Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Alaska Sea Grant Marks a Half Century of Service

Alaska Sea Grant is celebrating 50 years of service to the state through research, education and outreach events which have benefitted coastal communities, ecosystems and the state’s overall economy. Over the past five decades, Alaska Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Program agents have provided a variety of training classes and technical assistance that has helped meet demands from everything from safe ways to smoke fish to responding to animal stranding to dealing with issues related to climate change.

Alaska Sea Grant’s 2019-2020 annual report celebrates this special anniversary, drawing on Sea Grant’s investments in education and outreach as a player in diversifying economies and building resilience in Alaska’s coastal communities. Sea Grant has also been a player in responding to emergencies, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, by helping to get resources to communities hard hit by the spill.

Over the next half century, Sea Grant and its Marine Advisory Program agents will face new challenges as their programs continue to educate and support coast community economies.

Focuses of Sea Grant’s energy in 2020 ranged from launching the Alaska Shellfish and Seaweed Growers Project to support of fishermen and the seafood industry in the midst of the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

A survey of the state’s mariculture industry this past spring found that 43 percent of respondents reported losses of over half of their revenue and more than one third had laid off employees. Pandemic related restrictions that led to restaurant and tourism business closures reduced demand for mariculture products. Alaska Sea Grant responded by developing an online directory of farms and retailers that sell Alaska-grown shellfish and seaweed, released the first of several planned videos to introduce the shellfish and seaweed growers, and offered recipes to stimulate demand.

As the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread in Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant organized a webinar on alternative seafood markets for commercial fishermen at risk of losing traditional buyers. Other webinars addressed COVID-19 economic relief resources and comprehensive courses in seafood direct marketing. Alaska Sea Grant also partnered with the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., the Bristol Bay Native Association and others to answer questions about the state’s pandemic mandates and local ordinances.

Alaska Sea Grant plans to continue efforts to help keep the fisheries industry resilient as the pandemic continues.

U.S. Coast Guard Extends Credential Endorsements, Medical Certificates, Course Approvals

Coast Guard officials responding to health and safety challenges necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic have chosen to extend mariner credentials, medical certificates and course approvals for the benefit of the maritime industry.

In a marine safety information bulletin (MSIB) released in late December the Coast Guard said these provisions are consistent with the executive order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, which was issued in mid-May.

At the same time the Coast Guard advised that this decision may cause a backlog in processing of credentials and course approvals, especially near the end of the extension dates. They advised that mariners and training providers fulfill requirements and submit applications as early as possible to avoid a lapse in their credential or training approval. Under their current statutory authority, the Coast Guard said, the expiration dates of merchant mariner credentials may be extended for no more than one year.

Merchant mariner credentials that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, are extended until the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date.

Merchant mariner credentials with STCW endorsements that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 20, 2021 are extended to the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date of the credential.

STCW is an acronym for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended.

Medical certificates that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 20, 2021 are likewise extended until the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date of that medical certificate.

Pilot annual physical exams require that pilots undergo an annual physical exam each year while holding the credential. However, the Coast Guard does not intend to enforce this requirement due to the pandemic and its impacts on health care providers.

Mariners actively working on expired medical certificates that meet the extension criteria must, meanwhile, carry the expired certification with a cop of the MSIB notice.

IPHC Seeks Charter Longline Vessels for Fishery-Independent Setline Survey

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is asking commercial longline vessel owners interested in participating in the 2021 Fishery-Independent Setline Survey to tender their request to participate by the Jan. 31 deadline.

The survey, to be conducted between May 29 and Aug. 31, will cover 25 charter regions within the IPHC Convention Area, with a standard grid of stations from Oregon to the northern Bering Sea, including the Aleutian Islands. It involves the collection of standardized data for use in the Pacific halibut stock assessment. The data is used to study aspects of the resource such as growth, distribution, biomass, age composition, sexual maturity, and relative abundance of other species. Legal-sized Pacific halibut and Pacific halibut less than 32 inches in length that have been sampled, as well as incidentally caught bycatch fish that would die upon release will be retained, sampled for biological data and sold by the PIHC to offset FISS expenses.

Only vessels with captains and crews that have Pacific halibut fishing experience within the last five years will be considered. The IPHC may require an inspection of the vessels prior to awarding the charter.

These vessels need not be licensed for Pacific halibut fishing in Canada or the United States to be eligible. The IPHC is not restricted as to nationality of the vessels it charters for this survey as long as customs and immigration regulations are followed. Interested parties should submit tenders based on the 2021 IPHC Fishery-Independent Setline Survey vessel tender specifications. The tender specifications and vessel tender forms may be downloaded directly from the IPHC website:

NOAA Releases Fisheries Priorities and Annual Guidance for 2021

NOAA Fisheries has released its 2021 Priorities and Annual Guidance report, with a renewed commitment to boost the economic value of all U.S. fisheries. The focus will be on ensuring the recovery and long-term sustainability of commercial and recreational fishing industries and support of aquaculture and the broader seafood supply chain, said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

Oliver noted that the global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the environment related to management of the nation’s fisheries and the protection and recovery of living marine resources. The situation also required adding crisis-related activities to NOAA’s portfolio for normal operations. Oliver said challenges with at-sea data collection identified in 2020 demonstrate the need to improve and leverage unmanned systems and artificial intelligence technologies to advance analytical methods to analyze and enhance data collection, and to leverage cloud applications and services to further support a more agile and innovative culture.

