Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Strong Markets Await Millions of Wild Alaska Salmon

Alaska’s salmon harvest has now surpassed the midpoint of the forecasted harvest. As of July 31, about 54% of this year’s projected harvest of 190 million fish had been caught, says Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The total salmon harvest is now 10% above the year-to-date total for last year (using 2019 for pinks) and is 5% above the five-year year-to-date average. Most of the fish caught last week were pink salmon, which are continuing their early-season surge, particularly in Prince William sound (up 123% from 2019) and Southeast Alaska (up 22%). The pink salmon harvest usually peaks in mid-August.

Markets for Alaska’s commercial salmon catch remained strong in the last days of July as deliveries rose by millions of Alaska salmon, with sockeye and king harvests waning and a surge in the humpy harvest boosting the preliminary overall catch towards 95 million fish.

Markets are especially strong right now for all kinds of products, whether canned, fillets or headed and gutted, said Dan Lesh, a fisheries economist who compiles in-season weekly commercial salmon harvest reports for McKinley Capital Management on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

In the Arctic-Kuskokwim-Yukon region, growing pink salmon runs in recent years led to increased buying capacity in Norton Sound this year. Lesh notes that A-Y-K pink salmon harvests are up 176% from 2019, while keta fishing has been poor and this year’s harvest of keta salmon is down $89 from the region’s five-year average.

Weekly coho harvests are climbing steadily, but at a peace less than half of the five-year-average and similar to last year’s poor showing, he said. Typically, about one quarter of the year’s coho harvests have been delivered by this time, compared to just 14% this year. The peak of coho deliveries is typically in early September.

While there have been some supply chain issues due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, in general markets are very strong and it is a positive story overall for this summer, he said.

By Aug. 3 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary Alaska commercial harvest report showed some 105 million salmon delivered to processors, bringing preliminary totals to 51 million sockeyes, 47 million pink, 5.7 million chums, 539,000 cohos and 165,000 Chinooks.

“The news (for markets) has been increasingly positive over the last month,” he said. “The markets are strengthening, and especially strong in frozen products.” In Bristol Bay along, harvesters in the Nushagak district have now delivered nearly 18 million salmon, followed by 8.9 million fish in the Naknek-Kvichak, 8 million in Egegik and 5 million in the Ugashak. The overall Prince William Sound harvest included 31 million pinks, 2.5 million chums and 1.2 million sockeyes, while in the Alaska Peninsula the overall catch included six million sockeyes, 4.3 million pinks, 1.0 million chums, 87,000 cohos and 9,000 Chinooks.

At Kodiak the catch rose to 4.9 million salmon, with deliveries reaching 2.1 million sockeyes, 2.4 million pinks, 300,000 chums, 39,000 cohos and 7,000 Chinooks.

USDA Seeks Bids for 7.9M Pounds of Frozen Alaska Pollock

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are looking to distribute some 7.9 million pounds of frozen Alaska Pollock products from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 through the National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

According to Craig Morris, chief executive officer of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, that would bring USDA purchases for fiscal year 2021 to nearly 18.3 million pounds of Alaska Pollock, one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries, with the largest concentrations in the Eastern Bering Sea.

“We estimate they will spend about $20 million on this contract and that would bring the total (USDA) dollars spent on wild Alaska Pollock this fiscal year to $45 million,” he said.

USDA officials said winning bids for bids on Pollock fillets, nuggets and fish sticks would be announced in mid-August.

“It’s an exciting thing to wake up to om a Friday morning,” Morris said of the announcement issued on the last Friday of July. ”I knew the invitation was coming, but I didn’t know it would happen today. It makes us really proud of what we have done to build demand for the perfect protein produced right here in the USA.”

Over the past year Alaska Pollock has boosted its rating among the top 10 seafoods consumed in the country, he said. The three major niches are as a prepared frozen food item, chilled as surimi and as a fast food item in fish sandwiches served nationwide. A number of fast food chains that were selling other fish have switched to Alaska Pollock, Morris said.

“We are wild, Alaska caught, mild tasting, very nutritious and are an unmatched sustainability sourced, and the carbon footprint of Alaska Pollock is a lot lower than any other protein, including meat, chicken and plant-based burgers,” he remarked.

NOAA Fisheries promotes U.S. wild-caught Alaska Pollock as a smart seafood choice that is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested using midwater trawl nets, under U.S. government regulations.

Alaska Pollock, a member of the cod family, is considered one of the most valuable fisheries in the world. In 2018 alone commercial landings of Alaska Pollock from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska totaled over 3.36 billion pounds and were valued at over $490.8 million.

NOAA Fisheries also notes that 100% of Pollock fishing boats in the Bering Sea carry scientifically trained observers, who monitor and count al Pacific salmon caught incidentally in Pollock nets. These salmon may not be landed or sold by the Pollock fishery, but when feasible, they are doated to local Alaska food banks.

Endangered Orca Whales Get Expanded Habitat Protections

Help has come through for endangered Southern Resident orca whales along the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and as far south as Point Sur, California, in the form of expanded critical habitat areas.

The newly designated critical habitat areas finalized on July 30 by the National Marine Fisheries Service span 15,910 square miles of Pacific Ocean waters off the West Coast. This designation encompasses waters where we now know that the Southern Residents hunt for salmon from West Coast rivers and other marine species, NMFS officials said. While the expansion of critical habitat recognizes that the orcas forage across much of the West Coast, the new protections for the whales are unlikely to extensively affect coastal activities like fishing, according to the officials.

The environmental protection and restoration group Oceana praised the decision to expand critical habitat for the Southern Resident orcas, whose population has dropped to 75 individuals, across three pods.

“The critical habitat designation will help ensure Southern Resident orcas have an ocean abundant with large salmon that is free from binding ship noise and toxic chemicals,” said Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist with Oceana. “Orca and salmon recovery go hand-in-hand, with benefits to a healthy ocean ecosystem, salmon fisheries, and communities throughout the region,” he said.

The federal fisheries officials and the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which makes recommendations to NOAA Fisheries on fishing seasons and regulations, said they had already taken into consideration the killer whales and Chinook salmon in setting salmon harvest quotas. NOAA completed a biological opinion on the operation of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2020, after concluding that hatchery salmon more than make up for any reduction in salmon numbers related to operation of the dams. Research based on the DNA signatures of West Coast salmon stocks showed that killer whales prey on salmon from a diversity of West Coast rivers, that span as far south as the Sacramento River and north to Canada and Alaska, they said.

The one notable change from the coastal critical habitat NOAA Fisheries originally proposed in November 2019 was to reduce the excluded buffer area around excluded Quinault Range Site, which the U.S. Navy uses for various training and testing activities in support of military readiness. The final plan also includes a biological explanation of how human-induced noise impacts the conservation value of the designated critical habitat for the endangered orcas.

National Maritime Center Offers Updates on Training Courses, Programs

Officials with the National Maritime Center say the last automatic course and program extensions, based on the COVID-19 pandemic, expired on June 30 and Marine Training Providers should address the need for individual extensions by emailing

The current inventory of course and program approval requests is high and it is taking 90 days or more for NMC staff to begin reviewing a request, so request for renewals should be submitted early. The NMC says it is proactively reaching out to providers who have already submitted renewal requests in a timely manner to ensure courses do not expire while awaiting evaluation. Those with questions should contact

Coast Guard officials note that they recently transitioned to a Microsoft Office 365 environment, which has resulted in both positive and negative impacts on operations. The transition increased the allowable size of email attachments from 10MB to 35 MB; the system may reject larger files without notice to the sender. Those who have not received acknowledgement of their email within 10 business days should contact the NMC.

The transition did impact access to the email address used to request Homeport accounts for uploading course completion and curricula data. While this has been corrected, anyone who submitted a request and has not heard back should send new request.

For further information or concerns, email or call 1-888-IASKNMC (888-427-5662)

Conservation Groups Seek Permanent Ban on BC Mine Waste Facilities

Two fisheries conservation entities focused on protection of wild salmon habitat say they will appeal to the federal governments of the United States and Canada for a temporary halt to permitting, exploration, development and expansion of British Columbia mines.

Salmon Beyond Borders and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) said on Aug. 3 that they also are seeking a permanent ban of mine waste facilities. The announcement came on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster of Aug. 4, 2014, when a breach in the tailings pond of the Mount Polley copper and gold mine owned by Imperial Metals released water and slurry with years’ worth of mining waste into Polley Lake. The wastes flowed on into Hazeltine Creek and the Quesnel Lake watershed, a major source of drinking water and home to one quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon.

BC fisheries officials have already agreed to meet with SEITC to discuss a plan proposed by SEITC to temporarily halt certain mining related activities pending a binding international agreement on watershed protections which are consistent with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already shut down nearly 60% of the commercial salmon fisheries in the province, which are of economic and cultural importance to residents of the BC coast. Commercial fishing for salmon on the Yukon River, which flows from the coast of western Alaska, is also closed for the season, as it is across the border for both Alaska commercial and subsistence harvesters. On both sides of the border, it is seen as a necessary effort to save critically low numbers of Pacific salmon.

