Wednesday, October 28, 2020

UFA Wants Alaska’s CARES Act $50M Funds Limited to Alaska Resident Fishermen

United Fishermen of Alaska is voicing strong objections to the state’s draft CARES Act Funding Plan over the percentage of that $50 million proposed to go to commercial and sport fishing charter entities and the exclusion of the state’s private non-profit salmon hatcheries.

UFA also told Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials in its letter of Oct. 22 that when the agency issues a revied draft spending plan to allow a new comment period for review.

The umbrella organization representing a number of commercial fisheries businesses said that payments made to commercial fishing and sport fishing charter recipients should have parity by being limited to Alaska residents, since initial allocations by NOAA at the state level were calculated based on the residency of business owners.

They noted that the current draft spending plan requires that commercial fishing participants be Alaska residents, but not those in the sport charter sector. More importantly, they said, there is not an adequate explanation why the state increased the allocation to the sport charter sector from NOAA’s recommended 5.5 percent to 32 percent of that $50 million. “Given an estimated 5,000 qualified shares in the sport fishing charter sector each applicant would receive $7,868 per share. In comparison, there are over 20,000 shares on the commercial fisheries side and commercial fishery applicants would receive only $790 per share,” UFA told ADF&G officials.

That allocation boost to the sport charter sector was essentially funded by a decrease to the processing sector allocation, companies that incurred large costs very much tied to COVID-19 expenses to operate safely in Alaska’s rural communities. UFA also expressed concern for private non-profit salmon hatchers who are currently considered ineligible entities and asked that ADF&G grant eligibility for them to apply for relief by modifying Section 12005 of the CARES Act Relief for Fisheries Participation Draft Spend Plan.

These hatcheries, said UFA, hold permits to allow for licensing of cost recovery operations and are significant contributors to all user groups, especially commercial harvesters, with an economic impact of $602 million annually statewide. Several of these hatcheries face serious economic losses in 2020 due to COVID-19’s impact on operational costs and seafood markets, and should be eligible for relief, UFA said.

Federal, State Meeting Will Take Up Salmon Management in Cook Inlet EEZ

Alternatives for salmon fishery management in the exclusive economic zone of Cook Inlet will be on the table when the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council convene a Joint Protocol Committee meeting in a web conference on Thursday, Nov.5.

The agenda calls for the council to first hear staff reports on current management and then take oral public testimony. Public comment letters are also being accepted electronically at through 5 p.m. Alaska time on Nov. 4.

The Exclusive Economic Zone stretches from three nautical miles to 200 nautical miles offshore of Alaska. Back in 2012, the NPFMC revised the fishery management plan to comply with recent Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act requirements, including annual catch limits, to more clearly reflect the council’s policy with regard to state management authority for commercial and sport salmon management in the EEZ.

Now in response to a federal appeals court decision, the council is considering how to revise the fishery management plan to manage the commercial fishery in EEZ waters of Cook Inlet that was removed from federal management with 2012 revisions to the fishery management plan.

The council is considering new management measures that comply with Magnuson-Stevens requirements for the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishery, such as status determination criteria, annual catch limits and accountability measures.

Alternatives include federal management with or without delegation of management to the state. The council plans to take final action on this issue during its December meeting.

The adobe connection to join the meeting is

Anyone who cannot connect should dial 1-800-832-0736 room number 12331143 to participate with a telephone connection only. State fisheries board officials said meeting materials will be posted on the board’s meeting page following the meeting.

Coast Guard Considers Placing Cutters in American Samoa in Response to Illegal Fishing

U.S. Coast Guard officials say they will evaluate the feasibility of basing fast response cutters in American Samoa in the western Pacific, due to alleged predatory activities of Chinese fishing vessels and also to ensure freedom of navigation.

“The U.S. is a Pacific power,” said National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. “ People’s Republic of China’s illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific, threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors and endangers regional stability,” he said. “Efforts of the United States government, including the United States Coast Guard are critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions.”

O’Brien noted that the Coast Guard is continuing to modernize and enhance the capabilities of its fleet of major cutters, which play a prominent role in protecting vital national interests, and where appropriate, U.S. partners in the region.

“To that end, the Coast Guard is strategically homeporting significantly enhanced fast response cutters, built in a proven Louisiana-based shipyard, in the western Pacific,” he said. “The new generation of fast response cutters will conduct maritime security missions, such as fisheries patrols, enhance maritime domain awareness and enforcement efforts in collaboration with regional partners who have limited offshore surveillance and enforcement capacity, and ensure freedom of navigation.”