Still, he added, it is clear that COVID-19 will continue to affect agency operations and decision making through the coming year.

The report identifies three strategic goals for 2021.

The first is to amplify the economic value of commercial and recreational fisheries while ensuring their sustainability. The second is to conserve and recover protected species while supporting responsible fishing and resource development, and the third is improved organizational excellence and regulator efficiency. Details of all three goals are included in the report, online at

Alaska Marine Science Symposium Goes All Virtual for 2021, Registration Remains Open

Alaska’s premier marine research conference is going all virtual in 2021, a decision prompted by health and safety needs in the midst of a global pandemic, but one that has hardly damped enthusiasm of participating harvesters, processors and fisheries scientists.

The North Pacific Research Board in Anchorage, a leading sponsor of the annual event, says they’ve received over 200 abstracts for the gathering, almost half of which are oral presentations.

In past years the event has been held at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, with keynote speakers on the first day, followed by three days of presentations, poster competition and workshops. The complete agenda, including the names of keynote speakers, is still a work in progress at this point, for what will be a three-day symposium, Jan. 26-28, all online.

Research will be presented by geographic theme, including the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Arctic. Topic areas will include ocean physics, fishes and invertebrates, seabirds, marine mammals, local traditional knowledge, and more.

Potential topics for this year’s panels include coastal resiliency, ocean noise, marine debris in a changing Arctic, perspectives on changing Bering Sea ecosystem, socioeconomic costs and opportunities of shifting fish and marine mammal populations in Alaskan waters, the future of Arctic research in and around local communities post-COVID and the economics of climate change as they relate to fisheries, subsistence, tourism and shipping.

Oral and poster presentations will continue to be the main focus this year. Organizers say that showcasing Alaska’s marine science remains the top priority despite challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. They are also exploring additional events, including virtual panels, social hours and more. Updates will be posted online at

To register at no cost online simply go to the website and click on the registration form.

Abstracts, keynote speaker biographies, post session information, workshop details and more will all be available via the AMSS online guidebook, also accessible via the website.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Young Fishermen’s Development Act Approved
by Congress

Legislation establishing the first ever national program to train, educate and foster the next generation of commercial fishermen has been approved by both houses of Congress.

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act aims to help mitigate challenges facing the next generation of commercial fishermen by supporting regional training and apprenticeship programs. The legislation, modeled after similar agricultural programs, will provide competitive grant funds and support for state, tribal, local or regionally based networks or partnerships.

This would include programs such as the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s crew apprenticeship program and Sitka Fishermen’s Expos.

Advocacy for such legislation dates back to 2015, when it was proposed by the Fishing Communities Coalition a national advocacy group which represents over 1,000 independent fishermen and business owners from Maine to Florida to California and Alaska. The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, a founding member of FCC, and others have spent the past five years working with Congress to develop the YFDA. The legislation directs the National Sea Grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Young Fishermen’s Development Grant Program, to offer training education outreach and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen, Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and in the House by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

“Commercial fishing demands a broad skill set to operate safely and successfully,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of ALFA. “We are thrilled by passage of the YFDA.” She credited Alaska’s congressional delegation for their effort to move the legislation through Congress.

Veteran harvesters at ALFA noted that even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic new entrants to commercial fishing aced significant challenges, including the high cost of entry, financial risk and limited entry-level opportunities.

The pandemic itself amplified those challenges, adding significant cost to fishing and processing fish during a pandemic in a way that kept both harvesters and processor workers safe.

ALFA is a Southeast Alaska alliance of small boat owners and commercial harvesters who promote sustainable fisheries and the economies of coastal communities through collaborative research, advocacy and education.

Recycled Fishing Nets Provide Material for New Products, from Sunglasses to Bikinis

A collaborative effort of fishermen, non-government organizations and Net Your Problem is sending thousands of pounds of old commercial fishing nets to recycling facilities for a new life in products ranging from sunglasses and kayaks to 3D printer filament and bikinis.

Recent efforts of Net Your Problem in San Diego, California, resulted in 12,000 pounds of old nylon fishing nets from drift gillnetters in Southern California being shipped off to a fish net recycling partner, Ambiberica, in Braga, Portugal, said Sara Aubrey, business and program development manager for NYP.

“Opening people’s minds up to new possibilities is so empowering, and that’s just what we’ve done here, taking old fishing net ‘garbage’ and giving it a chance at a whole new life” she said.

Aubrey has been working for the past two years with Nicole Baker, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, and the founder of NYP.

Part of creating a sustainable, efficient and effective recycling system is creating demand for the recycled product, Baker notes. One of the latest was holiday wreathes, hand made in Maine with 100 percent repurposed lobster line. Through a recent partnership with Waterhaul, a United Kingdom firm that transforms old fish nets into sunglasses, more recycled fish nets will find use.