The two nonprofit entities are wary about how mining upstream might adversely impact habitat in the salmon rich transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska. On both sides of the border the salmon are a critical food source for both people and wildlife.

According to Jill Weitz, campaign director for Salmon Beyond Borders, plans are to collaborate with officials in 13 communities in Southeast Alaska, and the British Columbia Mining Law Reform Network, as well as communities in Washington state, Idaho and Montana in the effort to slow the impact of mining on salmon habitat in transboundary rivers, then delivery their plea to safeguard the transboundary ecosystem to President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau by late September or early October.

From the Editor: Untangling the Web

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

Did you know that for many years, Fishermen’s News has had two separate websites on which its content is hosted?

There’s Fishermen’s News Online ( where certain content is posted, such as articles that are generated for our weekly Fishermen’s News newsletter as well as the editorial you’re reading right now.

Then there’s the “main” or “regular” Fishermen’s News website (, which hosts the content that appears in the print edition of the magazine.

The reason I point this out is that at some point in the not-to-distant future, the two shall become one, and all content will appear on the main site.

The transition is actually already underway, although there’s still quite a road ahead before it’s complete. Currently, if you go to the “main” site, you’ll see that some of the stories from the weekly newsletter have started cropping up there.

Also new to the site is the addition of digital versions of previous issues of the magazine. Currently, you can find all articles from the April/May and June/July issues by going to the site and clicking on the “Issues” tab under the logo on the left side of the home page.

To be clear, for the time being, newsletter content will appear on both sites. But the plan is to eventually migrate everything over to the main site and discontinue using the Blogger site.

This consolidation, we hope, will make things easier for you as a reader, as all the magazine and newsletter content will be all under one roof, so to speak, and you won’t have to search multiple websites to find it.

The process is ongoing and is expected to last several more months, but I’ll update you once the migration is nearing completion. In the meantime, please continue to visit both sites to view the content that our hardworking team of professionals is continuously generating.


Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at:

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

New Legislation to Reauthorize Magnuson-Stevens Act Introduced in U.S. House

New legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), is now before the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act was introduced by Representatives Jared Huffman, D-CA, and Ed Case, D-HI, in the wake of a listening tour by Huffman to collect comments on issues facing numerous entities that depend on healthy fisheries.

Huffman is the chair and Case is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife.

Huffman said that while MSA has worked well, new approaches are needed in this era of climate change, new technologies, evolving science needs and increasing ocean use. The new legislation rises to the challenges of the 21st century and includes critical updates to the landmark law, he said.

“With the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act we can strengthen fishing communities and ensure a high standard of sustainable fisheries management continues well into the future,” he remarked.

The proposed amendments to MSA in the new legislation include consideration of climate change in regional fishery management council priorities and planning, and an improved disaster relief program, a working waterfront grant program and increased support of seafood marketing. Other amendments would increase representation of different viewpoints on regional fishery management councils, expand electronic technologies and data management systems, update cooperative research and management, and strengthen essential fish habitat consultation, building on MSA conservation standards to improve outcomes for overfishing and rebuilding and conserving forage fish.

According to Robert Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the new legislation offers several crucial improvements to federal marine policy, including for the first time addressing effects of climate change on U.S. ocean fisheries, by incorporating climate science and adaptation strategies into management decisions.

The bill also incorporates language to provide support for working waterfronts by allocating funds and resources to improve coastal infrastructure and deal with the growing threats of climate change, Vandermark said, adding that it further recognizes the need for accurate, timely and verified catch data for all major commercial and recreational fisheries and includes measures to modernize data collection methods and utilize electronic technologies to improve catch accounting, particularly in the recreational sector.

NOAA Fisheries Boosts Chinook Salmon Catch Through July 31

Commercial harvesters from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border were given a catch increase of 20 Chinook salmon per week in the commercial troll season fishery for the open periods of July 22-28 and July 29-31 by NOAA Fisheries.

The decision was made by NOAA in consultation with the Oregon and California department of Fish and Wildlife, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and fishery representatives.

Oregon fisheries officials said catches in the Humbug Mt. to Oregon/California border July quota fishery have lagged behind expectations.

Through the first three openers on July 1-7, July 8-14 and July 15-21, a total of 77 Chinooks had been landed, leaving a remainder on the quota of 139 kings. Increasing the weekly landing and possession limit to 20 kings would provide a better chance of approaching the quota, Oregon fisheries officials said.

Participating vessels in the Humbug Mt. to Oregon/California border are reminded of the mandatory reporting of landings within one hour of delivery or prior to transport away from the port of landing. These reports may be made by calling (541) 867-0300 ext. 252 or via email to

The reports should include the vessel name and documentation number, number of Chinook salmon landed, port of landing, name of the fish buyer to whom the fish are sold and estimated time of delivery, state officials said.

$35M Allocated for Design/Build of New UC San Diego Coastal Research Vessel

California legislators have allocated $35 million for a new coastal research vessel for the University of California-San Diego, for education and research to boost understanding of the California climate change impacts on the coastal ecosystem.

The 125-foot vessel, expected to take three years for design, build and commission, would replace the research vessel Robert Gordon Sproul, which has been used for nearly 40 years to educate thousands of UC San Diego students. The vessel is to be operated by the university’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“After a four-decade run, it is high time Scripps built a new research vessel that can keep up with the high-caliber work they continue to churn out, and help our state navigate the troubles waters of sea level rise and our evolving climate,” said California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins.

The hybrid-hydrogen design for the new vessel represents an innovation in the maritime industry, which is essential to the University of California’s carbon neutrality initiative with a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. The new vessel will feature a hybrid propulsion system that integrates hydrogen fuel cells alongside a conventional diesel-electric power plant, enabling zero-emission operations. The design allows the ship to operate 75% of its missions entirely using a non-fossil fuel –hydrogen – with only pure water and electricity as reaction products. For longer missions, extra power would be provided by clean-running modern diesel generators.

“Our vision is to build an uncompromising, fully capable oceanographic research vessel that can be powered independently from fossil fuels and be free from the criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions that diesel-powered ships emit,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director and head of ship operations at Scripps Oceanography. “In doing so, we hope to both serve our scientists and students while being a world leader for transformational change to clean, nonpolluting shipboard power systems.”

The vessel is to be equipped with instruments and sensing systems, including acoustic Doppler current profilers, seafloor mapping systems, midwater fishery imaging systems, biological and geological sampling systems, and support for airborne drone operations. These capabilities, along with state-of-the-art laboratories, would allow for broadly multidisciplinary research, to advance understanding of the physical and biological processes active in California’s coastal oceans, university officials said.

The feasibility study to conceptualize the hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion technology for the vessel was initially completed in 2020 by Sandia National Laboratories, Glosten, and Scripps, funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

The budget also includes essential environmental research to UC San Diego including $15 million toward the ALERTWildfire program to help reach the goal of 1,000 wildfire camera installations in California by 2022.

Oceana Sues NMFS Over Sardine Rebuilding Plan

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the environmental entity Oceana against National Marine Fisheries Service contends that a current Pacific sardine rebuilding plan is not working, nor does it take into account the importance of a healthy sardine population to other species.

The lawsuit, filed by non-profit public interest organization Earthjustice on behalf of Oceana, notes that Pacific sardine numbers have dropped by over 98% since 2006, and according to a 2020 federal assessment the current population is only 28,276 metric tons. Historically when that population was healthy, its abundance measured in millions of metric tons, the lawsuit contends.

Ruth Howell, speaking for NMFS in California, said the agency had no comment at this time.

Sardines are an essential food for humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, brown pelicans, marbled murrelets and other critters.

Geoff Shester, senior scientist and California campaign director for Oceana, claims that fishery managers have plainly ignored best available science indicating an impending collapse and allowed catch levels that have cause yet another collapse of Cannery Row era proportions of the 1950s.

Pacific sardines were officially declared “overfished” in 2019, which legally requires development of a rebuilding plan within two years. The lawsuit notes that between 2013 and 2019, over 9,000 starving California sea lion pups and yearlings washed up on beaches and that from 2010 to 2015, brown pelicans had unprecedented reproductive failures in the U.S. Pacific area due to lack of adequate sardines and anchovies.

Bristol Bay Processors Donate 25,000 Lbs. of Salmon to Yukon River Villagers

Six major processors of Bristol Bay salmon collaborated in late July to gather and transport to Yukon River villages 25,000 pounds of headed and gutted king salmon, a diet staple for hundreds of folks living in subsistence communities along the river.

The project came together in the midst of a wildly successful Bristol Bay salmon harvest, with a harvest of over 40 million sockeye salmon, while on the length of the Yukon River all fishing, including subsistence, was banned by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game because of weak runs of Chinook and keta salmon.