Obrien said the Coast Guard plans to evaluate the feasibility of basing those fast response cutters in American Samoa, If the survey is favorable, the U.S. could further expand its presence in the South Pacific, he said.

ASMI’s All Hands On Deck Conference Goes Virtual

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s annual All Hands On Deck conference will go virtual this year from Tuesday, Nov. 10 through Friday, Nov. 13.

Registration is currently open online at The annual report and networking gathering is normally held in Anchorage, but because of the global novel coronavirus pandemic it will be online only this year.

ASMI Executive Director Jeremy Woodrow will open the conference on the morning of Nov.10, followed by comments from the McDowell Group’s Dan Lesh on the impact of COVID-19 on Fisheries. The afternoon session will include a discussion with a question and answer period on ASMI’s Responsible Fisheries Management program.

The Nov. 11 agenda will focus on reports from ASMI’s committees on salmon, halibut and sablefish, whitefish and shellfish and international marketing, including Asia marketing programs.

Reports continue on Nov. 12 from ASMI’s international marketing committee, South America and European programs, domestic marketing and communications and public relations committee, followed by the domestic marketing committee. The afternoon session on Nov 12 will include a question and answer session with those involved in ASMI’s marketing programs, followed by an early evening seafood cooking demonstration with Chris Follari, global director of culinary for Sodexo Foods.

ASMI’s board of directors meeting is set for the morning of Nov. 13, with opening remarks by ASMI Chairman Jack Schultheis of Kwik’Pak Fisheries. Also on the agenda for the final day of this annual gathering are an update on ASMI’s budget by Becky Monagle, ASMI finance director, an update on the overall Responsible Fisheries Management program by program manager Jeff Regnart, and operational committee chair reports from Julie Yeasting of the international marketing committee, seafood technical issues by Joe Logan, domestic marketing, by John Salle, and communications, by Julianne Curry.

Coast Guard Completes Marine Resources Patrol Along California Coastline

In a 60-day patrol of living marine resources along the California coast, crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alert did 38 vessel boardings to enforce fishing regulations resulting in reporting compliance resulting in 47 violations. The patrol ran from Humboldt County to the Southern Maritime Border with Mexico, enforcing federal, state and local policies aboard U.S. commercial fishing vessels.

The Alert crew discovered 30 safety violations and terminated the voyages of three commercial fishing vessels, which were determined to be unsafe to continue operating. The Coast Guard said the vessel terminations were due to overdue survival craft servicing, expired hydrostatic releases on survival craft and expired flares. At-sea boardings are critical to ensuring safety of life for fleets operating in offshore fishing grounds. These efforts identified potential life-threating situations and required the three vessel operators to correct these deficiencies before continuing their voyage.

The Alert Crew also checked for fisheries regulation compliance and issued 17 living marine resources violations, primarily consisting of fishing vessels not broadcasting vessel monitoring system codes, declaring incorrect vessel monitoring codes, fishing in closed waters and not having required vessel markings or logbooks aboard.

Due to the global pandemic, numerous safety measures and precautions are in place aboard the Alert. Boarding team members are following Coast Guard and CDC guidelines to protect the fishing fleets and crews too. Personal protective equipment was worn and the Alert’s small boats were decontaminated after each boarding.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New Marine Navigation System for Port of Valdez
Will Benefit Variety of Maritime Users

A high-tech weather system known as PORTS at the Port of Valdez in Alaska’s Prince William Sound is focused on improved navigation safety in the port area, but its benefits are expected to also benefit a variety of other maritime users. PORTS is an acronym for Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, a project in which NOAA has partnered with the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, in Cordova.

The overall project will consist of an existing NOAA National Water Level Observation Network station at Valdez and two new meteorological-ocean buoys, which measure tidal currents, wind, air temperature, water temperature and barometric pressure. The buoys will be operated and maintained by the citizens advisory council.

“While the council’s sole purpose for installing these buoys is to promote the environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers, we believe the integration of this metocean data into NOAA’s PORTS will benefit and improve safety for a variety of other maritime users,” said Donna Schantz, executive director of the regional citizens advisory council. “This is another excellent example of how collaborative science can have wide-ranging impacts for the betterment of all.”

Steve Thur, acting deputy director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said that this new system, and others like it around the country, reduce ship accidents by more than 50 percent, increase the size of ships that can get in and out of seaports and reduce traffic delays. They also provide real time, resilience-ready data as coastal conditions rapidly change potentially threatening coastal communities, Thur said.

