Wednesday, September 30, 2020

IPHC Says 2020 Setline Survey is Most Data Rich in the Commission’s History

Officials with the International Pacific Halibut Commission have completed their 2020 survey designed to collect standardized fishery-independent data for use in their annual Pacific halibut stock assessment. The data is used also to study various aspects of the Pacific halibut resource, including growth, distribution, biomass, age composition, sexual maturity and relative abundance of other species.

A report released in late September by the IPHC said final offloads from this year’s Fishery-Independent Setline Survey (FISS) took place on Sept. 10. Approximately 70 percent of the standing stock biomass of Pacific halibut in the convention area were sampled, with that sampling producing the most data-rich setline-survey in the IPHC’s history. Despite planned gaps in coverage at the northern and southern ends of the distribution, the 2020 FISS produced a precise and reliable index of Pacific halibut stock, to provide the primary source of trend information for the 2020 stock assessment and the basis for the 2021 management decision making process, the IPHC said.

The 2020 FISS also proved an economic success, even though fish prices overall were lower than 2019, so that the IPHC maintained a strong positive revenue stream, ensuring that the FISS remains fiscally independent from external sources, the commission said.

Survey data collected is to be posted online at in mid-October and during the IPHC’s 96th interim meeting, set for Nov. 18-19 in Seattle.

All sessions are open to the public and will be webcast. Those webcast sessions are to include accepting audience comments and questions, as directed by Paul Ryall, chairperson of the commission. A compendium of meeting documents is already posted online at

IPHC commissioners representing the U.S. include Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries; Bob Alverson, manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association, a trade association of longline vessel operators based in Seattle; and Richard Yamada, owner of Shelter Lodge, a sport fishing lodge near Juneau.

Which Way the Wind Blows Matters to Young
GOA Pollock

A new NOAA Fisheries study concludes that which way the wind blows is a critical factor in the survival rate of young Alaska Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska.

NOAA Fisheries biologist Matt Wilson of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center says the study addresses a longstanding question regarding the impact of wind on the survival rate of juvenile Pollock in the Gulf. Research biologists found that depending on wind direction, water movement may keep juvenile fish in favorable nursey habitat or move them out. Fisheries scientists thought at the start of the study that an abundance of juvenile fish would produce a relatively strong adult year-class. Yet some years this did not transpire, so researchers took another look, and it turned out that wind is the culprit.

Wilson said that the consequence of a large proportion of the juvenile population being transported to the southwest is that many of those fish are likely lost from the Gulf. The study provides new insight into the importance of wind to Pollock population dynamics. “The findings argue for including wind-driven surface transport along with other important factors like temperature, prey, and predation that have been used in stock forecast models,” Wilson said.

In their first year of life Pollock are weak swimmers who drift where currents take them. Where they end up influences whether they will contribute to the adult Gulf of Alaska population.

Wind is the primary driver of water low in the western coastal Gulf of Alaska. Researchers found that when downwelling-favorable winds prevailed during and after spawning that juveniles appeared to be retained in upstream habitat near the main spawning area around Kodiak Island. NOAA Fisheries scientists are also looking at the contribution of diet to the dramatic reduction of the 2013-year-class of juvenile Pollock in the western Gulf.

Federal Fisheries Council Takes Up Crab,
Groundfish Issues

The fall meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council got underway this week, with meetings of the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee. The only final action on the agenda is over removing processing restrictions for squid and sculpins in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

Another major issue on the council’s agenda is a review of the Crab Plan Team report on Eastern Bering Sea snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab, Pribilof Islands red and blue king crab, St. Matthew blue king crab, Norton Sound red king crab, Aleutian islands golden king crab, Pribilof District golden king crab, and Western Aleutians red king crab.

The council will review plan team reports for groundfish harvests in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, with recommendations on harvest limits, prohibited species catch limits and halibut discard mortality rates for 2021-2022.

Also on the agenda are an initial review of the Cook Inlet fishery management plan, the observer 2021 annual deployment plan review and an initial review of the Bering Sea halibut abundance based management alternatives under consideration.

All sessions of the council meeting and those of its Advisory Panel and Scientific and Statistical committees are being held online only as a precautionary measure for health and safety reasons because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The complete agenda is online at

Signup sheets will be available online at

For the council meetings Oct. 2 Oct. 9 and Oct. 12-16; the Advisory Panel meetings Oct. 5-9, and the SSC meetings which began Sept. 28 and continue through Oct. 2.

There will be a practice session for the public to test connecting and testifying on Friday, Oct. 2, at 9:30 a.m. Anyone needing help should contact with questions. The draft three-meeting outlook is also online at

Washington State Offers Emergency Grants
to Shellfish Growers

Shellfish growers in Washington state hard hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic will be offered grants of up to $5,000, thanks to the state’s departments of Commerce and Agriculture. Grant funds include $250,000 from the Working Washington Small Business Emergency grant program and $50,000 from WSDA’s Rural Rehab Program.

Washington is the leading domestic producer of farmed oysters and clams, with a $300 million industry that supports some 3,000 jobs, many in rural communities struggling economically.