“As NYP navigates this entrepreneur journey, we are learning a lot about marketing, and how to communicate the value of our services”, Baker said. A recently launched Net your Problem (click here to view) video explains the environmental benefits of recycling fishing gear. Baker is hoping the video will encourage more fishing vessels and companies to choose to dispose their end of life gear with her company.

NYP notes in its latest newsletter that the swordfish fishery is transitioning away from drift gillnets and all fishermen turning in their permits must also turn in their gear to a state of California certified net destruction entity. NYP is one of these and has been preparing mountains of nets for the Portuguese recycling firm that will turn these nets into raw plastic for new products.

More information about NYP is online at


Second Round of Training for Seaweed Farm Start-Ups Will Be Offered Virtually in Alaska

A second round of training is coming to Alaska in 2021 for Alaska residents interested in starting their own commercial seaweed farms.

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and its partners are inviting registration through Feb. 1 via the Alaska Sea Grant website,

. Last year the program was held in Kodiak, Ketchikan and Sitka as part of the Alaska Mariculture Initiative. In 2021 the program will be held for a new cohort of participants, conducted virtually via Zoom, due to COVID-19 health and safety mandates. AFDF officials said the virtual format will allow significant expansion of the program, from 48 participants in 2020 to over 100 in the coming year.

Registration for the training program will be in two parts. All interested Alaska residents need to first register for a webinar to be held on Feb. 2 to be eligible to register for an in-depth series of virtual technical multi-day workshops over a one-week period beginning on Feb. 22.

The program’s goal is to provide the tools and training needed for Alaskans to start their own seaweed farm. The program, targeting commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives and fishing communities, has four sections. These include the online webinar on Feb. 2, the virtual technical workshops beginning Feb. 22, one-on-one mentoring for high performing participants, and potential in-person hands on field training in the spring and summer of 2021, if the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic allows.

While there is no anticipated cap on the webinar, the workshop limit will be capped at 150. Topics to be included in the technical workshops will include identification of seaweed species, lifecycles of seaweed, the hatchery process, site evaluation, use of the Mariculture Map, farm gear and equipment design, business plan development, farm financing, state lease application process, gear deployment, seeding and harvesting techniques, quality handling, and safety considerations. Information and instruction will be provided by AFDF, GreenWave, Alaska Sea Grant, the Alaska Departments of Fish and Game and Natural Resources, Blue Evolution, OceansAlaska, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, seaweed farmers, and others.

NOAA Adjusts 2021 Total Allowable Catch Amounts for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced this week adjustments in the 2021 total allowable catch amounts for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service this action is necessary because the agency has determined that the TACs for BSAI Pollock, Atka mackerel and Pacific cod fisheries are incorrectly specified and the adjustment will ensure that the harvests of these species are the appropriate amounts based on the best available scientific informatio.

In an announcement published on Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the Federal Register, NMFS said this action is consistent with the goals and objectives of the fishery management plan for groundfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area.

The new TACs will be in effect from Jan. 1, 2021 through the effective date of the final 2021 and 2022 harvest specifications for BSAI groundfish unless otherwise modified or superseded through publication of a new notification in the Federal Register.

NMFS is accepting comments on this action through Jan. 6. Comments may be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal by going to!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0074, clicking the “Comment Now!” icon, completing the required fields, and entering or attaching those comments.

Comments may also be mailed to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Records, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.

USGS Gets $3.62 M to Continue Water Quality Monitoring for Transboundary Watersheds

A $2.3 trillion federal spending package approved by Congress this week includes money for everything from $900 billion in relief funds for the COVID-29 pandemic to over $4 million to help resolve transboundary water pollution issues in Southeast Alaska.

Tucked into the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act approved by both house of Congress on Monday, Dec. 21, is over $3.62 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to continue baseline water quality monitoring at the international border in Southeast Alaska, plus resolving mining and mining containment issues with British Columbia. Another $500,000 was allocated by the State Department to specifically expand its participation in transboundary mine issues.

A number of Southeast Alaska residents, along with fishermen, tribes and conservation groups have advocated for several decades to halt pollution from mines in place and planned along these salmon-rich transboundary waters, including the Tulsequah Chief mine, which continues to pour pollutants into tributaries to these rivers decades after it was closed.

British Columbia government officials committed in late 2020 to efforts to halt pollution from the Tulsequah Chief mine, but commercial fisheries entities, conservationists and tribal entities are also concerned about other mines in place and planned along those transboundary waters.

According to Jill Weitz, director of Salmon Beyond Borders, 80 percent of Southeast Alaska king salmon have historically come from the transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, yet by this spring in all three rivers, Chinook salmon populations will likely be listed as stocks of concern, as the mining industry grows along British Columbia’s transboundary waters.

Chris Zimmerman, center director of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, said that by working collaboratively interested parties will be better able to understand water quality in transboundary rivers to help resource managers and users make sound, science-based decisions. Rob Sanderson Jr., chair of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission, said that SEITC looks forward to development a true partnership between tribes and USGS.