The Port of Valdez, the nation’s northernmost ice-free port, is projected to see a boost in commercial ship traffic and passenger cruise ships over the next 5 to 10 years. It is considered an ideal access point for goods shipped to Interior Alaska. The port is well known as the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, which happened when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Sound.

Data from buoys at Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Valdez Marine Terminal and near the Valdez Duck Flats is already providing information to the Alaska Ocean Observing System, a regional association of the NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.

The buoys were made possible through donations from Fairweather Science and partnerships with Prince William Sound Science Center, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the city of Valdez and the Valdez Fisheries Development Association.

PORTS is a cost-shared partnership program with local port authorities, pilot associations, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy, academia and other stakeholders nationwide. The first PORTS was established at Tampa Bay in 1991, in the wake of a deadly 1981 collision in which an inbound freighter collided with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, causing the bridge to collapse and killing 35 people. Authorities said that tragedy underscored the need for integrated real-time information to provide comprehensive situational awareness to mariners making operational decisions.

Federal Fisheries Council Settles in for Long Term Virtual Meetings During Pandemic

Federal fisheries managers bracing for the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus are now planning to hold three meetings normally held in December in Anchorage, February in Seattle and again in Anchorage in April in a virtual format.

On tap for the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are final action on the Cook Inlet salmon fishery management plan, final specifications for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvests and initial reviews of the Pacific cod pot and trawl catcher vessel LAPP (limited access privilege program) programs.

The draft agenda for the Feb. 1-2 meeting includes final action on Pacific cod pot catcher vessel management, plus a number of other interim actions, reports and discussion papers on individual fishing quota share transfers and hired masters. Final action on small sablefish release and other actions are on the draft agenda for April 5-16.

All meetings are open to the public via Adobe Connect and the council strongly encourages written comment on agenda items in advance of each meeting. Participants are invited to log on to the link provided in advance of each meeting and have the meeting participants call on them to provide comments.

During its virtual October meeting the council approved a list of priority actions in compliance with President Trump’s new executive order to promote American seafood, reduce burdens on domestic fishing and increase production within sustainable fisheries. The council identified as their highest priority actions non-regulatory actions related to domestic production, including prioritizing internal NOAA funding for groundfish surveys off Alaska and stock assessments, and prioritizing internal NOAA funding for observer coverage and electronic monitoring.

The council motion noted that this is core data for stock assessments, understanding climate effects, and ecosystem management, and should include the Northern Bering Sea as an annual survey for the near term. “Regular stock assessment surveys increase certainty about stock status which is the largest driver in increasing catch limits and therefore domestic production within sustainable fisheries,” the council motion added.

Council members approved a revised purpose need statement and alternatives on a halibut abundance-based management program for halibut for the Amendment 80 fleet in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

During the same session the council also approved the final 2020 Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab SAFE (Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation) plan and specified OFLS (overfishing limits) and ABC (acceptable biological catch) for Eastern Bering Sea snow crab. Bristol Bay red king crab, Eastern Bering Tanner crab, Saint Matthew blue king crab and Pribilof Island blue king crab for the 2020-2021 fishing season. Details on these and all other actions at the October meeting are in the NPFMC’s October newsletter, online at

EVOSTC Considers Plan Incorporating Ecosystem Approach to Oil Spill Boundary

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council is taking public comment through Dec. 16 on four draft resolutions, including one for an ecosystem approach to address a broader spectrum of ecological impacts from the 1989 oil spill disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

The restoration plan approved in 1994 set policies to guide council positions for restoration, with a focus on initial impact boundaries identified as the spill area, where the most serious injury occurred and the need for restoration was greatest, while allowing for flexibility to respond to changing restoration needs.

During its October meeting, the council drafted four resolutions, including one to address a broader spectrum of ecological impacts, including adverse effects to ecosystem services and mobile fish and wildlife populations whose ranges overlap or intersect with the spill area.

The draft document notes that available science has consistently pointed to a broader ecological footprint attributable to the spill than is represented by the current defined spill area.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists, for example, have shown red salmon in Prince William Sound are derived from natal streams as far away as the Copper and Bering rivers, and many of the 90 species of sea birds injured by the spill move significant distances – well beyond the designated spill area – throughout the year, especially during the reproductive season.

The complete resolution is online at

Comment is also sought on three other draft resolutions, including one to eliminate the annual trustee council public meeting, one to change procedures for approval of multi-year projects, and one to combine the council’s habitat and research sub-accounts. Find copies of all the resolutions, plus additional information, online at

Comments may be submitted online at

The trustee council was formed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker striking Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil, resulting in devastating damage to fish, sea otters, seals and seabirds.