State officials said local and global market demand for these shellfish has dropped dramatically since January, with some growers reporting an 80-90 percent drop in revenue.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state’s shellfish growers have been devastated by the global pandemic. The grants will help small shellfish growers in particular be able to make timely purchases of seed and larvae this year to keep next season’s sales opportunities alive, Inslee said.

State officials said that concerns of Washington’s shellfish industry extend to about nine West Coast hatcheries from California to British Columbia that supply shellfish growers in Washington and beyond. To both growers and hatchery owners the cost of seed and larvae represents significant components of their cost models. With the reduction in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic growers are worried about not having enough money to purchase seed to plant next year’s crops or offset the cost of raising seed.

State officials said the Commerce Department and WSDA will work with Impact Washington to administer funds through the Washington Shellfish Industry Seed Bank. Qualified growers may apply for up to $5,000, with a minimum of $1,000 available to reimburse for larvae and seed purchases. All purchases made between Feb. 29, 2020 and June 30, 2021 are eligible for reimbursement. An additional $300 “Buy Washington” will be offered to encourage purchases from Washington-based hatcheries, rather than out-of-state sources.

More information is online at Find grant applications at

Opening Tongass to Logging Cited as a Threat
to Salmon Habitat

A Trump administration push to open millions of acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging is winning praise from Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Mike Dunleavy as an economic boost, and criticism from conservationists who say it would threaten salmon habitat.

The U.S. Forest Service this past week published its final environmental impact statement, recommending elimination of the Roadless Rule in the Tongass, in Southeast Alaska’s rain forest. The 2001 Roadless Rule, established during the Clinton administration, banned logging and road construction within most of the nation’s national forests. Dunleavy and the state’s congressional delegation praised the decision. “This puts us on track for a Record of Decision and final rule by the end of the year, in turn opening the door for individuals and communities throughout Southeast Alaska to build a more sustainable economy while still ensuring good stewardship of our lands and waters,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Conservation entities, including SalmonState, meanwhile condemned the Forest Service decision, citing the importance of the Tongass to fisheries in Southeast Alaska.

“The largest intact temperate rainforest left in the world, the millions of salmon, 650 million tons of carbon storage, and the people, businesses and jobs that depend on an intact Tongass National Forest are too important to throw away for a politically-motivated industry handout,” said Tim Bristol, who serves as executive director of SalmonState. “This reprehensible move disregards years of collaborative work in favor of money-losing taxpayer giveaways to an industry that was shutting down before the Roadless Rule went into place.”

Bristol said a new approach to management of the Tongass is needed with a focus on the future rather than the past. The Forest Service plan “is wildly unpopular and is likely to be overturned in the courts,” he said.

The plan also drew criticism from Austin Williams, Alaska director of law and policy for Trout Unlimited, who called the plan a short-sighted new rule that would a return to the days of reckless clear-cut logging that sacrifices the fish, wildlife and forests without regard for the costs to Southeast Alaska’s fishing and tourism economy, subsistence users, or the long-term health of the region. The salmon are also part of the critical habitat for eagles, bears and other wildlife, whose presence are a tourism attraction.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Five More Maritime Exam Centers Will Reopen on September 28


U.S. Coast Guard officials say the National Maritime Center has reopened five more regional examination centers on Monday September 28 for maritime exams, which must be scheduled in advance and are by appointment only.

The five include Anchorage (, Baltimore (, Oakland (, Portland (, and St. Louis (

With the exception of monitoring unit (MU) Guam, all the regional exam centers and monitoring units are open for limited services.

Previously opened regional centers include Boston (, Charleston (, Honolulu (, Houston (, Juneau (, Long Beach (, Memphis  (, Miami ( or (305) 536-4331), New Orleans (, New York (, Seattle (, MU Ketchikan (907-225-4496 (extension #3), and MU San Juan (787-729-2368)

The Coast Guard’s customer service center is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and the call center phone line is 1-888-427-5662 or email

Additional openings of regional exam centers are to be announced soon.

Those seeking examination appointments should include in their email the applicant’s name, mariner reference number, requested testing date(s), phone number and a copy of their approved to test letter(s).

Everyone will be subject to COVID-19 screening questions and a temperature check and face masks are required at all times. Mariners should bring their own #2 pencils, a photo ID, a non-programmable calculator and plotting equipment.  No other personal belongings will be allowed in the testing facilities.

Alaska Symphony of Seafood Postpones Events Due to COVID -19 Pandemic

Officials with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation in Anchorage have rescheduled events for the 2020-2021 Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition to the spring of 2021 over concerns prompted by the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an announcement on Monday, Sept. 21, AFDF said that given the uncertainty of the pandemic they plan to inform interested entrants about the next event format, product quantities and delivery information when more information is available on the format of scheduled events.

The popular competition among seafood processors large and small normally includes a gala in Seattle in November, where entries in the retail, food service and smoked seafood competition, are judged and paid guests at the gala vote on their favorite entries.

The competition has varied somewhat in past years, for a while including also pet foods and products made from seafood byproducts, from nutritional supplements to salmon leather wallets.

The grand prize winner one year was Yummy Chummies, salmon-based treats for dogs and cats in a variety of flavors.  Then in February in Juneau, Alaska, AFDF sponsors a gala for the Alaska Legislature, which is in session, and announces prize winners in each competition, the winning choices of People’s Choice in both galas, and the grand prize winner. First place winners as well as People’s Choice winners in the past have been granted round trip air fare and booth space in the Alaska section of Seafood Expo North America in Boston. The Symphony has helped competition winners launch many products nationwide in both the retail and food service sectors.

