Sound, management areas for Kodiak, Chignik and Lower Cook Inlet, plus Yakutat, the South Alaska Peninsula and Southeast Alaska.

According to Randy Fisher, executive director of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) will determine what programs they want this money to go to. “We’re just the tooth fairy,” he said. “ADF&G and the governor’s office figure out how they want that money distributed. Once that is decided, PSMFC will send out applications to those eligible and determine the deadline for returning those applications.”

No timeline has been announced yet for when such applications would even be going out. Alaska state Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who has been working on getting those funds to impacted fish harvesters, said she was told that PSMFC would have their website for this grant active on July 1, but as of July 2 it had not been posted.

Alaska Salmon Harvest Tops 26 Million Fish

Commercial harvesters have topped the 26-million mark in wild salmon delivered to processors in Alaska so far this season. Preliminary data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) shows that the statewide catch through June 2 was 26,269,000 fish, including some 12,737,000 sockeyes, 9,582,000 humpies, 3,848,000 chums, about 93,000 Chinooks, and roughly 6,000 silver salmon.

For Prince William Sound alone, the total catch to date is nearly 15.5 million fish, including just over one million from the Copper River drift fishery.

Bristol Bay has already reached more than 10 million fish, predominantly sockeyes. The harvest accounts for 5.6 million caught in the Nushagak District, 2.8 million from the Egegik District and 1.9 million in the Naknek-Kvichak District.

Harvesters are also busy off of the Alaska Peninsula, where they caught more than 10 million fish – 8.5 million humpies, plus some 625,000 reds and 516,000 chums.

Garrett Evridge, of the McDowell Group, who produces a weekly in-season salmon harvest update on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, noted that through June 29 the sockeye and pink salmon harvests were contributing about 42 percent of the statewide catch overall. According to him, so far this year’s harvest is 67 percent above 2018’s volume, and 30 percent stronger than 2017.

Sockeye volume is up 5 percent year-to-date from 2018 and 10 percent above the five-year average. About a quarter of ADF&G’s 2019 forecast of 42 million reds has been realized.

Production is slow in Cook Inlet, with 248,000 fish, but has improved in Kodiak, Southeast and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands.

Pink salmon production year-to-date is about five times the 2017 level. The Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands have dominated early harvests, with strength also seen in Kodiak and Prince William Sound. Evridge noted that the state’s humpy harvest generally peaks about five weeks from this point in the season.

Meanwhile, year-to-date keta salmon harvest is about 500,000 fish lower than a year ago, with Prince William Sound continuing to compensate for weakness in nearly every other area of the state. If Prince William sound landings are removed, the state’s 209 keta production is 61 percent lower than in 2018, according to Evridge.

On another note, the combined 2019 pink salmon forecast for Alaska and Russia is approximately 1.2 billion pounds. While the early forecasts are not necessarily record breaking, this would be among the most significant supply that the market has had to deal with in the last few years.

To track updated reports on the 2019 preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest visit

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