Murkowski Speaks Out Against Pebble Mine

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, came out firmly this past week in opposition to the proposed Pebble mine. She told the Alaska Federation of Natives during their annual convention, which was held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that it is was simply” the wrong mine in the wrong place,” and that it should not be permitted as currently proposed.

Advocates of the mine maintain that it can be built in a way that will not have an adverse impact on the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay, and also boost the area’s economy considerably, as well as state coffers. Opponents are skeptical of the project, whose construction alone would result in the loss of over 2,800 acres of wetlands and nearly 130 miles of salmon streams.

Murkowski said she has been clear that she opposes the project and that she intends to continue monitoring the situation closely. “I recognize the need for new economic development in Southwest Alaska,” she said. “I think we all do, but I simply think this is the wrong mine in the wrong place. But while we may have stopped Pebble today, I think now is the time to start thinking about the future. We need longer-term protections for the region that can also provide enduring value for Alaskans,” she said. Her comments drew praise from Neili Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited, who thanked the senator for her commitment to advancing specific actions to safeguard the long-term health of the region.

SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol also applauded Murkowski’s stand on Pebble, in the wake of release of “the Pebble tapes” by investigators for a Washington DC based group who posed as potential investors in the mining project. Former Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier boasted in those video tapes about the close relationship of mine backers with federal and state government officials. He resigned shortly after the tapes went viral on the Internet and was replaced by John Shively.

Shively issued a statement saying that much of the content of those tapes was “boastful, embellished, insensitive and stretched credulity to its breaking point.” Meanwhile the Pebble Partnership is continuing to pursue construction of the mine.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which released a final environmental impact statement favorable to proceeding with the mine, is currently working on its final record of decision.

GAPP Said Pollock Industry Investments Are Paying Off

A new report released by the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers says for every dollar invested by the wild Alaska Pollock industry over the past two years the return has been $28.04 in wild Alaska Pollock fillet and surimi revenue back to the industry.

The report was released during GAPP’s virtual annual meeting, is the “Return on Investment” study commissioned by GAPP from Harry Kaiser, an econometric evaluation expert from Cornell University.

Kaiser said that the study found a very significant effect from the recent record purchases of wild Alaska Pollock by the federal government that equated to a lift of 4.8 percent in the value of wholesale frozen fillet block prices. Kaiser also compared the return on investment for GAPP with the return on investment of other commodity entities he does similar research for. According to the Cornell researcher, the investment in GAPP has yielded a return on investment almost double the median and greater than well-recognized commodity marketing organizations like pork, soybeans and beef.

Craig Morris, chief executive officer of GAPP, said Kaiser’s work helps organizations like GAPP in two significant ways. “First, the data provides those who pay into such marketing organizations independent, verified information relative to their investments,” he said. Second, and perhaps more important, said Morris, such data advises organizational leadership, like GAPP’s board of directors, about which specific activities are the best investments over time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NPFMC Takes Initial Steps Toward Abundance-Based Halibut PSC Management in BSAI

Federal fisheries officials are moving toward an initial review analysis to establish an abundance-based halibut prohibited species catch management program in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands for the Amendment 80 sector of the groundfish fleet. The particular area of concern is area 4CDE, including the Pribilof Islands.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting virtually because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, noted that the Amendment 80 sector of the groundfish fleet is accountable for the majority of the annual halibut prohibited species catch mortality in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island groundfish fisheries. While the Amendment 80 fleet has reduced halibut mortality in recent years, continued decline in the halibut stock requires consideration of additional measures for management of halibut PSC in the Amendment 80 fisheries, the council said.

During the Tuesday, October 13 session of its fall meeting, the council considered testimony from 128 people, the majority of whom urged tying bycatch caps to halibut abundance.

The council then revised its purpose and need statement and alternatives for that initial review analysis with the intent of developing a program that meets requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, particularly to minimize halibut PSC to the extent practicable under national standards for bycatch and optimum yield.

Sitka harvester Jeff Farvour testified that the impact of the excessive bycatch not only directly affected those fishing for halibut in the Bering Sea and halibut dependent communities, but indirectly impacts others downstream in the Gulf of Alaska and beyond. He urged action to link halibut PSC caps to halibut abundance.

Commercial harvester Darius Kasprzak of Kodiak agreed, saying the status quo PSC cap is no longer conscionable, in light of reduced halibut abundance.