Major sponsors of the 2019-2020 events included Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Lineage Logistics, Trident Seafoods, Marine Stewardship Council, Northwest Fisheries Association, Alaska Air Cargo, At-Sea Processors Association and the United Fishermen of Alaska.

Undercover Investigators Tape Pebble Executives Boasting of Their Political Influence

Top executives of a Canadian mining company determined to develop a mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay in western Alaska have acknowledged plans for a project that would continue operations for 180 to 200 years.

Their words came in video-taped conversations with members of a Washington D.C. based Environmental Investigation Agency, who posed as potential investors. Video tapes released on Monday, Sept. 21 by EIA also contained details of Pebble’s apparent plans to open up other large areas of western Alaska to mining, including the Donlin Gold mine in the Yukon Kuskokwim region of western Alaska.

The “Pebble Tapes” (

are interviews with Ronald W. Thiessen, chief executive of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the parent company of the Pebble Limited Partnership, and Tom Collier, chief executive of the partnership, who thought they were speaking with potential investors.

These tapes, said Alexander von Bismark, executive director of EIA, “show that potential investors are given an entirely different vision for this massive mine than the government and the public.”

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole in Anchorage said that the mining firm had not had an opportunity yet to review the tapes, “but I can tell you what we’ve seen reported in these tapes thus far is not inconsistent with the position that Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership have taken for the past several years.” Heatwole said that plans are to permit and develop a mine with a 20-year life and clearly defined footprint, but that there would be potential for subsequent phases of development to be permitted in the future.”

The video tapes show Thiessen telling the investigators “once you have something like this in production why would you want to stop?”   Collier said that opening up the Pebble deposit could help pave the way for the Donlin gold mine. “If you flip the Pebble switch on it’s likely that you may also be flipping on the Donlin switch,” he said.

Reaction from the environmental entity SalmonState was swift. “From their manipulation of the Alaska governor’s office to the truth of their plan for a massive 200-year mine, to cozy relationships with the Army Corps and EPA political appointees, it’s clear they will stop at nothing in their plans to build a toxic mega-mine at the headwaters of the greatest sockeye salmon run left on the planet,” said SalmonState’s Rachel James.

“It’s hard to say what is the most astonishing thing about that whole series of recordings,” said former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, a Republican and mine opponent. “If I had to pick out one, it would be just amazing arrogance. To explain how you have corrupted the process to a potential investor and why you are going to succeed, it is just kind of amazing.”

Coast Guard Has New Plan For Combatting IUU Fishing

 U.S. Coast Guard leadership has released a new strategy for combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, a global problem both on the high seas and in areas of national jurisdiction. Admiral Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, said that as a recognized world leader in maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship the Coast Guard has a responsibility to help build a coalition of partners willing to identify and address IUU fishing bad actors and model responsible global maritime behavior.

The Coast Guard is committed to leading an international effort with America’s allies to combat illegal exploitation of fish stocks in the oceans and to protect national interests.

The Coast Guard’s newly released IUU strategic outlook notes that not all maritime nations have the capability to surveil their sovereign waters or the moral conscience to police their fleets, thus creating opportunities for exploitation through illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  This exploitation the Coast Guard report said, “erodes both regional and national security, undermines maritime rules-based order, jeopardizes food access and availability and destroys legitimate economies.”

The global impacts of IUU fishing include the loss of revenue in the billions of dollars, undermining of stock management, and the loss of valuable protein sources to people in nearly half of the world’s population on seafood for 20 percent of their animal protein.

The Coast Guard also cited data noting that 80 percent of fish eaten in the U.S. are imported and without effective traceability and monitoring, illegally caught fish around the world enter U.S. markets. 

Today’s fish stocks are under stress not only from growing consumption demand and changing ecosystems, but from deliberate efforts to exploit gaps in existing governance structures, the NOAA report said. Illegal transshipments, heavy-subsidized distant water fishing, and nations who choose to systematically engage in IUU fishing amplify these stressors and catalyze additional criminal activity which further undermines maritime rules-based order.

The full Coast Guard report is online at

NOAA plans ecosystem-based fisheries management study for Gulf of Alaska

NOAA Fisheries research biologists say they are embarking on a new ecosystems-based fisheries management study on the Gulf of Alaska, with a focus on the fisheries and coastal fishing communities.

The new project, to run for three years, is funded by the North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage and internal funds from NOAA’s fisheries and climate program, said NOAA Fisheries researcher Martin Dorn, the project lead. 

The Gulf of Alaska study comes on the heels of the Bering Sea ecosystem-based fisheries management study, said fellow NOAA Fisheries researcher Kirstin Holsman.  Both are with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

While the Gulf project will closely follow the one done in the Bering Sea, it is designed to address some of the environmental and management issues important in the Gulf, Dorn said.

“It is essentially trying to project what the future might look like for the Gulf and try to figure out what implications are for marine resources in the area and how that might affect fisheries and fishing communities,” Dorn said. “We are trying to bring that whole big package together.”