Officials from Alaska General Seafoods, Leader Creek Fisheries, North Pacific Seafoods, OBI Seafoods (Ocean Beauty/Icicle), Silver Bay Seafoods and Trident Seafoods asked SeaShare executive director Jim Harmon to help with coordination and tracking of the fish, which was being delivered to Emmonak and Fairbanks for distribution to surrounding subsistence communities.

“None of this relief effort would have happened without the help of all these companies,” Harmon said. “Collaboratively they are providing 100,000 servings of seafood to the Yukon, all at zero cost to the receiving communities.”

“When it comes to feeding hungry people, the general rule of thumb is you do what you need to do to get the job done,” Harmon added. “And when it comes to feeding those in need in Alaska, it takes an entire industry, from fishermen to processors to transportation, to get the job done.”

Transportation was coordinated by Jim Jansen of Lynden Inc., which worked with Northern Air Cargo and Everts to get the fish to Emmonak and Fairbanks. ADF&G also helped cover some of the air freight charges.

In a normal year, families along the Yukon would put up 45 to 100 kings caught in the subsistence fishery for the winter, smoked and dried, said Jack Schultheis, general manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries at Emmonak.

“They have not had a chance to do that (this year). It is more of a cultural thing. Nobody is going to stare, but that is how they have lived here for a couple of thousand years,” he said.

With no work harvesting and processing Chinook and keta salmon, Kwik’Pak, a subsidiary of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, has turned a new venture in farming, with help from a $350,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation in Anchorage. Twenty-seven high school students from Emmonak were employed to build some 3,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

The farm will create jobs for up to 75 youth and boost local access to fresh produce, including potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, beans, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, Schultheis said. Arctic apple and pear trees are also being planted, but still they sure could use more salmon, he said.

The statewide preliminary commercial salmon harvest count meanwhile was approaching 90 million fish, including 50.4 million sockeyes, 32.6 million pink, more than 6 million chum 358,000 coho and 158,000 Chinook.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Counter Service Appointments are Back at Regional National Maritime Centers

The National Maritime Center has resumed counter service appointments at 18 of its regional examination centers, including three in Alaska, two in California, and one each in Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state.

Mariners wishing to schedule counter service or examination appointments may do so by contacting the appropriate email address or phone numbers:

No walk-in appointments are available. Late arrivals for appointments will not be permitted and will require rescheduling to another date.

Only the mariner conducting business may enter the REC, with other members of their party remaining outside during the appointment. Also, mariners will be subject to COVID-19 screening questions and temperature checks, and any mariners experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will need to reschedule their appointment.

Face coverings are required at all times. Anyone removing a face covering will be dismissed and could be subject to exam module failure, according to the National Maritime Center. Persons with documented health issues that prevent them from wearing face coverings must notify the REC/MU when scheduling appointments.

All fees must be satisfied prior to arrival at the REC for counter service or examination appointments, with the preferred payment method.

Mariners should bring a receipt, their own #2 pencils, photo ID, a non-programmable calculator and plotting equipment. No other personal belongings are allowed in the facility.

Those with questions and concerns may contact the NMC Customer Service Center at or call 1-888-IASKNMC (888-427-5662).

The National Maritime Center also issued an update on its centralized electronic delivery process for renewal examinations, which was launched back in May of 2020.

To date over 1,200 mariners have completed over 3,000 exam modules using this process and feedback on the improved communications and significant reduction in processing time has been overwhelmingly positive, officials said.

Approval to test letters for renewal exams issued on or after May 1, 2020, include directions on how to obtain an electronic exam. Those directions may also be found on the NMC examinations page website,

For questions, concerns or feedback on this process, email or call 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

SE Alaska Sustainability Strategy Ending Old Growth Logging Draws Kudos, Fire

A new federal Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy that will end old growth logging in Tongass National Forest by reinstating the Roadless Rule is elating fishermen and drawing fire from the timber industry.

“The Southeast Alaska ecosystem, which holds as its heart and lungs the Tongass National Forest, can be thought of (as) one marvelous SeaBank, rich in natural capital, paying generous annual dividends, and with assets that support local jobs and a sustainable economy,” said Linda Behnken, a veteran commercial harvester and president of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka.

The Tongass provides 95% of the 53 million salmon annually harvested by Southeast Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries, which are the cornerstone of the sustainable local economy, Behnken said.

The Alaska Forest Association, an industry trade association in Ketchikan, adamantly disagreed with the USDA decision.

“AFA recognizes the immense work undertaken by U.S. Forest Service employees in the Tongass and in Region 10 during the last eight years to move forward with a commitment to supply, preserve and retain the timber industry in the Tongass,” said Tessa Axelson, executive director of AFA, in a statement.

“What a monumental loss for the USFS, the Tongass and Alaska that this work will be set aside,” she said. “Professionals, not politics, should manage the region’s natural resources.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture strategy announced in mid-July mandates the USDA to work with partners and communities in Southeast Alaska and consult with tribes and Alaska Native corporations in a collaborative process to invest $25 million in financial and technical resources in sustainable opportunities for economic growth and community well-being and identify priorities for future investments, the agency said.

In announcing the transition away from old growth logging on July 15, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his agency looked forward to meaningful consultation with communities, partners, the state, tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations to prioritize management and investments in the region that reflect a holistic approach to the region’s diverse values. The mandate of the collaborative effort is to provide opportunities for recreation, fisheries and the fishing industry, mariculture, renewable energy and sustainable timber management, including or young growth, traditional and customary cultural uses, and carbon sequestration.

The USDA decision to halt old growth logging and road building in the nation’s largest national forest also received kudos also from conservation entities and criticism from Alaska’s congressional delegation.

“The real value of the Tongass is in its abundant fish and wildlife, its cultural resources and in its beautiful scenery and wild landscapes,” said Austin Williams, director of law and policy in Alaska for Trout Unlimited.

The state’s congressional delegation meanwhile cited the USDA decision as a detriment to the economic future of Southeast Alaska.

CDFW Relocates 1.1M Juvenile Fall Run Chinook Salmon

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has relocated 1.1 million juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon from the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in Siskiyou County to a nearby satellite facility and to the Trinity River Hatchery, 122 miles away. There, the young Chinooks will remain until conditions improve from the drought impacting the Klamath River.

The baby salmon, about seven months old and about three inches in length, normally are released into the Klamath River in May and June. Due to warm water, low water flow and exceedingly high probability of the fish succumbing to disease in the river, a decision was made to retain these salmon within the hatchery system over the summer, until conditions in the Klamath River improve, CDFW officials said.

The unprecedented relocation came after extensive monitoring discussion and close collaboration with federal partners, academic specialists and three Native American tribes on the Lower Klamath Basin. This temporary relocation marks the first time CDFW has not released salmon into the Klamath River since construction of the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery in 1962.

Another one million juvenile Chinook salmon are expected to remain at the Iron Gate hatchery.

Mark Clifford, hatchery environmental scientist for CDFW’s northern region, noted that it’s extremely challenging to raise cold water fish species in a drought. “The reality is most of these fish would have died if we released them into the river,” he said. “We need to maintain the integrity of the fall run on the Klamath River and we especially can‘t afford to lose this generation of fish,” he said.

Four Klamath River dams are slated for removal by 2024, constituting the largest dam removal undertaking in U.S. history. Dam removal is expected to restore fish access to the entire river and the relocated Iron Gate fish could be the first salmon to return to a new Klamath River after their life in the ocean, finding miles of additional spawning habitat and contributing to future generations of wild fish.

CDFW officials said when conditions improve, and before the fish are ultimately released into the Klamath River, the relocated salmon will be returned to the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery for a number of weeks, to allow the fish to further imprint on the Klamath River. All of the relocated salmon have been outfitted with unique coded wire tags to allow CDFW and other agencies to determine their origin and destination.

All of their adipose fins have been removed to visibly identify them as hatchery reared fish, CDFW officials said.

Pew Charitable Trusts, WTO Critical of Failing Efforts to End Harmful Fishing Subsidies

Leaders of the World Trade Organization and The Pew Charitable Trusts are criticizing World Trade Organization member states for failing to put aside their national interests to reach a deal to end harmful fishing subsidies for the benefit of oceans and marine life.

In a report published by the online publication SeafoodSource, the two entities said that the world’s largest fishing nations are dodging their responsibilities.

According to Isabel Jarrett, manager of a Pew Charitable Trusts project to end harmful fisheries subsidies, an ambitious WTO deal to end harmful fisheries subsidies could restore 12.5% of fish biomass in the ocean by 2050.

The most recent draft of the WTO agreement text would likely yield only an increase of 1.59% for that same period, and new research by the University of California Santa Barbara found that the draft text being negotiated would have a minimal impact of fishery stocks, she said.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also expressed frustration with member states’ negotiating strategies. Member states have been bargaining over how to structure opt-outs for developing member states and how to define fuel subsidies, but they have yet to agree on how sustainable fishery stocks are defined, SeafoodSource report said.