Amos Philemonoff of St. Paul testified that the amount of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea is unacceptable and that bycatch caps must be reduced and tied to halibut abundance. Another St. Paul resident, Michael Baldwin said that a significant amount of halibut related jobs in his community have been lost in large part because of the halibut bycatch in area 4CDE.

The program being considered would link the groundfish sector’s Amendment 80 fleet’s prohibited species catch limit to halibut abundance and provide incentives for the fleet to minimize halibut mortality at all times. The council said this action could also promote conservation of the halibut stock and may provide additional opportunities for the directed halibut fishery.

Sitka Longliner Honored for Promoting Sustainable Fisheries, Support of Fishing Communities

Veteran longline harvester Linda Behnken of Sitka, Alaska, is being honored for her advocacy of sustainable fishing practices and support of coastal fishing communities dependent on the ocean for their livelihood and way of life. The Heinz Family Foundation, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, will present Behnken on Nov. 19 with its prestigious 25th Heinz Award in the environmental category along with an unrestricted cash award of $250,000.

Behnken came to Sitka in 1982 to begin fishing to earn money for college. After earning a master’s degree from Yale she returned to skipper her own boat. These days she’s still fishing commercially for halibut and black cod, with her husband and two sons. She is also the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, has served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and has engaged in long term efforts to improve the fishery economies of coastal communities, train young fishermen in how to have a successful career in fisheries, improve fisheries management and promote more fisheries research.

“her success in achieving collaboration between scientists, industry and the fishermen who work the ocean for their livelihood is a model for effective environmental change,” said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. “Her efforts to drive policy and practices that protect the stability of Alaska’s coastal fishing communities and the ocean ecosystem o which they depend not only give us hope they demonstrate what is possible when seemingly competing interests work together.”

Among Behnken’s achievements with ALFA has been a six-year grassroots campaign to secure a ban on commercial trawl fishing in federal and state waters off of Southeast Alaska. The ban now overs over 100,000 square miles, enabling protection of deep-sea corals and sponges, as well as long-lived rockfish populations. Her efforts have also led to establishment of ALFA’s Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen in collaborative research with scientists to address conservation challenges and improve the viability of small boat fishing.

“We are asking managers to address bycatch of king salmon, halibut and crab and to protect these iconic and locally important species for Alaska,” Behnken said. “This battle is common around the country, where people are struggling to prevent family businesses and communities from becoming collateral damage to big industry whether it’s farming or ranking or fishing. This is what we’re up against, and climate change has exacerbated that challenge.”

ALFA has also established Alaskans Own, a community-supported fishery through which consumers can buy chares of a harvester’s catch. Revenue generated by Alaskans Own is invested back into the conservation of local fisheries.

Deadline Approaches to Comment on CARES Act Fisheries Relief Plan

Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials are accepting comments through Oct. 19 on Alaska’s spend plan for the $50 million the state is to receive – out of $300 million nationwide - under the CARES Act relief for fisheries participants. The plan spells out eligibility requirements for participants in seafood processing, commercial harvesting, sport charter, subsistence and aquaculture. ADF&G officials noted that while all sectors have been negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic available funds will only cover a portion of the losses incurred by affected fishery participants.

After comments are considered and input is made into the state’s plan, it must be approved by NOAA Fisheries before eligible fishery participants can submit applications for review and payment. The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission will then develop application materials consistent with the spend plan and solicit, review and approve applications prior to disbursing funds.

ADF&G officials said that funds are being allocated to each sector based on the revenue allocation methodology used by NOAA Fisheries to allocate funds to Alaska, with some modifications. The federal agency allocated funds to Alaska using available revenue information for the commercial harvesting sector (35.2 percent), the sport charter sector (5.5 percent), and the seafood processing sector (59.3 percent) including processors, dealers, wholesalers and distributors. ADF&G said NOAA Fisheries also considered negative impacts to subsistence fisheries during the allocation process.

ADF&G officials said since the NOAA Fisheries allocation percentages were based on past revenues and not on the estimated scale of loss for each sector during to the pandemic that the state agency adjusted the revenue percentages to be used. They were adjusted to 32 percent each for the commercial harvesting, seafood processing and sport charter sectors and 1 percent for aquaculture.

A copy of the proposed plan can be found online at or on the Alaska Public Notice System,

Written comments must be submitted to

NOAA Fisheries Looks at What Caused Low Survival Rate of Pollock During the GOA Blob Year

A new NOAA Fisheries study on survival of young Alaska Pollock during the 2015 Blob year in the Gulf of Alaska includes significant factors were low-salinity conditions that affected egg buoyancy, low abundance of prey for larval fish and poor body condition of age-0 juveniles.