In the wake of the heat wave that hit the Gulf from 2013 through 2016, causing the crash of the Pacific cod population in the Gulf, researchers want to better understand how that heat wave affected the overall ecosystem and whether that type of marine heat wave will occur in the future, he said.

Researchers will also study another aspect unique to the Gulf, that the Gulf has the third largest accumulation of glaciers in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. Projections are that glaciers that surround the Gulf will be retreating and melting, bringing fresh water into the ocean, and there will be greater runoff, Dorn said. Researchers want to know how this will impact the ecosystem, along with aspects of climate change, including overall warming, decreased oxygen in the water and ocean acidification.

Other questions they hope to answer are how these changes will impact halibut, Pacific cod, Alaska Pollock, black cod and other species. While fish populations have the ability to adapt to certain changing conditions, fish in the Gulf are essentially in a bowl with land all around, and there is no way for them to escape to cooler waters, as fish in the Bering Sea can do, he said.

There are also concerns that the Gulf may be subject to invasions of populations from further south, like Pacific whiting or hake, and some rockfish populations might move northward too, Dorn said. Rockfish would potentially compete for food and that would cause a shift in the populations, he said. 

Black cod are another story. “That population is increasing now and it seems a lot of that came about from recruitment to the population during the heat wave,” he said. “We don’t have any proof, but it is possible that sablefish do better under those conditions.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

USDA Announces $530 Million to Support Seafood Industry Hit with Foreign Tariffs

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say they have earmarked $530 million for the Seafood Trade Relief Program, to help the domestic seafood industry and fishermen hit financially by retaliatory tariffs from foreign governments.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the funding this week to support seafoods including Atka mackerel, crab (Dungeness, Chinook, snow and southern Tanner), flounder, geoduck, goosefish, herring, lobster Pacific Cod Pacific Ocean Perch, Pollock, sablefish, salmon, sole, squid, tuna and turbot.

All U.S. commercial fisherman holding a valid federal or state license or permit to catch seafood who has participated in the harvest is eligible to apply, so long as they meet other criteria for the Seafood Trade Relief Program, which is outlined in a USDA program document available online at

Fishermen can apply for relief through the Dec. 14 deadline through their local USDA Service Center. A list of local service centers is online at Applications can be found online at

Funds are to be provided through the Seafood Trade Relief Program and funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Alaska’s congressional delegation applauded the announcement, noting that Alaska fishermen and processors were having a tough enough time staying financially afloat during the global coronavirus pandemic. “These retaliatory tariffs only make matters worse,” commented Rep, Don Young, R-Alaska.

NOAA: Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management is Key to Protecting Alaska Fisheries

A new federal fisheries study projects that ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) can forestall climate-driven collapse of key Alaska fisheries better than other management policies.

According to biologist Kirstin Holsman of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center ecosystem based management helps both the fish and fishing communities.

“It is the best strategy we have to provide harvest stability in the coming years,” Holsman said. Still by mid-century, or sooner, Alaska fisheries may reach a tipping point or rapid decline in the eastern Bering Sea if climate change continues on the current trajectory and fish and fisheries are not able to adapt to these changing conditions,” she said. “To guarantee long-term success, we need to couple EBFM with global climate change mitigation.”

EBFM management considers the impacts on fish productivity from environmental variables, including changing ocean conditions and socio-economic factors, to help fishery managers and harvester plan for the future. Current EBFM in the Bering Sea has sustained high yield from fisheries over the last three decades, but that practice is yet untested against the magnitude of environmental change anticipated with future climate change. The study is part of NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Climate Integrated Modeling (ACLIM) project. The study team includes scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

In the next phase of ACLIM, researchers plan to incorporate information on marine mammals, including northern fur seals, and the subsistence communities dependent on them, plus fish movements and human response. Holsman said that over the next three years scientists will design and test climate-smart management approaches and assessment tools. “Technological advances, like expanded use of remote sensing and automated sampling, will also play a big role,” she said.

“Proactive management like EBFM can buy us more time,” she said, while there are still commercially viable Pollock and cod fisheries in the Bering Sea.

Cold Storage Cargo Facility for Anchorage Offers Opportunity for Seafood Industry

A cargo and cold storage facility planned for Anchorage that would offer opportunities to processors currently storing Alaska-caught seafood in Washington state got an economic boost this week from a $21 million federal grant to the Alaska Energy Authority.

Officials at AEA, who are partnered with Alaska Cargo and Cold Storage (ACCS) on the project, said the 190,000 square foot, climate controlled air cargo transfer facility is positioned to take seafood from all over the state and add value by processing before delivering product to flights serving domestic and international markets. Alaska’s commercial fisheries annually harvest more seafood than all other states combined. In 2017 and 2018 alone annual seafood harvests of some 2.5 million tons were worth $4.7 billion after processing.

In 2018 alone Alaska shipped over 300,000 tons of food products to Washington.

AEA, a state agency whose mission is to reduce the cost of energy in Alaska, had applied for the grant to complete the $87.9 million Phase 1 of the ACCS air cargo transfer facility at Ted Stephens Anchorage International Airport.

“We are extremely pleased to have the grant announced,” said Curtis Thayer, executive director of AEA, which will administer the grant for the federal government. “We’ve been working on this for six or seven months.” Phase 1 alone is expected to provide 830 jobs and once the facility is operational, to have about 120 full time employees, he said.