In comments during the end of a virtual meeting of trade ministers in mid-July, Okonjo-Iweala said while textual proposals have evolved over the years, a core problem remains the same.

“Instead of converging on effective disciplines for all, negotiators have devoted time and ingenuity to finding ways to constrain others’ support but not their own,” she said. That is what trade negotiators are trained to do, she added, but “it is not getting us the outcome we need for our oceans.”

The talks, which have been going on in various formats for 20 years, were stalled earlier this month, but are set to begin anew in September.

Commercial Harvest of Alaska Salmon Hits 72.7M Fish

Commercial salmon harvests in Alaska soared by over 20 million fish over the past week, boosting the estimated catch to 72.7 million fish, according to the latest Alaska Department of Fish and Game preliminary salmon catch report.

The report showed harvesters in Bristol Bay had an overall catch of over 38 million salmon through Tuesday, July 20, Prince William Sound had 19.6 million salmon and the Alaska Peninsula had nearly 10 million salmon.

In Bristol Bay alone, harvesters in the Nushagak district have now delivered nearly 18 million salmon, followed by 8.2 million fish in the Naknek-Kvichak, 7.7 million in Egegik and 4.6 million in the Ugashak. The overall Prince William Sound harvest included 16 million pink, 2.3 million chum and 1.1 million sockeye, while in the Alaska Peninsula the overall catch included 5.4 million sockeye, 3.4 million pink, 933,000 chum, 26,000 coho and 7,000 Chinook.

At Kodiak, the catch rose to over two million salmon, with deliveries reaching 1.2 million sockeye, 651,000 pink, 196,000 chum, 10,000 coho and 4,000 Chinook.

Statewide preliminary catch numbers stood at nearly 47 million sockeye, 21 million pink, 4.5 million chum, 133,000 Chinook and 108,000 coho salmon.

Dan Lesh, who compiles the in-season commercial salmon report for McKinley Research Group in Anchorage on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, noted that the largest salmon harvests of the season so far took place last week, although the cumulative harvest to date was down 13%.

Last week’s early season surge of pink salmon was driven by the Prince William Sound region, where pink salmon harvests are up 21% year-to-date from 2019, Lesh said. In other regions of Alaska, pink harvests are currently well behind the 2019 pace.

Sockeye harvests peaked the week before last, but with a few weeks left in the season, this year’s catch should easily beat the pre-season forecast of 46.5 million fish, Lesh said. As of July 17, 99% of that pre-season forecast had been caught. While numerous, size remains an issue in Bristol Bay average size of sockeye is 4.5 pounds this year, down from 5.1 pounds in 2020. Bristol Bay sockeye currently represent 82% of the sockeye and 56% of all salmon harvested so far across Alaska.

Keta salmon are in short supply, with cumulative harvests up a bit from 2020, but still at less than half of the typical harvest at this point in the summer, Lesh noted. The five-year average harvest through week 29 is 9.7 million keta compared to 4.4 million keta harvested so far this year.

Among those missing keta are those from the Yukon River, where no commercial fishing has been allowed this season.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Commercial Salmon Harvest in Alaska Soars
to Over 51M Fish

Alaska’s commercial salmon harvest continues to center around Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula, as processors have received over 51 million fish, over 31 million of them from Bristol Bay, over nine million from the Alaska Peninsula, and 8.6 million from Prince William Sound.

For the Nushagak district of Bristol Bay alone, fishermen have caught nearly 16 million sockeye salmon, while in the bay’s Egegik, Naknek-Kvichak and Ugashik districts, they have delivered to processors 6.3 million sockeyes, 6.1 million sockeyes and 2.5 million sockeyes, respectively.

Alaska Troopers have also been busy in the Bristol Bay fishery, issuing fines to 18 fishing vessels so far for commercial fishing in closed waters.

Harvesters on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula have harvested 7.3 million salmon, including 3.0 million sockeyes, 3.4 million pink and 909,000 cohos, while the North Peninsula has a catch of nearly 2.0 million sockeyes. Meanwhile at Kodiak, processors have seen delivery of 1.4 million salmon, including over 1.0 million sockeyes, 278,000 pink and 105,000 chums.

Prince William Sound’s catch has reached 8.7 million fish, including nearly 5.5 million pink, 2.2 million chums and 948,000 sockeyes.

Meanwhile in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of western Alaska there have been no commercial openers to date.

The state’s early season fisheries for Chinook, sockeye and keta salmon have reached the approximate midpoint of their season with the pace of fishing overall slowed down slightly compared to last year, says Dan Lesh, who produces McKinley Research Group’s weekly in-season commercial salmon harvest report on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Lesh said this year’s salmon harvest so far is about 87% of the harvest at this point last year (and 2019 for pink salmon), down from 96% last week.

So far this year, 23% of the projected Alaska salmon harvest of about 190 million fish has been caught, including 72% of the projected sockeye harvest. On average over the past five years, keta, sockeye and Chinook harvests have all peaked at this point in the summer, Lesh said.

Bristol Bay’s sockeye run has come in very strong and more spread out than a year ago, he explained, adding that the sockeyes are coming in smaller, with the average size currently at 4.5 pounds per fish compared to 5.1 pounds in 2020.

Keta harvests have dropped both of the last two weeks. If they have already peaked, the total keta harvest this year will be far below the five-year average, although that may still exceed last year’s total, he said.

Settlement Reached for Violations of Marine Protected Area-Related Laws

Monterey County, California-based District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni says her office has reached a settlement totaling $42,747 in a civil law enforcement action against Sophia Fisheries Inc, and its principals for violations of Marine Protected Area-related regulations.

Monterey County has 17 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the most of any California county, including eight Marine State Marine Reserves (MSMRs) and nine State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs).

Using GPS technology, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s marine patrol determined that Sophia Fisheries Inc.’s vessel the Navigator was fishing for spot prawn with traps in Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area, four miles off the coast of Pacific Grove, on separate occasions in 2019 and 2020.

The only commercial or recreational fishing allowed there is for pelagic finfish.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife also determined that Sophia Fisheries Inc, and its principals did not hold a general trap permit, which is required for commercial spot prawn fishing using traps. The district attorney’s office said without admitting they were fishing in the Portuguese Ledge SMCA, Sophia Fisheries and its counsel worked cooperatively to resolve the matter without litigation, and also immediately obtained a general trap permit.

Under the final judgment, Sophia Fisheries, company president Pete Guglielmo Sr., and Pete Guglielmo Jr., will pay $25,000 in civil penalties, in addition to reimbursement of investigation costs. They are also bound under terms of an injunction prohibiting similar violations of the law in the future.

UBC Study Examines Fitness of Pacific Sockeye Salmon Infected with PRV

A new study from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, finds that the respiratory performance of wild Pacific sockeye salmon is normal even when infected with piscine orthoreovirus (PRV).

The findings by UBC researchers, with partners from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, were published in BMC Biology.

According to UBC post-doctoral researcher Yangfan Zhang, joint lead author of the study, researchers saw little to no effect on sockeye salmon’s respiratory fitness after PRV-infection and minimal impacts on their ability to sustain the vigorous activity needed to migrate, catch prey and avoid predators.

The nine-week study found no physiological differences between PRV-infected fish and a control group injected with a salt solution. This, Zhang said, means that PRV poses a very low risk to B.C.s population of wild Pacific salmon. According to DFO researcher Mark Polinski, the joint lead author, these findings highlight that not all animal viruses cause notable harm during infection.

PRV infects most farmed Atlantic salmon and a small proportion of wild Pacific salmon, the researchers said. The study used sockeye salmon to test the respiratory impacts of wild salmon because they migrate near salmon farms. The experiment was conducted on 400 sockeye salmon at the DFO Pacific Biological Station at Nanaimo, BC.

One group of sockeyes were injected with a dose of purified PRV to induce a high-dose infection scenario another with a saline solution, and another group was injected with the more virulent infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) in a separate positive-control study.

None of the salmon died while carrying the PRV infection. Still, researchers noted IHNV triggered 30% mortality and a temporarily reduced maintenance metabolism, although survivors were able to resolve the infection within weeks, they said.

Researchers also measured the ability of red blood cells infected with PRV to bind oxygen, as well as the metabolic rate- or oxygen uptake – of infected salmon, to evaluate their ability to maximally use oxygen, recover from exhaustion, and function when oxygen is low.

They concluded that Pacific and Atlantic salmon can resist a PRV infection without a major metabolic cost.

USDA to Purchase Salmon, Pollock Products for Food Nutrition Assistance Programs

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have announced plans to purchase salmon and Pollock products to distribute to various food nutrition assistance programs, under Section 32 of the Act of August 24, 1935, to encourage continued domestic consumption of these products.

Potential products may include Alaska Pollock fillet portions, Alaska Pollock oven-ready fish sticks, Alaska Pollock oven-ready fish nuggets and canned red salmon 14.75-ounce cans.

USDA officials said solicitations will be issued in the near future and will be available electronically through the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system.