“Marine ecosystems are complex with lots of connections,” said fisheries scientist Lauren Rogers. “When you are trying to identify what might be behind a decline in abundance of fish at a particular age, it is often a series of factors that are at play.”

The absence of larval and juvenile fish was due to environmental conditions that were not ideal for Pollock growth and development during the heatwave, she said.

In the Gulf of Alaska, Pollock play a key role as both predator and prey and support a $100 million commercial fishery. To understand how that marine heatwave affected Pollock, Rogers and her colleagues used oceanographic and biological data compiled from years of research surveys. Their analysis considered the timing of spring phytoplankton bloom and the availability of zooplankton prey for larvae and juveniles. They also looked at how warmer temperatures and reduced prey quality affected the body condition and consumption demands of juvenile fish prior to their first winter.

They noted that the adult population of Pacific cod also experienced a significant decline, leading to a severe reduction in catch limits.

They also found that warmer temperatures, together with reduced quality of prey, increased the amount of food required for needed by nearly 20 percent compared to an average year.

Information generated through this research has already been used in making management decisions.

The study notes that the number of Pollock born in 2015 is the lowest on record. While it is not unusual to see variability in how many Pollock are born each year, the lack of new recruits from the Blob years, especially 2014 and 2015, has contributed to very low age diversity in the stock in recent years, the study said.

Plan Now In Progress To Clean Up Tulsequah Chief Mine, But It Will Take Time

Progress at last appears to be in the works on putting a stop to pollution from the Tulsequah Chief, a transboundary mine in British Columbia that hasn’t operated in over 60 years.

According to Alaska Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kyle Mosell the recent release of a remediation plan by the British Columbia officials is a huge step forward.

Mosell’s office, as well as officials with the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission in Sitka, have been in steady contact with provincial officials in an effort to halt pollution flowing into the Tulsequah River, which flows into the Taku River, a major salmon habitat flowing into Southeast Alaska.

“The release of the remediation plan, a conceptual plan, is a huge milestone in the process,” Mosell said. “Now they have a plan that needs to be informed by more field work over the next couple of years. They deserve tremendous credit for getting to that point,” he said.

Fred Olsen Jr, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission in Sitka, is somewhat less optimistic.

“It’s a difference of perspective,” said Olsen. He noted that despite the commitment from the BC government to spend up to $1.6 million for site preparation and studies to support early reclamation work at the mine site that the acid drainage into the transboundary waterway continues. “Hopefully something happens in three to five years that we can say ‘oh good, for the first time in 80 years the mine is not polluting the Taku watershed,’ but that remains to be seen,” he said.

The mine, currently owned by Chieftain Metals, Ltd., which acquired the property in 2010, was placed in receivership in September of 2016. Shortly thereafter inspectors from the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and a member of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation inspected the mine site. They found numerous non-compliance issues, ranging from no caretaker on site to drainage and maintenance issues at the sediment pond and unsecured storage of chemicals. Provincial government officials hired a contractor to properly secure all chemicals on site and in 2017 physical work at the site was done to mitigate risks at the exfiltration pond. The BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has posted its Tulsequah Chief Mine Closure and Reclamation Plan online at

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Snow Crab Quotas Rise as Bristol Bay Red King Quotas Continue Decline

Alaska’s 2020-2021 commercial crab fisheries get underway on Oct. 15, with a total allowable catch of 45 million pounds of Bering Sea snow crab, up from 34 million pounds in 2019.

The allowable catch in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery meanwhile has slipped from 3.4 million pounds a year ago to 2.6 million pounds for the upcoming season.

The Western Bering Sea Tanner crab fishery has a total allowable catch of 2.348 million pounds, but the Eastern Bering Sea Tanner crab fishery will remain closed.

The allowable quotas are determined each year based on stock assessment analysis of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries Service.

Based on those analyses the Pribilof District red and blue king crab seasons, as well as the Saint Matthew Island blue king crab season will remain closed.

Right now the market is good for king crab and snow crab as well, said Jake Jacobsen, executive director of Seattle’s Inter-Cooperative Exchange, the largest cooperative of Bering Sea crab harvesters. In advance of those first harvests, Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle is advertising previously frozen Alaska king crab legs and claws for $49.99 a pound, five pounds for $279.99 and 20 pounds for $854.99.

According to Jamie Goen, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, the trade association representing harvesters of king, opilio (snow) and bairdi (Tanner) crab in the Bering Sea, the big concern in this year’s crab fisheries is how to operate their businesses safely during the global novel coronavirus pandemic, to keep safe both harvesters on their fishing vessels and communities they come into. “We fish in the toughest weather, and with COVID there are additional precautions,” she said.