AEA officials said work on the design and engineering would begin this fall, with the facility to be completed and operational by the summer of 2022. The planned Phase II is projected to include up to 525,000 square feet of quick cargo transfer and air cargo storage.

Limited availability of cold storage has made Alaska vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. ACCS is a business partnership between McKinley Capital Management LLC in Anchorage and Chad Brownstein, founder of Rocky Mountain Resource, a Colorado based firm.

Alaska’s Preliminary 2020 Commercial Salmon Harvest Stands at 112 Million Fish

Alaska fishermen have rounded out the 2020 salmon commercial season with a catch of over 112 million fish. That total, along with the historical ranking of salmon harvests, still may improve slightly as final landings of the season are delivered over the next few weeks.

Based on the number of fish included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary harvest estimate, this year’s commercial harvest of all five species of salmon will rank 17th out of the 23 even-numbered years since 1975, says fisheries economist Garrett Everidge, of the McDowell Group, who produces the in-season salmon harvest reports for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

ADF&G data to date show that Alaska’s central region, including Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, delivered more than 68 million fish, with nearly 40 million salmon coming from Bristol Bay and nearly 25 million from Prince William Sound.

Another 31 million salmon were delivered in the state’s westward region, including the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak, and Southeast Alaska harvesters caught nearly 13 million salmon.

On a statewide level, the total sockeye harvest of 45 million fish ranks 15 percent below the five-year average, on par with the 10-year average and nearly 10 percent of the 20-year average. Everidge notes that the multi-year trend of a strong Bristol Bay harvest balancing weak sockeye production in other areas of the state continued this year. Were Bristol Bay’s catch excluded from the statewide total, the 2020 sockeye harvest would be the smallest since 1976.

The humpy harvest of nearly 58 million pink salmon lags behind by about 25 percent in the 10-year average of even-numbered years only. Still, the 2020 pink salmon harvest exceeded the 2016 and 2018 harvests by about 50 percent, and Kodiak’s harvest exceeded its preseason forecast by 74 percent, or nine million humpies. The keta salmon catch of 7.5 million fish was the weakest since 1979, with the weakness felt in all regions of Alaska. The impact of the weak runs on Southeast and the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim area was particularly significant because of the importance of keta in regional fisheries.

While some additional harvest is expected over the next three weeks, Coho harvests appear to have declined to levels last seen in the mid-1970s, and Chinook harvests also are expected to end the season well below historical levels.

Coast Guard Crew Returns to Kodiak After Two Months Patrolling the North Pacific

In two months on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean, the 160 crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro traveled some 12,500 nautical miles, to ensure compliance by fishing vessels with Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and North Pacific Fisheries Commission regulations. Prior to their return to their home base at Kodiak on Monday, Sept. 14, they conducted inspections of 11 fishing vessels of several nationalities.

The patrol was part of the annual Operation North Pacific Guard, a U.S. fisheries international law enforcement operation designed to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity, including large-scale high seas pelagic draft net fishing. The Coast Guard did not report any illegal activities among the 11 vessels boarded. Still, these boardings bolstered U.S. presence that promoted a strong deterrent value, relevancy and directly contributed to the economic stability and food security for the region, according to the commanding officer of the Douglas Munro, Coast Guard Capt. Riley Gatewood. The exceptional work ethic of the crew of the Douglas Munro set the standard for future Coast Guard engagements, he said.

The Douglas Munro is the Coast Guard’s only remaining 378-foot High Endurance Cutter from a fleet once 12 strong. The Douglas Munro, commissioned in 1971, has earned the title of the America’s Bering Sea Cutter for her many arduous patrols in Aleutian waters, Coast Guard officials said.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Commercial Salmon Harvest in Alaska Exceeds 110 Million Fish

Commercial harvesters of Alaska salmon have topped the 110 million fish mark as the season continues to wind down, with increased catches of all five species.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 8, the harvest was still in progress, with a focus on cohos. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary commercial harvest report showed a total of 110,096,000 salmon delivered to processors, including 56.6 million pink, 45.3 million sockeye, 6.3 million chum, 1.7 million coho and 227,000 kings.

Overall, notes Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group, approximately 500 million pounds of salmon have been landed this season, based on historical average fish weights. Sockeye account for 48 percent of the total, followed by humpies with 40 percent. Keta account for about 10 percent, with coho and Chinook contributing less than 3 percent of the total, said Evridge, who compiles weekly in-season commercial salmon harvest reports on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

About 90,000 sockeye were harvested last week, with nearly all volume coming from Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands regions. Few additional sockeye are expected this season, he said. Meanwhile the statewide total of some 45 million fish is nearly on par with the 10-year average, but about 15 percent below the five-year average. The year-to-date humpy harvest in excess of 56 million fish includes nearly one million fish caught last week at Kodiak and Prince William Sound. About 17 million more pinks have been harvested in 2020 compared to 2018, or about 60 million pounds, Evridge said.

Keta and coho landings are 66 percent and 52 percent respectively behind the five-year average. The harvest of some 227,000 Chinook this summer is 19 percent behind a year ago. Still improved fishing in Southeast Alaska put that region 9 percent ahead of 2019 harvests.