All information regarding this acquisition, including solicitation amendments and award notices, will be published through WBSCM, and on the Agricultural Marketing Service’s website at

The USDA stated interested parties are responsible for ensuring that they have the most up-to-date information about this acquisition. The contract type is anticipated to be firm-fixed price, and deliveries are expected to be to various locations in the U.S. on an FOB destination basis, they said. Pursuant to the Agricultural Acquisition Regulation 470.103(b), commodities and the products of agricultural commodities acquired under this contract must be products of the United States.

Those interested should review all documents pertaining to the program, including the latest AMS Master Solicitation for Commodity Procurements, a document online at

For email notification of the issuance of AMS solicitations, contract awards or other information, subscribe online at Stay up to date on USDA Food Purchases, available on the AMS Commodity Procurement website,

Inquiries may be directed to Jeffrey F, Jackson, at

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Culprit Behind Mass Shellfish Mortality Identified

Researchers with the Washington Sea Grant program say they have identified yessotoxins, produced by blooms of certain phytoplankton, as the culprit behind summer mass shellfish mortality events in Washington state.

The study was released by aquaculture and maritime water quality specialist Teri King of Washington Sea Grant and partners from NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Northwest Indian Collage and Aquatechnics Inc. Their findings have significant implications for shellfish growers in the region, they said.

Since yessotoxins are not a threat to human health, their presence in Washington had not been closely monitored.

Researchers used data collected by the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center and NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science for other purposes, plus observations from the SoundToxins phytoplankton monitoring program. They found that two algae species, Protoceratium reticulatum and Akashiwa sanguinea, are correlated with shellfish mortality events as far back as the 1930s. Researchers also used data from SoundToxins partners in 2018 and 2019, along with reports of dying shellfish from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the shellfish industry to collect shellfish and water samples for analysis.

King said the research team is now working toward being able to help growers count the cells of yessotoxin-producing organisms in the water and create that information to take action, “SoundToxins has been conducting similar work for the Washington Department of Health for three “human health marine biotoxins since 2006,” King said.

Adding the shellfish killing plankton species to the real-time mapping capability of the SoundToxins partnership would allow for shellfish producers and natural resource managers to make informed decisions, such as harvesting their product early or otherwise strategizing to save as much crop as possible, she said.

The research also demonstrates the value of partnerships between shellfish producers, plankton monitors, Native tribes, agencies and researchers, as a team of oceanographers, biologists and chemists working together, King said.

The paper can be seen online at

Council Votes to Ban Wire Leaders for Hawaii Fishery

The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council has recommended banning wire leaders for Hawaii’s deep-set longline fishery to protect the oceanic whitetip shark, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Advocates of the ban are hoping that now that the U.S. is moving to protect the species, that international agencies can be persuaded to do the same.

The Council, also known as Wespac, made the decision in late June to replace the wire leaders with monofilament nylon leaders. That would reduce post-release injury and death to oceanic whitetip sharks when they get hooked on longline fishing hooks.

Wespac has also recommended that all longline vessels operating under the Pacific Pelagic Fishery Ecosystem Plan be required to remove as much trailing gear from caught sharks as possible.

According to Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association, in the absence of their fleet the Western and Central Pacific Ocean stock would see only a minor increase in terms of stock rebuilding over the next 20 to 30 years. The focus, said Kingma, really needs to be on international fleets.

The Hawaii Longline Association announced in November that it would voluntarily begin switching from wire leaders to monofilament ones for its deep-set longline vessels and according to Kingma, is closing in on completing that gear transition.

While removing shallow hooks would further reduce the post-release mortality of oceanic whitetip sharks in Hawaii's deep-set longline fishery the gear change would also have a significant impact on the fishery's annual revenue.

The amendments approved by Wespac are now subject to a review by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

New Plan Proposed to Restore Salmon, Steelhead Habitat in Northern California

NOAA Fisheries has introduced a new approach to restoring habitat for salmon and steelhead in Northern California, where these species have been troubled with habitat damage for over 100 years due to human activity. And now, according to the NOAA report, climate changes has only worsened these habitat problems.

Now NOAA Fisheries has introduced the Salmonid Habitat Restoration Priorities (SHaRP), a process that creates a strategy to rebuild salmon and steelhead within a watershed by focusing on restoring its heathier less impaired areas. According to the NOAA announcement, scientists expect that improved fish survival and reproduction in these restored areas will enable faster recolonization of the more degraded areas.

“The SHaRP process builds upon existing recovery plans and identifies very specific actions to create real wins for declining species,” said Barry Thom, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast. “This approach to conservation offers the restoration community a seat at the table to design a near-term recovery strategy to maximize restoration impacts for their watershed,” he said.

The process was developed by NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and first applied to the South Fork Eel River, a few hours’ drive north of San Francisco Bay. The process starts by identifying the focus areas within an overall watershed that have the greatest potential to support healthy salmon and steelhead. Local experts in each area then come together to evaluate the challenges facing each life stage of each species, come to an agreement on the best restoration solutions to these challenges, and develop an action plan.

The SHaRP process involves collaboration, partnership and community engagement at its core, to rebuild streams and rivers so they can support salmon and steelhead runs and the cultural, economic and environmental benefits that they provide, NOAA officials said.

Commercial Salmon Harvest in Alaska Approaches 28 Million Fish

The commercial salmon harvest in Alaska has now reached a preliminary estimate to date of nearly 28 million fish, more than doubling the overall catch from a week ago.

As of Tuesday, July 6, deliveries to processors included some 21.5 million sockeyes, 3.6 million pink, nearly 2.6 million chum, 64,000 Chinook and 7,000 coho salmon.

The big surge came, as anticipated, in Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska, where gillnetters have delivered to processors as estimated nearly 16 million salmon, with few exceptions all sockeyes.

Fishermen in the Nushagak district have already set two new all-time record high daily landing totals, including an estimated 1.7 million sockeyes landed on June 30 and 1.8 million salmon on July 1, both in 24-hour periods. The preliminary cumulative harvest for the Nushagak as of late Tuesday, June 6, was in excess of 10 million fish.

The Egegik District has delivered to processors 3.6 million fish and the Naknek-Kvichak District some 1.6 million fish. Another 666,000 salmon were delivered from the Ugashik District and 35,000 fish from the Togiak District. Alaska’s Central District, also including Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound has brought in a total of nearly 19 million salmon.

Meanwhile in Alaska’s Westward District, the preliminary harvest figures posted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show an estimated catch of nearly nine million salmon.

For the Alaska Peninsula that includes more than eight million salmon caught in the Alaska Peninsula, including over four million sockeye, 3.3 million pink, 802,000 coho, 4,000 Chinook and 3,000 coho. The Kodiak catch to date of 794,000 fish, includes an estimated 688,000 sockeye, 66,000 pink, and 40,000 chum salmon.

For Southeast Alaska, ADF&G has a preliminary harvest total of 105,000 fish, including some 50,000 Chinook, 36,000 chum, 10,000 pin, 5,000 sockeye and 4,000 coho, Harvests are yet to begin in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwin region.

BC Officials Agree to Meet with Transboundary Rivers Group Over Mining Issues

British Columbia officials say they’re willing to meet with an Alaska transboundary rivers entity to discuss a pause on permits, permit amendments and approval of new mining projects along salmon-rich transboundary rivers.

The invitation was extended in early July by George Heyman, the province’s minister of environment and climate change strategy. Fred Olsen Jr., executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC), said that the SEITC is excited about the letter and the opportunity to work with the B.C. government directly on the issue.

Commercial fishing, environmental entities and others in Southeast Alaska have been concerned for years about the potential for water pollution from mines along transboundary waters in British Columbia. Olsen said that SEITC is not trying to stop development, but that such development should be done right to begin with to avoid harm to salmon habitat.

Heyman said that the two entities share goals of environmental protection and progress in the fight against climate change. Heyman noted that B.C.’s Climate Change Accountability Act sets ambitious legislated targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of up to 80% below 2007 levels by 2050. To that end the B.C. government developed a CleanBC plan which establishes initial policies to move the province toward its 2030 mission reduction target of 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 2007.

From the Editor: Offshore Wind

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

Offshore wind energy development is something that has piqued the interest of quite a few in the maritime industry over the past several months, partly because in late June the Biden Administration announced plans to open a number of areas off the California coast to offshore wind development.

The issue is so imperative that there’s an article devoted to it in the August edition of Fishermen’s News magazine, including comments from representatives of the commercial fishing community.

And although the various concerns about the feds’ proposal are legitimate and completely warranted, it’s worth noting that on the other side of the country, offshore wind energy has been up and running for years, and has apparently not harmed fishing as some thought it would. In fact, according to studies, it has seemed to actually help improve fishing in the area.

According to one study undertaken by the University of Rhode Island (URI), the country’s first offshore wind array – the Block Island Wind Farm, which went in operation in late 2016 and is located off the coast of Rhode Island – has become a popular area for recreational fishing.