Still Fred Olsen Jr., executive director of SEITC, voiced concern that none of that money was going directly to Southeast Alaska tribal entities. Tlingit and Haida tribes have for years called on the federal government for action on water pollutions issues under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. In 2015 the Tlingit and Haida began working to collect baseline water quality data, sediment sampling and water quality surveys on the Taku and Stikine rivers, then expanded their scope to sample the Alsek River near Yakutat and the Chilkat and Klehini rivers outside of Klukwan and Haines.

“Give us that $500,000 and we will see who does something,” Olsen said. “We are not against mining, but do it right.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Study Urges Planning Ahead in Changing Climate to Protect Fish and Fisheries

A new study released by Rutgers University says advance planning that accounts for climate change will result in better safeguards for the future of marine fish and commercial fisheries.

Many commercially valuable fish species are already moving north, disrupting fisheries and exacerbating international fisheries conflicts, notes Malin Pinsky, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, in New Brunswick, N.J.

“We don’t need perfect information,” said Pinsky, who led the study. “We know we can’t predict right now where different species will be at certain times in the future. Just trying to get it somewhat right is a lot better than sticking our heads in the sand.”

What he is hoping for, said Pinsky, is that the study will prove motivation for more coordination for fishing and conservation, energy development, shipping and oil and gas development. “The ocean has become really busy,” he said. “IF we don’t plan ahead, we may only be able to conserve half of the fish species by the end of the century. There is a more effective way to do this. We are trying to show that everyone benefits by planning for species on the move.” Study results published by Rutgers in the journal Science Advances focused on the costs and benefits to marine species of planning ahead. They simulated the ocean planning process in the United States and Canada for conservation zones, fishing zones and wind and wave energy development zones. Researchers looked at nearly 12,000 different projections for where 726 species around North America will move over the rest of this century, and potential tradeoffs between meeting conservation and sustainable fishing goals now rather than later.

“We were worried that planning ahead would require setting aside a lot more of the ocean for conservation or for fishing, but we found that was not the case,” Pinsky said. “Instead, fishing and conservation areas can be set up like hopscotch boxes so fish and other animals can shift from one box into another as they respond to climate change.”

Polar Icebreakers for Arctic Defense Win
Congressional Approval

Efforts to boost US interests in the Arctic have taken another step forward with congressional approval of six polar icebreakers in the bipartisan Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020. The legislation now heads to President Donald Trump for signing.

Icebreakers are critical to the U.S. presence in the Arctic to protect American interests in polar regions, gather data for scientific research and to respond to oil spills in very remote areas, as well as U.S. commercial interests in shipping.

Senators Marie Cantwell, D-WA; Roger Wicker, R-MS; and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, led the way for passage of the legislation in the Senate. Earlier last week the bill was approved by the House.

“The reality is, there is a race on for the Arctic passageway, and we need to be ready,” said Cantwell. “This formal authorization of six polar icebreakers will send a strong message to the rest of the world: the United States is showing up in the Arctic.” With three of the icebreakers designated to homeport in Seattle, there is opportunity for us to continue to pave the way in Arctic exploration scientific research, and protecting our nation’s foreign policy interests,” Cantwell said.

The U.S. currently has just two polar icebreakers, Polar Star and Healy, but due to a fire aboard the Healy this past summer only the Polar Star is currently operational. Russia, by comparison, has 53 icebreakers, Finland has 10, Canada and Sweden have seven, and Denmark has four.

Along with the investment in the icebreakers themselves, the Coast Guard bill will establish an Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee made up of representatives of the Coast Guard, Defense Department, Secretary of Transportation, the maritime and shipping industry, Labor, Alaska Native people and representatives of the states of Alaska and Washington. The committee provision, championed by Murkowski, has as its goal coordination of U.S. activity in the Arctic for safe and efficient transportation and open up trade opportunities in the Arctic.

Public Comment Sought on 2020 Draft Plan for Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities

U.S. Navy officials are seeking public comment through Feb. 16, 2021, on their 2020 plans for Navy training activities in the Gulf of Alaska.

Navy officials said they are currently preparing a supplemental Environmental impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Statement (EIS/OEIS) to renew required federal permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protect Act and the Endangered Species Act, which expire in April 2022. The Navy proposes to continue military training in the Gulf Temporary Maritime Activities Area (TMAA). The supplemental EIS/OEIS includes the analysis of at-sea training activities projected to meet readiness requirements beyond 2022 and into the foreseeable future and reflects the most up-to-date compilation of training activities deemed necessary to accomplish military readiness during that time period, Navy officials said.

Anyone needing assistance accessing the document or attending virtual public meetings is asked to contact Julianne Stanford, Navy Region Northwest Public Affairs Office at or 360-867-8525. For other information contact Kimberly Kler, GOA Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager, at

Comments may be submitted online at or by U.S. mail to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Attention: GOA Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.

All comments submitted will become part of the public record, and substantive comments will be addressed in the final supplemental EIS/OEIS.

Coast Guard Commits to Better Communication to Protect Commercial Fleet in Bering Sea EEZ

Coast Guard officials say they are taking steps to better protect American fishermen legally harvesting in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea off the coastline of Alaska from any future harassment by Russian vessels engaged in war games in their fishing grounds.