Coast Guard Cutter Munro Returns from Multi-mission Patrol

Crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro have returned their vessel to Alameda, California, following a three-month, 15,000-mile multi-mission patrol that took them from fisheries enforcement in the Bering Sea to participation in the Rim of the Pacific 2020 exercise in Hawaii.

During their 37 days in the Bering Sea, the Munro crew boarded 11 commercial fishing vessels to ensure compliance with U.S. fishery and safety regulations. The Munro also patrolled the maritime boundary line separating U.S. and Russia waters to prevent foreign fishing vessels from entering U.S. waters, and joined a Russian Border Guard vessel in a joint border patrol to promote the economic security of both countries.

The Munro then represented the Coast Guard In the at-sea-only biennial Rim of the Pacific 2020 (RIMPAC) exercise Aug. 17-31 in the Hawaiian Islands.

RIMPAC ( exercise participants include 10 nations, with 22 ships, one submarine and multiple aircraft. The Munro crew conducted formation steaming exercises, communications drills, maritime intercept operations and live-fire training alongside partner nations. These included forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United States. Coast Guard officials said that RIMPAC 2020 was developed to ensure the safety of all participating military forces and Hawaii’s population by minimizing shore-based contingents while striking a balance between combating future adversaries and the COVID-19 threat.

Munro commanding officer Capt. Blake Novak said this was Munro’s first Alaska patrol. “It was an incredible opportunity to patrol as far north as the Arctic Circle to protect our borders and natural resources, and then transition to leveraging our Department of Defense partnership with RIMPAC exercises,” Novak said. He credited the success of the mission to the young women and men that make up the diverse crew of the vessel.

As a pandemic precaution the Munro crew underwent pre-deployment COVID-19 testing, followed by a 14-day monitoring period.

ComFish Alaska in Kodiak, NPRB in Anchorage, at Work on Virtual 2020-2021 Conferences

Updates on federal and state legislation, mariculture, and cooperative research are onboard for day one of the 40th annual Comfish Alaska, going virtual for the first time in 40 years for health and safety reasons, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The second day agenda includes a look at nonfatal injuries and shipboard electrical safety.

The Kodiak Chamber of Commerce meanwhile is still working out details of a ComFish senatorial debate between incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and challenger Dr. Al Gross, an orthopedic physician who worked his way through college and medical school as a commercial fisherman, an occupation he is still engaged in.

Among the panelists for the Sept. 17- Sept. 18 event is Ted Teske, a health communication specialist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Western States Division. Teske has spoken for years at ComFish forums about nonfatal injuries and illnesses among Alaska fishermen and studies of gear, including personal flotation devices, to keep commercial harvesters safe at sea. Teske has worked for NIOSH, since 1999 developing safety interventions for the commercial fishing, mining, oil and gas and aviation industries. His research focuses on improving the process of bringing NIOSH research into practice.

Watch for updates on the Comfish Alaska agenda at

Another important marine conference, the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, is also going virtual, for the first time, in January 2021. At the helm is recently appointed executive director of the North Pacific Research Board Lynn Palensky, who has over 20 years of experience in collaborative, multi-agency and complex fish and wildlife conservation-related grant and mitigation programs in the Pacific Northwest.

From October 2000 through March 2020, Palensky was the fish and wildlife program development manager for NW Power and Conservation Council, in Portland, Oregon.

In past years the conference, organized by the NPRB in Anchorage, has attracted over 700 participants engaged in commercial fisheries and marine science to its four-day event in late January. The NPRB was created by Congress in 1997 and its board established in 2001, with funding for fisheries and marine ecosystems research in the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

Check for updates on AMSS and information on registration at

NOAA awarded $2.7 Million for Marine Debris Prevention, Cleanup

Environmental programs in Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington state are among the 23 entities awarded marine debris prevention and cleanup funds announced by the highly competitive NOAA Marine Debris Program. The $2.7 million in federal funds are matched by other contributors, bringing the total investment in these projects to about $5.9 million. The prevention projects range from efforts to reduce the use of packing bands that have entangled marine wildlife in the area of St. Paul Island, Alaska, to a youth-led education project to reduce barriers to plastic pollution reduction and waste prevention in the Duwamish River area of Washington State.

The Aleut Community of St. Paul’s $74,983 grant includes a localized campaign to cut plastic packing band lops prior to disposal, volunteer data collection and creation of messages to encourage industry to invest in environmentally friendly materials and cut their loops.

The Alaska North Slope Borough project, with $92,183 in NOAA funds, hopes to raise awareness of local problems with marine debris found in stomachs of bowhead whales, polar bears and other marine life.

The Washington State project will use three cohorts of a youth corps to conduct community outreach, create and present videos and develop recommendations for decision-makers.

Marine debris removal projects range from the Ocean Plastics Recovery Project in Alaska to engage volunteers in a high-visibility, large scale marine debris cleanup at Katmai National Park.

to the Oregon State Marine Board project to remove abandoned and derelict vessels from marinas while they are still securely moored and afloat. The Ocean Plastics project received a $205,139 NOAA grant and the Oregon project $50,000. The Ocean Plastics Recovery Project at Katmai National Park will explore recycling and recovery processes to determine the best recycling methods and likely recycling markets for collected ocean plastics. Katmai is an ecologically sensitive area that includes marine mammal critical habitat, seabird nesting colonies and the world’s most dense concentration of coastal brown bears.