How? Why? Well, according to the study, which was published in 2019, many anglers believe the bases of the five, 6-megawatt wind turbines that make up the wind farm are acting as an artificial reef. So said the study’s principal investigator, David Bidwell, an assistant professor of marine affairs at URI.

“There’s been a lot of focus on the views of the commercial fishing side toward offshore wind,” Bidwell said, according to a November, 2019 article by journalist Lisa Prevost on the Energy News Network website. “But understanding how recreational anglers interact with this new industry is important because recreational fishing is important to the economy and quality of life in coastal communities.”

In focus groups conducted as part of one study, recreational anglers spoke positively about fishing conditions around the turbines, including a spearfisher who told researchers that the underwater support structure for the turbines was “loaded” with mussels and crustaceans, and was attracting scup, mahi-mahi and striped bass.

Rich Hittinger of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association told Energy News Network that he’s fished within a half mile of the turbines at least 50 times. The area had been a good fish habitat before the turbines went in, and remained so afterward, he said. “Our bottom-line impression is that those five turbines are not causing any kind of a negative effect,” Hittinger remarked. “And they may be causing a slight positive affect. For example, there are a lot of black sea bass around those turbine bases. I’m sure they’re there because the bases are totally encrusted with mussels and other small organisms.”

So, while there aren’t many direct parallels between the four-and-a-half-year-old Block Island Wind Farm in the Atlantic Ocean and the potential opening up of offshore wind farms in the Pacific, the point is that when it comes to Mother Nature, you never know what to expect.

Although there’s a chance that any future wind array could be a bane to the West Coast commercial fishing industry, there’s also the possibility that wind arrays could also have some sort of positive effect on the marine ecosystem, resulting in various species of fish spawning in greater numbers.

Just some food for thought.

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at:

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Commerce Names Members to Regional Fishery Management Councils

Commerce Department officials on June 28 announced the appointments of new and returning members to the nation’s regional fishery management councils, including 11 to the Pacific, North Pacific and Western Pacific councils.

They include:

Pacific Council: obligatory seats for new member Corey Ridings of California and reappointments of Christa Scensson, Oregon and Joseph Oatman, of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, plus reappointment to at-large seats for Robert Dooley, California and Phil Anderson of Washington.

North Pacific Council: obligatory seats for reappointed members John Jensen and Andrew Mezirow, both of Alaska and new member Anne Vanderhoeven of Washington. Western Pacific Council: obligatory seats for new members Manuel “Manny” Duenas II, Guam, and Matthew Ramsey, Hawaii, and at-large new member William Sword, American Samoa.

The Pacific Council includes members from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, plus one tribal seat. The North Pacific Council includes members from Alaska and Washington state. The Western Pacific Council includes members from American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Commerce Confirms Fisheries Disaster in Alaska, Washington State

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo has officially determined that fishery disasters occurred in an Alaska king crab fishery, two Washington state tribal salmon fisheries and a New York scallop fishery in 2018-2020, and evaluations are underway of disaster fund requests.

“Fisheries are essential to our communities and economy and we want to ensure America is in a position to remain competitive on the global stage,” Raimondo said on June 29. “These determinations allow us to lend a helping hand to the fishing families and communities that have experienced very real and difficult setbacks in the last few years.”

The hard-hit fisheries include the 2019 Norton Sound red king crab, 2018 Port Gamble S’Klallam Puget Sound coho salmon, 2019 Chehallis and Black River spring Chinook salmon, and the New York’s 2019/2020 Peconic Bay scallop.

Raimondo said that in addition to disaster assistance from NOAA, these fisheries may also qualify for disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration. The Commerce Department has balances remaining from previously appropriated fishery disaster assistance and will determine the appropriate allocation for these disasters, she said.

Research Shows Japanese Seafood Consumers Have Preference for Alaska Seafood

Officials with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) say new consumer data affirms the importance of the Alaska brand with Japanese consumers of seafood.

The recent online survey found that some 80% of 1,000 Japanese consumers surveyed said they would be more motivated to buy products marked as from Alaska. More specifically, if the ASMI logo is present, 79.6% of those surveyed said they would purchase the product and 77.1% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase if “Alaska” or “Alaskan” is written on the packaging to denote product origin.

ASMI conducts targeted consumer and trade marketing programs in Japan, in addition to the U.S. and 40 other countries worldwide, to raise awareness of the Alaska brand and the key differentiating qualities of Alaska seafood. ASMI officials said they plan to use this latest consumer research to increase usage of the ASMI logo and Alaska origin on packaging and in marketing and displays to boost the visibility and value of the Alaska brand in the highly mature Japanese market.

The retail study, conducted with Datassential Research, found that 73% of survey seafood shoppers are more likely to purchase seafood when the words “Alaska Seafood” are included on the package and 73 % said they would pay more for a product when the Alaska Seafood logo is displayed.

ASMI is a partnership between the state of Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry to promote benefits of wild and sustainable Alaska seafood and offer seafood industry education.

Alaska Congressional Delegation Pushes for More Transboundary Rivers Protection

Alaska’s congressional delegation is urging federal action by the State Department and the Canadian government to protect salmon habitat in transboundary waters flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska from potential pollution from mines.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, with Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the potential pollution impact of large-scale BC mines prompt an interest for continued bilateral engagement and coordination on a federal level between the two nations.

“Federal engagement is appropriate to compliment the state and provincial efforts, and to ensure British Columbia and Canada act to uphold the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909,” their letter to Blinken stated.

Congress has supported this effort for six years through allocation of funds for transboundary water quality monitoring, as well as funds for the State Department to increase engagement, but the issue has not seen the same level of consideration by Canada, or yielded full engagement by British Columbia, the politicians said.

The Alaska delegation noted that they had written to the State Department in October of 2018, outlining potential threats posed by BC mines to the economic, subsistence and ecological interests of Alaska. Following that, eight U.S. Senators from Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana collectively wrote to the B.C. government in 2019, expressing concerns for U.S. interests threatened by B.C. mines.

According to Jill Weitz, director of the conservation entity Salmon Beyond Borders, the delegation’s effort has the support of all sectors of Southeast Alaska, from Alaska Native tribes, commercial and sport fishermen to business owners and municipal governments.

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvest Pace Picks Up Speed

After a slow start, the pace of commercial salmon harvests in Alaska is picking up speed, with more than 7.7 million fish delivered in the Westward Region alone. The Alaska Peninsula and the Central Region, including Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, have a preliminary harvest estimate of 5.4 million fish.

The big surge in Bristol Bay usually comes on the Fourth of July weekend. As of June 29, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated the harvest in Bristol Bay at 3.7 million fish, mostly sockeyes, plus some 35,000 chum and 2,000 Chinook salmon.

Fisheries consultant Dan Lesh, who produces the in-season commercial salmon reports for McKinley Research Group in Anchorage on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, noted that the total number of salmon harvested through Monday, June 28, is about 82% of last year’s total at this point, up from 67% last week.

Lesh said that compared to five-year averages, harvests have ranged among salmon species from roughly average to-date (sockeye) to the Chinook catch, which is down more than 59%.

The main harvest so far this year has been on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, with a catch of 6.9 million fish. Also in the Westward Region, deliveries to Kodiak totaled some 552,000 fish, including 471,000 sockeyes.

Bristol Bay had an estimated catch of 3.7 million fish, including 1.8 million sockeyes in the Nushagak District, 1.5 million at Egegik 175,000 in the Naknek-Kvichak and 142,000 in the Ugashik District. Cook Inlet had an estimated harvest of some 123,000 sockeyes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Commercial Halibut Season Opens on West Coast

The first three-day commercial halibut fishing season of 2021 got underway in federal waters off the West Coast on Tuesday, June 22 and will run through Thursday, June 24 at 6 p.m.

NOAA Fisheries said it will conduct patrols throughout the short season along with its partners, with a focus on ensuring compliance with rules and regulations governing the fishery, including proper marking of fishing gear, permitting and vessel documentation and adhering to minimum size and possession restrictions.

All setline or skate marker buoys on board or used by U.S. vessels for halibut fishing must be marked with either the vessel’s state license number or registration number. These markings must be legible characters at least four inches high and one0half inch wide in a contrasting color visible above water.

Groundfish long liners participating in the fishery are also required to deploy seabird avoidance gear. This regulation only applies to vessels landing groundfish along with halibut. Streamer lines are the most common form of seabird avoidance gear and are used to prevent bird attacks on baited hooks.

Halibut that are not retained must be released outboard of the roller and returned to the water with minimum of injury. Harvesters may do this by straightening the hook, cutting the gangion near the hook, or removing the hook with a gaff by carefully twisting it from the halibut.

NOAA officials said that these release measure promote the survival of released halibut and help to support a sustainable fishery.