“We are incredibly grateful that we have fisheries we can conduct,” said Goen, adding that she is usually at Dutch Harbor at this time of the year, but in Seattle instead this year because of the pandemic.

With the snow crab and Tanner crab quotas up, and red king crab quota down, people are going to have to decide on their own whether they will fish or not, she said. Some boats owners have said they will go out even with a lower TAC (total allowable catch) to keep their crews employed.

“Once you get good crew, you want to hang on to them, especially with COVID” she said.

Other vessels owners will choose to barter, with one holding out for snow crab and another for red king crab, she said.

Legislators Challenge Alaska Governor’s Role in Promoting Pebble Mine

Two legislators are challenging the role of Alaska’s governor in trying to secure a federal Clean Water Act permit for the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska. Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, an independent from Dillingham, and Rep. Louise Stutes, a Republican from Kodiak, wrote to Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Sept. 29, asking him not to stand with the Pebble Limited Partnership in its effort to secure that permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letter came in the wake of the release of video tapes in which the chief executive officer of the PLP boasted about his influence with state and federal officials in getting the mine approved. The CEO, Tom Collier, has since resigned.

Edgmon and Stutes contend that the Dunleavy administration is working directly with the PLP and its parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, of Vancouver, Canada, on a compensatory mitigation plan for the mine that would implicate uses and activities on state lands in the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advised the PLP on Aug. 20 that they have 90 days to provide a compensatory mitigation plan for the proposed mine, after which the corps will review that plan, and if complete, post it to the Pebble project EIS (environmental impact statement) website, The legislators said a major concern is that the proposed mine stands to have severe adverse impacts on the commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries the run provides for

. These fisheries, they told Dunleavy, have been possible because of the careful stewardship, as the people of that region have done for thousands of years. They also reminded the governor that the Alaska Legislature has a role in whether the proposed mine should receive state permits and whether permanent preservation of over 650 acres of state land to advance the mine project is appropriate.

Dunleavy fired back on Tuesday, Oct. 6, saying it is his duty as governor to create economic opportunity for the benefit of all Alaskans. In addition to the economic benefits, he said in his letter to Edgmon and Stutes, mineral development in Alaska has the potential to improve national security. He insisted that the best available science would determine whether the project would go forward.

The governor also questioned the economic impact of the famed Bristol Bay salmon fishery, saying it is not a year-round operation and that only 25 percent of the Bristol Bay permit holders lived in the region. He did not comment on the issue of the Alaska Legislature’s role in the permitting process.

California Based Coast Guard Crew Seizes 6,700 Pounds of Cocaine Worth $115M

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf returned home to Alameda, California, on Oct. 3, after a three- month multi-mission patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean resulting in confiscation of 6,700 pounds of cocaine worth over $115 million.

The crew also patrolled over 3,000 square nautical miles of Ecuadorian and international waters during a joint patrol with the Ecuadorian Navy to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the area of the Galapagos Islands. The Bertholf and the Ecuadorian naval vessel LAE Isla San Cristobal provided persistent presence and surveillance of fishing activity throughout the region during the week-long mission.

Coast Guard officials said that following the two-month multi-mission Eastern Pacific patrol, Bertholf offloaded over 26,000 pounds of cocaine on Sept. 10 in San Diego, an accumulation from multiple U.S. ships conducting counter narcotic operations in the Eastern Pacific.

Coast Guard officials said the mission highlights a Coast Guard partnership with Ecuador to ensure compliance with international maritime laws for fishing. Capt. Brian Anderson, commanding officer of the Bertholf, said it was a unique opportunity to sail with the Ecuadorian Navy, one that demonstrates the effectiveness and importance of international partnerships.

Following their patrol, the more than 150 crew members aboard the Bertholf began a three-week Tailored Ship Training Assessment (TSTA) in San Diego. The assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of the crew’s capabilities to respond to a variety of scenarios from rescuing a person overboard to battling fires aboard ship.

To ensure their safety during a global pandemic, the crew of the Bertholf conducted pre-deployment COVID-19 testing, following a 14-day quarantine and a second round of testing.

The crew kept social distancing under results of the second test came back negative. Then throughout their patrol, the crew maintained strict health precautions in all interactions with the public and during boardings and underwent intensive decontamination procedures after each boarding.