California State University received $112,499 to remove marine debris from seven remote beaches in the Northern Channel Islands and to monitor accumulation of debris in order to create a longer-term data set. Project managers say sustained reduction of marine debris will benefit marine life in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The Oregon State Marine Board, with $50,000 in NOAA funds, will remove abandoned and derelict vessels at no cost to marinas who agree to implement ADV-prevention practices, as part of the voluntary Clean Marina project.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Underway Again

By Dave Abrams, Managing Editor

“Make All Preparations To Get Underway” was a phrase I heard every time my first ship, the USS Kidd (DDG-993), was about to start its next mission. Everyone knew what the line meant, what their immediate job was, and the ship would spring to life with activity. That’s the phrase that was going through my mind as I concluded the deal with Philips Publishing to take over the on-line newsletters of their iconic publications, Pacific Maritime Magazine and Fishermen’s News.

I’m Dave Abrams, CEO and owner of Training Resources Maritime Institute, a maritime training school headquartered in San Diego. Although I am relatively new to the industry, having taken over the company in 2018, I quickly became a fan of Pacific Maritime and Fishermen’s News, and those publications helped me come up to speed on the industry. So when I learned that Philips Publishing was going to wind down their operations, I reached out to Chris and Peter Philips to thank them for their contributions, and see if there was an opportunity to revive the publications. That was 5 weeks ago.

My core business mission is training and education. Education is the sharing of past knowledge and experiences. News is the sharing of current knowledge and experiences. (Just making a point, not intended to offend any educators who I am sure share current knowledge as well!). So to expand into the news business was really just an extension of the current mission.

I am fortunate to be able to keep the same team that had been putting together both the PMM OnLine and FN OnLine newsletters, and even more fortunate to have Peter Philips as my advisor and educator. I feel privileged and honored to be able to carry on part of the legacy that the Philips family built over decades and will do my best to execute our new mission and make them proud.

So we are underway. I’ve not driven this ship before so please bear with me as I figure out how she handles. But thank you shipmates, for joining me on this voyage, and please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and ideas of how we can make Pacific Maritime OnLine and Fishermen’s News OnLine better for you. Be safe out there.

You can reach Dave Abrams at

Alaska’s Commercial Season Winds Down, with Catch Approaching 109 Million Fish

Commercial salmon fishing in Alaska is winding down for the season, Thursday, Sept. 3, the statewide harvest was moving toward 109 million fish.

The year-to-date harvest to date is nearly identical to 2018, though with 16 million more pink salmon, about 12 million fewer keta and five million fewer sockeye, said Garrett Evridge of the McDowell Group.

Historical data indicate only about three percent of the annual harvest occurs after week 35 in most year, he said. Evridge produces in season weekly reports on the commercial salmon harvest for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state’s official seafood marketing arm.

Some 180,000 sockeye were caught last week, with nearly all landings taking place in Kodiak and in the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region.

The year-to-date pink harvest as of Sept. 3 totaled 55.8 million fish. The sockeye catch stood at 45 million, chums at 6.2 million, cohos at 1.5 million and Chinooks at 221,000.

Prince William Sound has contributed the most humpies of any region in the state, but that area lags in its projected harvest by about one third, Evridge said. Harvests in Kodiak have been particularly strong with that region now over eight million fish ahead of its projected harvest of roughly 12 million salmon. Southeast Alaska has produced about 11 percent of the year-to-date pink salmon harvest with landings at record low levels. Year-to-date statewide landings of keta salmon are 69 percent lower than 2019 and the five-year average.

Coho salmon landings are 55 percent lower than the five-year average. Although Bristol Bay is ahead of last year, landings are about 20 percent lower than the five-year average. Unlike other areas, fishing in Kodiak has been relatively strong with year-to-date harvest 16 percent ahead of the five-year average.

King salmon production is lagging by about 70,000 fish or 27 percent from a year ago. Improved harvests of kings in Southeast Alaska has narrowed the deficit against 2019 by 3 percent.

IPHC Will Hold a Special Online Session on September 17

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has announced a special online session following a request from Canada for in-season regulatory changes in Area 2B, off the coast of British Columbia, in response to the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus.

The IPHC said commercial and recreational fisheries for Pacific halibut have seen disruptions to fishing opportunities and markets and are proposing sector-specific management responses for consideration by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the IPHC.

The first proposal called for a season extension in the commercial fishery, changing the closure from Nov. 15 to Feb. 20, 2021. The second proposal, for the recreational fishery, seeks an underage carryover provision that would allow 10 percent of this year’s recreational total allowable catch, if not caught, to be added to the recreational total allowable catch in 2021.

The meeting will be held via a Go-To-Meeting platform with a link to be added to the meeting page immediately prior to the session.

Join this special session via meeting page

More information about the IPHC can be found at

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Arctic Waters are Becoming More Inviting for Pink Salmon

A new federal fisheries research report concludes that the rapid transformation of the Pacific Arctic may be beneficial to pink salmon, whose numbers are increasing in the North Pacific Ocean.

According to study leader Ed Farley, a NOAA Fisheries scientist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the warming climate is increasing freshwater habitat and improving early marine survival of pink salmon in the northern Bering Sea.