NOAA is partnering with the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police, Oregon State Police and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Peter Pan Offers $1.10/lb. Base Price for Bristol Bay Sockeyes

Peter Pan Seafoods Co. LLC is continuing to boost prices to harvesters in Alaska, this time with its announcement of a base price of $1.10 a pound for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

Response to the announcement at a fleet picnic in Dillingham on June 19 was “overwhelmingly happy,” said Jon Hickman, vice president of operations for Peter Pan, a vertically integrated seafood firm which since January is under new ownership in Alaska.

“They are extremely pleased to have a number before they go out fishing,” Hickman said, adding that quality incentives for chilling and bleeding the salmon also remain in place.

Peter Pan said that the company posted the price early “to put the fleet at ease that they will receive a fair price for the long hours and hard work they are about to endure participating in the world’s largest sockeye fishery.”

This is the first time in many years that a major processor has posted a price this early in the season, with most waiting until the majority of the Bristol Bay harvest has been completed, the company said in a statement.

The Bristol Bay fishery officially opens in June, but the surge of millions of sockeyes into the Bay traditionally comes around the 4th of July. Other commercial salmon fisheries in Cook Inlet, plus the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak in the Westward region were also delivering in June.

Veteran Bristol Bay gillnetter Fritz Johnson of Dillingham said Peter Pan’s early price announcement was a positive step and that it was very bold of the company to announce the price at that date. Last year, with the novel coronavirus spreading throughout Alaska, driving the cost of doing business up for harvesters and processors alike, the base price was 70 cents a pound. Johnson also noted, however, that in 1988 Bristol Bay harvesters garnered $2.40 a pound for their sockeyes, and nothing has gotten any cheaper since then.

“It costs $10,000 to $15,000 just to float a boat,” Johnson said. “Flying crew in, feeding them, insurance, the inevitable repairs we have to deal with every year, and nets. Look at the price of lumber and steel. Everything is skyrocketing.”

Hickman said Peter Pan is also making a string of commitments after coming under new ownership in January, working to be a foundation for all fishermen, communities and the market.

In May, Peter Pan offered prices as high as $12.60 a pound for reds and $20 a pound for chinooks in the Copper River Flats fishery, and other processors promptly matches that price at the docks. By mid-June, Copper River sockeye fillets were selling quickly at Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage for $27.99 a pound, but a week later the price for fresh Copper River red fillets at Costco in Anchorage was down to $15.99 a pound.

Hickman said Peter Pan’s new strategy includes producing more value-added products and exporting less work outside the U.S.

Spinrad Confirmed as 11th NOAA Administrator

Richard “Rick” W. Spinrad, who served as chief scientist of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Obama administration, is back at the federal agency as Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and 11th NOAA administrator.

NOAA Fisheries has also announced the appointment of Janet Coit as NOAA Fisheries assistant administrator.

Spinrad is tasked with leading the agency’s strategic direction and oversight of $7 billion in proposed FY22 annual spending to tackle challenges ranging from weather modeling and prediction, and the climate crisis to leveraging non-governmental and private partnerships and promoting a sustainable blue economy.

His appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 17.

Spinrad also previously served as NOAA’s assistant administrator for research and assistant administrator for ocean services and coastal zone management.

Prior to first joining NOAA, he held several positions with the U.S. Navy, including the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and the Office of Naval Research, and was the executive director for research and education at the non-profit Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education.

Spinrad is the author or co-author of over 70 scientific articles, papers, book chapters and opinion pieces. He has also had faculty appointments at the U.S. Naval Academy, George Mason University and Oregon State University, and held executive positions in private industry.

A native of New York City, Spinrad holds a bachelor’s degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Johns Hopkins University, and a masters and doctorate in Oceanography from Oregon State University.

Coit’s appointment, effective June 21, mandates her to support and manage NOAA’s coastal and marine programs. She succeeds Paul Doremus, who had served as acting assistant administrator since January, and Chris Oliver, who held the post under the Trump administration. Oliver served for 16 years as executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before taking the administrative post with NOAA Fisheries. He has joined American Seafoods in Seattle as the company’s special advisor on government affairs.

Coit has been engaged in work on environmental issues natural resource management and stewardship for over 30 years. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said that Coit brings to NOAA a wealth of experience in supporting fisheries promoting the seafood sector and the marine environment and tackling climate change.

NPFMC Plans Return to In-Person Meetings in October

Members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are planning to transition back to in-person meetings in October.

The council’s October and December meetings are scheduled to be held at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel. Final action on the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands Pacific Cod catcher vessel trawl cooperative program is on the agenda for the October meeting.

The draft schedule for both meetings is online at

During the staff tasking section of the council’s virtual meeting which concluded in mid-June, the council decided that all plan team and committee meetings would be held virtually through September, and that the advisory panel and the scientific and statistics committee would also meet virtually for the October meeting.

Council members said they supported this phased-in approach to a return to in-person meetings in order to prioritize staff resources for piloting additional remote participation options as part of the return to in-person meetings, particularly to allow remote testimony and in the future to broadcast advisory panel and SSC meetings when they occur in-person.

Additional Relief Anticipated for California Fishing Industry

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working on a revised spending plan for California funds provided under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CARES II) that is to be submitted to NOAA Fisheries for approval. The money is part of the additional $255 million in fisheries assistance funding provided under CARES earlier this year, to aid coastal and marine fishery participants who were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDFW officials said fishery participants eligible to receive these funds include commercial fishing businesses, charter/for hire fishing businesses, and qualified aquaculture operations, as well as processors and dealers participating in marine and anadromous fisheries.

Those with a CDFW license or permit in a qualifying sector who plan to apply for relief funds are advised to ensure their contact information is up to date by July 1 by following the instructions online at

CDFW officials said applications for funds will be available by late summer and all potentially eligible CDFW license and permit holders will be notified by mail and email. Online applications are also expected to be available, and strongly encouraged for all applicants.

The additional funds will support activities previously authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

More information on fisheries relief, CDFW’s revised spend plan and requirements to apply for funds are online at CDFW’s Cares Act Fisheries Relief for California web page, and the Revised Spend Plan overview:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

CDC Ends Mask Requirement Aboard Maritime Vessels as Salmon Harvest Begins

A health and safety requirement for masking on board in the maritime transportation system to prevent the spread of the global pandemic of novel coronavirus has ended.

The rule was lifted this week by U.S. Coast Guard officials, who said mask wear in outdoor areas of maritime transportation conveyances and hubs is no longer required. The change reflected updated enforcement of the mask requirement for commercial vessels and maritime transportation hubs.

While the CDC is no longer requiring mask wear in outdoor areas, masks may still be required in outdoor areas at the discretion of operators of conveyances and transportation hubs. Coast Guard officials said the updated guidelines do not supersede any federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations that still require use of masks in outdoor areas of conveyances and while outdoors on transportation hubs.

Meanwhile, as an increasing number of fishermen and women prepare to head for the grounds, the first of the season weekly Alaska Harvest Update produced by McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute reports that the salmon harvest to date is 1.2 million fish.

That’s about half of what had been caught at this point in 2020, says Dan Lesh, a fisheries consultant for McKinley Research. Still, Lesh says, it is too soon to draw any conclusions about the season, as typically less than 2% of the state’s salmon harvest happens through week 24.

Available data includes early season openers in Area M (the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands region) and Prince William Sound. Prince William Sound harvests are above 2020 at this point, but slow by historical standards, Lesh said.

Sockeyes, as usual, have been the bulk of the harvested species at this point. Area M has seen harvests of 339,000 sockeyes, a big jump over 2020 and above long-term averages. Meanwhile, the humpy harvest of 414,000 in Area M is more than six times less than the big early season seen in the last odd-numbered year, 2019.

This year’s Alaska Department of Fish and Game salmon forecast is generally for a low harvest by historical standards, but still well above the poor 2020 harvest of 118 million fish, Lesh said. 2021 is expected to be comparable to the 10-year average for sockeyes, driven by strong sockeye projections for Bristol Bay, but harvests for the other four salmon species are forecast to be below the 10-year average.

Plan to Restore Roadless Rule to Tongass National Forest Sparks Kudos, Criticism

A Biden administration decision to repeal or replace a U.S. Forest Service rule allowing road construction and industrial old-growth logging in Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is getting kudos from fishermen and criticism from the region’s economic development entity.

Responses for and against a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan, which was prompted by the administration’s concerns about climate change, ranged from relief from commercial fish harvesters and conservationists to concerns from the state’s Southeast Conference over potential loss of jobs and economic development.

“This fisherman sure feels this is welcome news and most every fisherman in the region would welcome this news,” said Tyson Fick, a Southeast Alaska gillnetter, owner of Yakobi Fisheries and captain of the f/v Heather Anne. “I’m not that surprised.”

Sen. Maria Cantwelll, D-WA, also commended the decision.

“The salmon runs, carbon storage and tourism appeal that the Tongass currently provides will always be more valuable to Pacific Northwest communities than any subsidized logging projects,” she said.

In October of 2020, under the Trump administration, USDA lifted roadless restrictions on over nine million acres of the 17-million-acre national forest.