Economic Report Shows COVID Pandemic’s Impact on Value of Alaska Seafood Harvest

An economic report prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute says that while the harvest volume was not significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that the overall impact of the virus weakened the harvest value.

Economists with the McDowell Group said that a roughly 50 percent drop in the Bristol Bay base sockeye price is a prominent example, along with lower halibut values.

McDowell Group economists also said that anecdotally flatfish and Pacific cod harvest values have declined, while Pollock prices are stable. Key reasons for weaker harvest value, they said, include higher operating costs, less value-added production, reduced demand due to foodservice closures, and general market uncertainty.

All sectors of the seafood industry have reported higher operating costs directly related to reducing the risk of the novel coronavirus from spreading to coastal fishing communities, as well as fishermen and those working in the processing sector. Interviews with processors, the report said, indicate at least $50 million has been spent so far, including inshore and offshore sectors. That total is expected to rise due to testing requirements and continuation of virus-related protocols in 2020 and 2021, the report said. Meanwhile harvesters, local governments and other stakeholders are reporting their own extra expenses directly related to maintaining operations during the pandemic.

Increased transportation costs attributable to the pandemic include the challenges of reduced passenger flights and air freight capacity this past summer, which led to challenges getting fresh salmon to markets in the Lower 48 states. Exports to China were also delayed due to increased port inspection requirements. The report also cited the bankruptcy of Ravn Airlines, which exacerbated problems associated with transporting processor workers, fishermen and support personnel in coastal communities of western Alaska.

Coast Guard Extends Mariner Credentials Endorsements

U.S. Coast Guard officials are taking steps to extend mariner credentials, medical certificates and course approvals due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

They are advising, however, that these measures may cause a backlog in processing of credentials and course approvals, especially near the end of the extension dates, and urge mariners and training providers to fulfill requirements and submit applications as early as possible to avoid a lapse in credential or training approval.

Merchant mariner credentials and STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) expiring between March 1 and Dec. 31 have been extended until the earlier of June 30, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date of that credential.

The expiration date for national medical certificates and STCW medical certificates with a national expiration date between March 1 and Sept. 30 has been extended until Dec. 31, 2020. All mariners actively working on expired medical certificates that meet extension criteria are required to carry the expired credential with a copy of the extension notice.

Coast Guard officials also said that they do not intend to enforce, through Dec. 31, a requirement that pilots undergo an annual physical exam each year while holding a credential given the pandemic and its impact on health care providers With the exception of Monitoring Unit Guam, all regional exam centers and monitoring units are open for limited examination services only, with reduced seating capacity.

Course and program approvals set to expire between Jan 1 and Dec. 31 are extended for six months from their current expiration date. In recognition of the regional exam centers and monitoring units being closed to the public, approval to test letters and course completion certificates that expired between March 1 and Dec. 31 are now extended through Oct. 1, 2021. Additional guidance on these extensions and other related administrative measures will be posted online at Other options include contacting the NMC Customer Service Center by using the NMC online chat system, by e-mailing, or by calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

The Home Stretch

Welcome to the 4th quarter of 2020. Ok, let’s face it. Everyone is looking forward to putting 2020 in our wake. I always lament the fact that time seems to move faster every year, but in this case, time can’t move fast enough to get this year behind us.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us in the maritime industry. Ports saw volumes slashed (then recover); international cruise lines are still effectively shut down; mariners are still stranded on ships with tours extended beyond a year; the only bright spot seems to be that boat sales are up, which hopefully gets more kids interested in working on the water when they grow up! There could not be much more of a perfect storm – I would prefer the hurricane variety any day (I spent a terrifying 2 days at sea going through Hurricane Hugo back in 1989, but at least I knew there was an end in sight).

Now I am the eternal optimist, and I have enduring faith in the capacity of the human spirit to persevere in the face of adversity. Human ingenuity will solve all of the COVID 19 issues. The timeline for those solutions will likely come more slowly than any of us would like, but they will come. The pace at which we are seeing vaccine developments, rapid testing methods and therapeutic treatments is truly impressive given historic norms. We need more government action to help our industry get back to pre-COVID operational levels, and your voices need to be heard by your elected officials with ideas of how government action (or lack thereof) can impact your segment of the maritime industry.

2020 has given us some positives – more time with family, reconnecting with friends, mastering the video call and time to work on projects at work that we never seem to be able to get to. Like I said, I’m an optimist. 2020 gave me the opportunity to communicate with you, our readers of PMM On Line and Fishermen’s News On Line. For that I am very grateful. But my dear 2020, when that clock strikes midnight on December 31st, don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out!


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