Admiral Charles Ray, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard told the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Security this past week that the Coast Guard will be having bi-weekly meetings with fishing industry groups, in particular the At-Sea Processors Association, in a persistent effort on the part of the Coast Guard to keep the fleet informed. The testimony during the Senate subcommittee hearing was prompted by a late summer incident in which commercial fishermen legally harvesting in the Bering Sea EEZ felt threatened by Russian vessels engaged in war games.

Subcommittee chair Sen. Dan Sullivan noted that Russia has opened 16 deep-water ports, 14 airfields, built Arctic military basses and formed a new northern Arctic command. “Russian provocation has only increased,” said Sullivan. “Without persistent U.S. presence in the Arctic, we risk leaving an opening for these types of aggressive actions to continue.”

The subcommittee also heard from Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association. Madsen told the subcommittee “that in any future incident such as this, U.S. authorities must be far more active in safeguarding our sovereign fishing rights.”

Madsen said that in the aftermath of the incident, the At-Sea Processors learned that the confrontations were related to a major Russian military exercise of which the government received notice, yet nothing about the exercise was communicated to the fishing fleet.

She also said that this kind of harassment simply cannot be allowed to become a new normal.

“Our sovereign right to legally fish within the U.S. EEZ must be protected,” she said.

From our vantage point, a robust U.S. military presence to protect U.S. interests in the region is simply non-negotiable.”

Saildrones Employed to Produce Annual Estimate of Alaska Pollack Abundance

Saildrone wind and solar powered ocean-going robots filled a special need in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic to gather data needed by NOAA Fisheries to measure Alaska Pollock abundance in Alaska’s Bering and Chukchi seas.

Data gathered in these surveys every other year is critical to manage Pollock, the nation’s largest commercial fishery. Normally NOAA Fisheries conducts acoustic-trawl surveys from crewed research vessel, but because of the pandemic many research surveys were cancelled. To compensate, fisheries scientist Alex De Robertis at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center developed a contingency plan using Saildrones, which are equipped with solar power acoustic sensors to do the research in the Bering and Chukchi seas.

Three Saildrones used for the survey left California in mid-May and sailed 2200 nautical miles to the Bering Sea. From July 4 through Aug. 20, they worked to collect information to estimate Pollock abundance and oceanographic and atmospheric information for weather forecasting, then sailed back to Saildrone headquarters in Alameda, California. NOAA Fisheries received the data in mid-October, in time to share with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, for assessments of stock abundance and trends in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska. The total biomass (weight) of midwater Pollock was 3.6 million metric tons, about 45 percent higher than in 2018, the last time a NOAA research vessel-based acoustic-trawl survey was done. The assessment model combined this survey with other projections of the on-bottom portion of the stock and age structure of the population. Overall, the data indicated that Pollock populations declined by roughly 14 percent from 2019 to 2020.

While not a substitute for the full spectrum of tasks that crewed research vessel surveys can do.

The technology proved to be highly effective in an unusual year, NOAA officials said.

Funds for the project were provided by NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Federal Fisheries Managers Close Lower Cook Inlet EEZ to Commercial Harvesters

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council this week heard extensive testimony opposed to closing off the exclusive economic zero to commercial salmon fishing, then voted to do so anyhow by a vote of 10-0, with one council member abstaining.

That was Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for Alaska for NOAA Fisheries, who said he chose not to participate in the vote in large part because of anticipated litigation over the outcome.

“I also thought,” said Balsiger, “that the council action did not reflect the request of the 230 public commenting letters or the oral comment from 30 people who testified at the (virtual) meeting. There was a failure to communicate with the interested party who advocated for an action that the council could not legally take.”

NPFMC members took final action on the issue to comply with a 2015 court ordered deadline to produce a salmon management plan for Cook Inlet’s EEZ, which lies beyond three miles from shore.

According to Rachel Baker, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the alternative sought by commercial harvesters would have resulted in a situation in which there would be complex dual federal and state management systems in Cook Inlet. “The state of Alaska is unwilling to accept delegated management authority,” she told the council. Several council members, while visibly unhappy with the options that remained, then settled on the alternative which cut off the commercial fleet from all but state waters.

The only testimony in favor of the alternative approved came from Ben Mohr, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

The council also heard from representatives for the city of Kenai, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and state Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, all of whom spoke to the dire socio-economic impact the council’s decision would have on their communities.

Dave Martin, president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, the trade group representing the drift gillnet fleet in Cook Inlet, said that UCEDA would have to challenge the council’s decision, but first wanted to see what the reaction would be from National Marine Fisheries service and the federal Department of Commerce.

Martin also said he is extremely disappointed in the administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “This administration does not want to manage the fishery in Cook Inlet as laid out by the Magnuson-Steven Act and to protect the economics of local communities,” he said.

Senate Approves Young Fishermen’s Development Act

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act, modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, has passed the U.S. Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

The program, to be run through Sea Grant, would provide education, training and grants to help young fishermen needed by the seafood industry to fill the gap crated by the graying of the fleet.