These findings are important for commercial and subsistence fisheries, as well as coastal fishing communities now preparing for changes in the future. “Subsistence harvesters would like to know what foods may be available to them now and into the future,” Farley said.

Pink salmon are the most abundant salmon species in the North Pacific Ocean, which encompasses the Chukchi and northern Bering seas. The Pacific Arctic marine ecosystems, like other high latitude regions, is on the forefront of climate change.

Farley notes that while research has been ongoing in the north Bering Sea for about two decades, and sporadically in the high Arctic, that they have seen dramatic changes. “We didn’t expect to see this much loss of sea ice for 20 more years,” he said, “But it is already happening. Seabirds have shifted from fish-eating species to plankton-eating species. Fish such as walleye Pollock and Pacific cod are moving north in large numbers. And we are seeing big changes in salmon populations.”

Residents of coastal areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas have noticed for the last decade an increase in pink salmon in their subsistence fish nets. More adult pink salmon are being found in subsistence nets as far east as the Canadian Beaufort region. Farley says it is likely that these adult pink salmon are straying north during this period of warmer summer ocean temperatures.

“What we do not know yet is if the freshwater streams in the high Arctic are warm enough to support successful spawning,” he said. Still it is likely that if warming continues in the high Arctic pink salmon could begin spawning in those freshwater systems.

That forecast begs the question about potential food competition.

Juvenile pink salmon feed on a combination of zooplankton and small fishes. Farley says that how increased abundance in juvenile pink salmon will impact other fishes through potential competitive interaction for food remains an unknown.

“There are a lot of unknowns on competition among fish species in the northern Bering Sea as the recent warming has seen an increase in adult Pacific cod and walleye Pollock into the region too,” he said. At this time it is difficult to speculate on how potential competition among fish species will play out as the shifts in distribution and abundance of fishes in the region are occurring now,” he said.

Coast Guard Expands Reopening of Regional Examination Centers

The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to reopen regional examination centers in several states for limited services.

Commanding officer Captain Kirsten R. Martin said on Tuesday, Sept. 1, that mariners seeking to schedule exams at 10 centers may do so by contacting the appropriate email address or phone number. Appointment requests should include the applicant’s name, mariner reference number, requested testing date(s), phone number and a copy of their approved to test letter(s).

All exams are by appointment only.

The centers and contact information include REC Boston,; REC Honolulu,; REC Houston,; REC Juneau,; REC Long Beach,; REC Memphs,; REC Miami, or (305) 536-4331; REC Toledo,; MU Ketchikan, 907- 225-4496 (extension #3); and MU San Juan, 787-729-2368.

Mariners will all be subject to COVID-19 screening questions and a temperature check.

Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will not be permitted to enter the REC/MU and will need to reschedule their appointment. Face coverings must be worn at all times. Anyone with documented health issues which prevent them from wearing face coverings must notify the REC/MU when scheduling a appointment. Mariners are also advised to bring their own #2 pencils, photo identification, a non-programmable calculator and plotting tools. No other personal belongings will be allowed into the facility.

Pandemic Drives Pacific Marine Expo, ComFish Alaska to Online Only

Two major Pacific Northwest commercial fisheries events will be a digital experience only in 2020. Organizers for both events have made the switch due to the ongoing health and safety issues presented by the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

The international media firm Diversified Communications, in Portland, Maine, organizer of Pacific Marine Expo, announced this week that it has become necessary to cancel its trade show and forums set for December in Seattle and launch Expo Online. The digital experience will be several days of free streaming educational content and special events, discussions and a comprehensive supplier guide in lieu of an exhibit floor.

More details regarding Expo Online are to be made available in coming weeks. Meanwhile direct questions to

Meanwhile in Kodiak, Alaska, the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce will mark the 40th year of ComFish Alaska with virtual forums and no trade show, an effort to keep all the usual participants safe from the COVID-19 virus. Chamber officials also said the state’s longest running commercial fisheries forum and trade show, now in its 40th year would go on without the trade show this year.

All forums are to be livestreamed on both ComFish and Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Facebook pages, YouTube accounts and All forums will also be recorded and available for viewing until ComFish Alaska 41, in the spring of 2021.

A complete schedule of forums, including a virtual debate between U.S. Senate candidates Dan Sullivan, the Republican incumbent, and challenger Dr. Al Gross, an independent, is to be announced in the coming week. The annual event normally attracts a number of seafood industry participants, from harvesters and processors to federal and state biologists, fishing gear and vessel manufacturers and elected officials there to speak about current and pending fisheries legislation.

Trade show vendor fees are to be applied to the 2021 trade show, but may also be refunded upon request. Those requests should be emailed to with the name of the organization, and the name and address the refund should be issued to.

Kodiak Chamber officials meanwhile are also planning ahead for the 2021 forums and trade show at the Kodiak Convention Center, Fishermen’s Hall and the Harbor Room of the Best Western Hotel in downtown Kodiak. The first ever fisheries-themed fashion show, hosted in conjunction with the Kodiak Arts Council has been added to the agenda, along with the annual rockfish taco feed, public receptions hosted by industry participants, processor recognition events and the Fishermen’s Showcase.

Information on the September event and plans for 2021 will be updated as it becomes available at

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