Southeast Conference Executive Director Robert Venables sees it differently. “Once again, federal politics are playing ping-pong with the lives and resources of Alaskans,” he said, adding that Alaskans deserve regulatory certainty and access to the abundant resources that surround them, develop renewable energy resources and support tourism opportunities, especially as the economy struggles to emerge from the effects of the pandemic.

Fisheries interests, already concerned over potential pollution from mines planned in British Columbia along transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska, see as commendable an end to federal rules allowing for new roads to mines in the Tongass.

“The Tongass produces more salmon than all other national forests combined,” said Austin Williams, Alaska legal and policy director for Trout Unlimited. Williams called the news a first step toward ensuring that such salmon production continues and that the fishing and tourism industries, which account for more than one in four jobs in Southeast Alaska, “will continue to drive Southeast Alaska’s economy.”

But Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state’s congressional delegation said economic opportunity would be lost if the roadless rule is reinstated.

“North to the Future means North to Opportunity, and we will use every tool available to push back on the latest imposition,” Dunleavy said.

“In Southeast Alaska, where the Tongass makes up the vast majority of the land base, the one-size fits-all roadless rule has restricted access needed for tourism, recreation, timber, mining, transportation and the development of renewable energy,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

“Any action to repeal the final rule and re-impost the roadless rule will cost jobs, diminish income, keep energy prices high, and cripple the ability of the communities in the region to develop a sustainable, year-round economy,” she said. “We need to end this yo-yo effect as the lives of Alaskans who live and work in the Tongass are upended every time we have a new president.”

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton Returns to San Diego

Mission accomplished. After a 105-day deployment to Alaska, plus biannual shipboard training off the coast of San Diego, the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton has returned to its homeport at Alameda, California. During the deployment Stratton's crew, along with an MH-65 helicopter aircrew from Air Station Kodiak, patrolled the Bering Sea up to the ice edge of the Arctic, where they conducted search and rescue missions in the Bering Sea.

With support from the ship’s unmanned aircraft system, the crew helped to safeguard Alaska’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry with 15 fisheries law enforcement boardings, to ensure compliance with maritime laws. Their mission aided in protecting the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone by patrolling the maritime boundary line to prevent illegal harvest in U.S. waters.

The Stratton crew also collected vital data to help with future Coast Guard deployments and exercise an effective presence in the Arctic.

While anchored in San Francisco Bay, the Stratton hosted a change of command ceremony, in which Capt. Stephan Adler relieved Capt. Bob Little as Stratton's commanding officer. The Stratton then completed its biannual shipboard training cycle off the San Diego coast with nearly 200 drills in areas of damage control, navigation seamanship, naval warfare, communications, medical response, engineering casualties and force protection. The Coast Guard said crew efforts resulted in an average drill score of 97%, demonstrating excellence in all warfare areas.

Stratton's crew also relieved crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard’s last 378-foot-high endurance cutter, as they made their final patrol prior to being decommissioned in late April. The Stratton is one of four 418-foot national security cutters homeported in Alameda.

Ocean Wise Launches Great American Shoreline Cleanup

Vancouver, British Columbia-based global conservation non-profit Ocean Wise is launching a new program aimed at cleaning up trash along America’s shoreline, with pilot programs in California and Texas coming this autumn.

Ocean Wise engages in research, education, direct-action conservation and field projects, with a focus on tackling overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change. Its program will be built on the successful Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup program, which began in 1994, through which almost one million volunteers have participated in over 28,000 cleanups that kept over two million kilograms of trash out of Canada’s oceans, lakes and rivers.

Plans are for the official launch of the new shoreline cleanup on International Coastal Cleanup Day, Sept. 18. With a combined population of 70 million people and coastline of over 1,200 miles, these two states are well positioned to be leaders in tackling shoreline debris, Ocean Wise officials said.

Over 11 million tons of plastic litter end up in oceans very year, becoming a health threat to sea mammals and fish. While efforts are increasing to clean up shorelines where all this trash ends up, others are researching how these plastics can be recycle into useful products, from sports equipment to building materials, products can themselves again then be recycled to other useful products.

“Saving our oceans is only possible with many people taking practical actions in their lives,” said Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise. The program has not only keeping plastics out of our oceans, but has influenced important government policies and changes to business practices, Gustavsson said. “Now, with the support of Tru Earth, we can’t wait to get millions of Americans involved in turning the tide on ocean plastics with the Ocean Wise Great American Shoreline Cleanup.”

Tru Earth, also based in Vancouver, is an eco-friendly household product firm committed to eliminating plastics from landfills and oceans.

Effort Increases to Protect Transboundary Rivers from Adverse Impact of Mining

British Columbia Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Bruce Ralston is moving to boost communications with Alaska to collaborate further on protect habitat in the salmon-rich Stikine Unuk and Taku rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

Ralston said in correspondence on June 11 to the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) that the province is committed to ensuring that the effect of mining projects proposed within British Columbia are appropriately assessed in environmental assessment and permitting processes, including appropriate consideration of downstream and cumulative effects.

They also agreed to enhance engagement on the issue with indigenous nations in BC and Alaska Native tribes. Ralston told the SEITC that his staff would connect with the commission soon to arrange a meeting to identify gaps in current engagements.

Commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, as well as the future of mining, are of economic and environmental concern to residents living in both BC and Alaska. Discussion has been underway for years on whether fisheries and mines can co-exist without having a severe adverse impact on fisheries. Backers of Canadian mining projects in Alaska have maintained that modern technology would allow for mine development that would not damage fish habitat.

Teck Resources, which is responsible for cleanup and closure of the Tulsequah Chief mine, has committed over $1.5 million toward reclamation efforts at that mine site, which has been putting acid rock drainage into the Taku River for decades. The Tulsequah Chief was initially owned by Cominco, which later merged with Teck to become Teck Cominco and is now known as Teck Resources. The mine itself has not operated since 1957.

Staff of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and their BC counterparts have been meeting on a regular basis regarding the mine cleanup.

Last October, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice ruled to end the long receivership process for Chieftain Metals, owner of the Tulsequah Chief Mine. Without that decision, the BC government was prevented from taking specific steps to assume responsibility for the cleanup. The court did, however, give Chieftain Metals’ largest creditor, West Face Capital, until August 2022 to find a buyer for the mine and petition the court to resume the receivership process.

On June 14, the SEITC and two environmental entities issued a statement saying they are cautiously encouraged by efforts to date regarding the Tulsequah Chief, but there is still more to be done.

“We recognize that British Columbia is moving to take over responsibility for the cleanup and closure of the Tulsequah Chief mine site, but we’re largely in the dark as to specific details, timelines, funding, and BC’s long-term plans for the lower Taku River area,” SEITC Executive Director Frederick Olsen, Jr. said. “This is a cautionary tale of the industry for us downstream.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

From the Editor: Containing Container Spillage

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

According to data from the Center for Biological Diversity, thousands of shipping containers have fallen from cargo ships into the ocean since October, 2020. And if that isn’t bad enough, that number of spillages isn’t a global total; it refers to incidents that occurred solely in the Pacific Ocean while containers were being transported between the Asia and the United States.

At least six spills since last fall have dumped 3,000 cargo containers into the Pacific Ocean along shipping routes between the U.S. and Asian countries, CBD data show.

The largest of these spills was a November 2020 incident in which a 1,200-foot cargo ship packed with thousands of containers full of goods was sailing from China to the Port of Long Beach. In remote waters 1,600 miles northwest of Hawai’i, the container stack lashed to the ship’s deck collapsed, tossing more than 1,800 containers into the sea.

Also included in the total: the loss of 750 containers from a cargo vessel on Jan. 16; and 100 containers that fell from a cargo ship last Oct. 30. Both ships encountered rough weather while delivering goods to the United States.

Although these incidents tend to fly under the radar of some within the goods transport industry, the rise in the occurrences, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, is adding to a growing marine plastic pollution problem and poses risks to ocean health and wildlife, as well as mariners.

Many spillages occur due to jostling and shifting of containers and restraints caused by bad weather in rough seas, but investigations sometimes reveal underlying problems in lashing and other practices that occur before vessels even leave port.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (commonly called the CTU Code), is a global code of practice for cargo ships that addresses packing, stacking and lashing of containers. Although the code isn’t mandatory for shippers, it provides comprehensive information and references on all aspects of loading and securing of cargo in containers and other intermodal transport are provided, taking account of the requirements of all sea and land transport modes.

To be honest, if more shippers, shipping lines and longshore workers in the U.S. and abroad adhered to the guidelines in the CTU Code, there’s no guarantee that it would reduce the number of cargo containers that go overboard and wind up in the ocean in any given year. But there’s also no guarantee that it wouldn’t. And utilizing a document that was created with the purpose of standardizing best practices couldn’t or shouldn’t be a bad thing – especially if the document can help prevent or reduce cargo loss and also help protect the environment.

The CTU Code is currently available on the website for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and is downloadable in English, Spanish, Chinese and other languages.

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at:

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