“Right now it is challenging for young fishermen to get into business,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) in Sitka, an advocate of apprenticeship programs for those seeking a career in fisheries. “This legislation will provide education and training. It is something our group helped draft. We are really excited to try to get the act passed. Our (congressional) delegation has been a positive part of moving it ahead,” she said.

ALFA and other Alaska fisheries entities are concerned that the average age of Alaska’s commercial fishermen is now 50 years old, up by nearly a decade since 1980 and that fishery access permits and quota shares. With no single federal program currently in place to train, educate and otherwise assist the next generation of commercial harvesters, ALFA joined forces with the Fishing Communities Coalition, a nationwide fisheries advocacy group, to call for a national program to support young fishermen.

Through the federal legislation, the Fishing Communities Coalition hopes to create training and educational opportunities in the business of fisheries, plus mentorships/apprenticeship opportunities to connect retiring fishermen and vessel owners with those just entering the fisheries and foster a conservation ethic that prioritizes sustainable fishing practices and marine stewardship. Proponents of the legislation see this as a groundbreaking step to protect the stability of coastal fishing communities and the nation’s seafood supply chain.

2020 Coast Guard Authorization Act Passes House, Moves to Senate

The Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Act of 2020 has passed the House, along with legislation reauthorizing and supporting Maritime Administration programs and now moves to the Senate.

The legislation, named in honor of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, former chair of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, reauthorizes the Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission. The legislation includes increased authorized funding for the Coast Guard at $11.9 billion for fiscal year 2021, which will allow the Coast Guard to procure the new Polar Security Cutters to replace the one remaining heavy icebreaker, acquire four more Fast Response Cutters and access the nearly $2 billion backlog of the Coast Guard’s shore infrastructure and facility maintenance needs. The legislation further enhances vessel safety by including reforms identified by the National Transportation Safety Board, authorizes new family leave and childcare policies, and supports increased gender and racial diversity at the Coast Guard Academy and within the ranks.

Provisions with the legislation related to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) include reauthorization of MARAD programs to provide financial assistance to the U.S. Maritime Transportation System in the event of a national emergency or disaster such as the current COVID-19 public health emergency. Provisions also support recruitment, training and retention related to merchant mariners, support for projects at smaller and inland ports and terminals, and establishment of a National Shipper Advisory Committee to ensure U.S. competitiveness in the international ocean freight delivery system.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, said he is especially proud that the House is honoring the late Elijah Cummings by not only naming the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act after him, but also building on his long-time efforts to improve diversity and inclusion among the Coast Guard ranks.

Updated Arctic Report Card Shows Rising Temperatures, Diminished Sea Ice

A new report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration documents how climate change is warming the Arctic as a whole nearly three times as fast as the rest of the planet, mainly due to increased emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

The 2020 Arctic Report Card speaks to the continuing transformation of the Arctic into a warmer, less frozen and biologically changed region.

2020 marks the 15th year of the Artic Report Card. While in 2006 it was clear that the Arctic was changing, the complexity of change was less understood and the rapidity of change that would occur in just a few years, highlighted by the (then) record-smashing low September 2007 sea ice extent, was unanticipated, participating researchers said.

An important development over the last 15 years has been the strengthened commitments to collaborate with indigenous peoples of the Arctic so that their integrated cumulative, holistic understanding of the Arctic environment acquired over many generations critically contributes to a shared understanding of changes occurring across the region. Researchers note that the Arctic sea ice itself has a story to tell, of change and transformation on daily, seasonal and decadal scales. It is a story of complex interactions and feedbacks, of processes that link the ice in myriad ways with the Arctic and global systems, they said.

With climate warming compelling some commercially harvested fish to move north, and for overall sea traffic in the Arctic increasing, these changes are of interest to harvesters and processors alike.

A summary report of the Arctic Report Card is online at

New Marine Debris Strategic Plan Announced by NOAA

A new marine debris strategy plan announced by NOAA Fisheries for 2021-2025 highlights plans for the program’s staff and partners to work together for the next five years to free the oceans and coastlines from the impact of marine debris.

Six goals included in the program include a priority of prevention, plus removal, research, response, coordination and a new goal” monitoring and detection. Plans also include a new focus on using innovative technology and a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, NOAA officials said.

Marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment.

NOAA officials said their prevention goals include increasing the number of people participating in formal and informal marine debris education and outreach opportunities, to develop outreach products, including exhibits to raise awareness about marine debris, and to support at least 60 prevention projects that provide practical solutions to reduce marine debris.

Research steps will include developing collaborative research projects with federal and international partners, and within NOAA itself to advance shared research priorities and then disseminating marine debris research findings through webinars, workshops and presentations to inform and connect stakeholders.

The plan also calls for increasing the number of volunteer-surveyed monitoring sites by 50 percent to expand the spatial coverage of the Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Program (MDMAP), retention of 75 percent of new MDMAP sites for at least two years to expand the number of long-term monitoring partnerships for data continuity and integrating emerging remote sensing technologies to improve debris detection capabilities and outputs within the marine debris community.

NOAA officials also announced their fiscal year 2021 North America Marine Debris Prevention and Removal notice of funding opportunity, with funds provided through the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act. NOAA plans to award up to $5 million in fiscal year 2021 to fund projects addressing marine debris issues in the U.S.-Mexico and U.S-Canada border areas. Projects that include collaboration with partners in Mexico and/or Canada will be prioritized, they said.

Full proposals are due by Jan 29. Information on grant opportunities are online at and

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Pacific Northwest Coho Threatened
by Runoff from Tires

A new University of Washington study confirms that chemicals from car tires turns streams toxic and is proving deadly to Pacific Northwest coho salmon returning to spawn in those waters. The findings show that 6PPD-quinone — a highly toxic oxidation product of tire rubber particles — turns streams toxic and may be responsible for the annual die-offs observed among migrating adult salmon across the Pacific Northwest. Researchers say such regular acute mortality events, mostly in urbanized watersheds, is estimated to kill 40 percent to 90 percent of returning salmon before they have a chance to spawn.

Retrospective analysis also suggests that this deadly compound is widespread in stormwater-impacted waterways across the West Coast of the United States.

UW associate professor Edward Kolodziej notes that anecdotal reports of urban stormwater killing coho salmon first occurred in the 1980s in Bellingham, Washington. This occurrence was documented around Seattle in the 2000s by Nat Scholz and others at NOAA’s Montalke laboratory, “but as far as I know, nobody has really paid attention to possible coho sensitivity to stormwater and roadway runoff elsewhere,” he said.

Jenifer McIntyre, an assistant professor at Washington State University’s School of the Environment in Puyallup, said that by dying in droves in urban streams, coho salmon have let researchers know that they are incredibly sensitive to something in stormwater runoff.

“Decades of research by NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and UW has confirmed that roadway runoff contains the ‘something’ in stormwater runoff, and that tires are the most likely source,” McIntyre said. “Now that we have identified the chemical driving that toxicity in coho salmon we are starting to investigate the sensitivity of other aquatic animals to this toxicant,” she said. Researchers know that coho salmon are more sensitive to stormwater than many other species they have studied, but they have yet to determine whether this is directly related to their sensitivity to 6PPD-quinone, and they still don’t know the vulnerability of other aquatic life to this newly discovered contaminant.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

USACE Denies Critical Permit for the Proposed Pebble Mine, PLP Vows to Challenge Decision

A long-term legal battle over whether a Canadian mining company can build a massive mine abutting the Bristol Bay watershed may be at an abrupt end, or maybe not.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just said no this past week to granting a critical permit required under the Clean Water Act to the Pebble Limited Partnership, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited, of Vancouver, British Columbia. Backers of the mine plan to challenge that decision.

Meanwhile fisheries and environmental entities, including the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, hailed the Corps’ decision.

“This is a joyous and momentous day for Bristol Bay fishermen,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the BBRSDA, which represents drift gillnet harvesters in the Bay. “So many people have dedicated so much of themselves to effectively participate in this process for the sake of our businesses, our families, the local residents, future generations, and most of all for the millions of salmon that call Bristol Bay home.”

Katherine Carscallen, executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, said the next step is to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to reestablish protections for Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act. “We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” said Carscallen. “We are looking to Senators (Dan) Sullivan and (Lisa) Murkowski to work with us to restore certainty for Bristol Bay’s 14,000 fishermen through full and durable protections for Bristol Bay.”

Carscallen said she also hope that President-elect Jo Biden will be true to his commitment to protect Bristol Bay and reestablish Clean Water Act protections for the famed salmon fishery, which provide hundreds of millions of dollars in annual income and $1.5 billion in economic activity, thanks to the salmon.

Managers of the Pebble Limited Partnership meanwhile aren’t ready to call it quits. John Shively, chief executive officer of the PLP, expressed his dismay over the Corps’

decision and said the PLP is in the process of working out next steps for the project, including an appeal of the Corps’ decision. Shively said backers of the mine have worked closely with the USAE staff to understand their requirements for responsibly developing the project. This effort led to a comprehensive, positive environmental impact statement for the project that clearly stated it could be developed responsibly, he said.

Training Resources Ltd Launches Free App for Mariners to Track Their Credentials, Sea Time

Training Resources Limited, Inc. (TRLMI), in San Diego, has launched a new app, SeaLog, to help mariners can track their credentials and sea time.

According to Dave Abrams, CEO of TRLMI, SeaLog was designed to help mariners, so they don’t have to worry about when their credentials or training certificates are expiring. TRLMI is the largest privately held provider of maritime training in the western U.S.

SeaLog is free to download and use, and there is no advertising within the app. The app will provide reminders set up by mariners and retain copies of every certificate. SeaLog also tracks sea time and allows the mariners to output a spreadsheet file with the information required by the Coast Guard’s Sea Service form, Abrams said.

SeaLog will provide mariners with alerts by text or email, and through the app TRLMI will offer news updates on changes in Coast Guard policies that affect mariners. When outside of cell/wifi range, the app will still allow mariners to view their certificates and sea time. All data is stored in secure servers in the U.S. and TRLMI does not share user data with any third parties, so mariners are assured that their information is secure.

Here are links to download the app: (Apple) (Android)

For company training/human resources departments, TRLMI can use the app database to provide status reports about training readiness of their mariners. For some that will mean no more last-minute crew changes because a credential is expiring.

TRLMI ‘s main campus in San Diego is an 18,000 square foot facility with 14 classrooms, bridge and engine room simulators and many “hands on” training aids. More about the company is online at

ADF&G Plans eDNA Detection for Invasive European Green Crabs in Southeast Alaska

None have been spotted yet in the waters of Southeast Alaska, but the alert is on for European green crabs, one of the most invasive species in the marine environment.

Linda Shaw, invasive species coordinator for the Alaska regional office of NOAA Fisheries, said her office had already formed partnerships to monitor these voracious crustaceans, who devour juvenile king crab as well as juvenile salmon. They also destroy eelgrass habitat where larval fish hide from predators and outcompete Dungeness crab for food and habitat.

NOAA Fisheries biologists say alarm bells went off in Alaska after natural resource managers in British Columbia discovered several adult male and female European green crabs on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, off the coast of Prince Rupert this past July. The European green crabs introduced to North America in the 1800s, likely traveling in ballast water of merchant ships from Europe and were first detected in the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. The species is actually native to the northeast Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Shaw and Alaska Sea Grant Fellow Meredith Pochardt decided on a plan to use environmental DNA or eDNA to detect the possible presence of these crab in Alaskan waters. They collaborated with invasive species researchers from Washington state and British Columbia on a monitoring design or trapping combined with eDNA water sampling. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the molecule containing the genetic code of organisms and the cellular material shed by organisms into the environment is eDNA. The plan is to collect seawater from various locations around Alaska and test it for genetic material from European green crab.

The project was delayed when the novel coronavirus hit Alaska, but through their partnership with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Shaw and Pochardt were able to help scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center obtain the tools needed.

As time allowed NOAA research fish biologist Charlie Waters at AFSC and his research partner, Dave Nicolls, were finally able to set traps at the Little Port Walter Research Station on the southeastern tip of Baranof Island in late October, using specialized fish traps. When they pulled the traps they found sculpins and Pacific cod but no European green crabs.

Once the eDNA from the water in that one round of sampling is examined, they will know more, and they hope to continue their efforts next season.

The 2020 sampling effort will provide baseline data on the presence of European green crab in southeast Alaska and planning is underway to continue monitoring for this voracious invasive species in 2021 The monitoring program also includes Ketchikan, Juneau, Cordova, Valdez, Tatitlik, Whittier, Chenega Bay, Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor.

Coast Guard: Winterize Boats Across the
Pacific Northwest

Coast Guard officials in Seattle are reminding that all vessel owners carefully winterize their boats, to ensure their safety, the longevity of the vessels and to safeguard the maritime community and environment around them.

The reminder was issued this week because of the frequent need for Coast Guard responses to sunken vessels and oil discharges in marinas due to poor winterization.

These winterization chores include removal of excess gear to make way for cleaning and any necessary repairs, entailing an inspection of all safety gear and replacing any defective gear, including life jackets, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

Bilge water should be properly disposed of and any fresh water tanks, fittings and lines drained. All boat plugs and seals should be checked to ensure they are properly set and ready for winter, to prevent water lines and tanks from cracking, causing internal water damage, including mold.

Use environmentally friendly chemicals to clean the vessel, and properly dispose of any chemicals, oils and batteries, as need be.

Whether leaving the boat in the water for the winter or taking it out, disconnect batteries, shut and lock all doors and windows and secure all covers.

The Coast Guard also recommends double checking all moorings to ensure they are secure. If the boat is taken out of the water, shrink wrapping is also an option. Sealing the vessel is extremely important in preventing capsizing due to heavy rainfall or icing.

‘Tis The Season

By Dave Abrams, Publisher

New Year’s has always been my favorite holiday of the year (followed closely by the 4th of July). It’s a day all about new beginnings. About putting another year behind us and resolving to do new and better things in the year ahead. It’s a day of celebration without any of the gift giving pressures, and a day that is celebrated by the vast majority of the global population.

When that clock strikes midnight around the world on December 31st, I think there is going to be universal agreement that 2021 holds promise of better things to come. I know most of us are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror as soon as possible. Not that it’s been all bad – for example, this year brought the opportunity for me to take the helm at PMM and FN online! I’m a glass half full kinda guy, and I am hopeful that some of the lessons we learned this year will make life easier in the future.

But New Year’s does not get the attention it deserves. This time of year, it’s all about Christmas. ‘Tis the season as they say. And everyone in the Maritime Industry are the unsung heroes of Christmas. Yes, Santa may have his elves putting all those toys together, but let’s face it, Santa outgrew that sleigh long ago, and without the ships and ports transporting goods around the globe, Christmas would not be the same. Over 90% of global trade arrives by ship. We’ve been reporting on various ports on the West Coast having record breaking numbers, which would be news in normal times, but during a global pandemic - wow!

So for all of you who are helping to move cargo this time of year, cheers to you! You are Santa’s real helpers, and we know many of you are staying out to sea longer or putting in much longer days at the port to get the job done. Thank you for making it happen.

Wishing you all a very happy & healthy holiday season! Be safe out there.

You can reach Dave Abrams at

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