Wednesday, February 24, 2021

International Scientific Conference Held on Status
of Pacific Salmon Stocks

Fisheries scientists from Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan and the Republic of Korea gathered virtually at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Russia’s Sakhalin Island this past week to ponder the status and redistribution of Pacific salmon stocks.

During the Feb. 19 gathering participants agreed to continue monitoring the migrations of these fish, and to intensify the study of their marine life to improve the accuracy of forecasts, the website Fish Information & Services reported. FIS, which produces daily reports, is widely considered to be the standard for global seafood industry information on the Internet.

Ilya Shestakov, the head of Russia’s Federal Fisheries Agency, noted in his address to the conference that accurate forecasting is the most important component for successful fishing, given the value and demand for this resource in world fish markets. FIS noted that the total average annual maximum catch of salmon in the North Pacific fell from 1995 through 2019. The maximum catch recorded in 2009 came to 1,138,000 tons of fish. Shestakov told conference participants that the 300,000 tons of Russian catch taken in the Far East in 2020 is not critical compared to the previous period of population depression, which was observed from 1959 though 1973.

Conference participants also decided to hold another international conference in 2022. At that conference, plans are to discuss the status of the aquatic biological resources in the North Pacific, plus the economic and social aspects of fish and reproduction in the North Pacific region.

Trident Seafoods Resumes Operations at Akutan;
Fire Aboard Trident Vessel

Trident Seafoods resumed operations at its Akutan processing facility on Feb. 19, in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak that had put work there on hold since Jan. 21.

Trident has taken additional steps to combat future COVID-19 risks there, including redesign of shift and break schedules to limit close contact and capacity limits to allow distancing in all areas outside of workstations.

115 employees who were quarantined in Sand Point and Anchorage have returned to Akutan to participate in crab and Pacific cod processing at a crucial point in the season and to prepare for Pollock processing to resume this week.

Trident CEO Joe Bundrant praised the determination of all involved that made restarting operations at Akutan possible after four weeks. “We will bring a renewed sense of diligence and focus to our primary goal, which is the health and safety of our employees, fishermen and communities delivering quality seafood from source to plate,” he said.

Resumption of plant operations were a positive note for Trident officials, who are also dealing with a fire aboard the company’s 230-foot Aleutian Falcon processing vessel at Tacoma, which resulted in total loss of the vessel. The fire began on the night of Feb. 16 and was brought under control by the Tacoma Fire Department, which managed to contain the massive blaze to the vessel itself. Firefighters used water resources from the pier and three other boats to fight the blaze.

No injuries were reported.

The Coast Guard said the fire broke out shortly before midnight at Pier 25 at the Port of Tacoma. The Hylebos and Blair Waterways were closed for several hours and absorbent boom was placed near the vessel to mitigate pollution.

Fire officials said at one point their biggest concern was that the Aleutian Falcon reportedly had approximately 48,000 gallons of diesel fuel onboard, but in the aftermath of the blaze no pollution issues were reported. The online publication Maritime Executive also reported that the 40-year-old vessel was carrying nearly 10,000 pounds of ammonia, a common refrigerant gas for processor vessels which is a toxic and potentially flammable gas, so fireboat crews paid extra attention to hull cooling in the area where it was stored on board.

A unified command was established by the Tacoma Fire Department, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology. The fire department later reported that the hull of the vessel was sound and that the department was working with Trident Seafoods on a de-watering plan to keep the vessel from sinking.

When operated, the vessel with a crew of 120 supplemented Trident’s shore based and larger processing vessel operations throughout Alaska, company officials said.

NOAA Fisheries Considers NPFMC Recommendations for Changes in Regulations

NOAA Fisheries has taken under consideration four recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for emergency or expedited changes to federal fishing regulations made in early February by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The first motion would allow for temporary transfer of catcher vessel halibut and sablefish individual fishing quota (IFQ) for all individual quota shareholders for the 2021 fishing season.

The second would move the start date of the 2021 Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program fishery from May 1 to April 1.

The third motion would remove vessel use cap regulations for IFQ halibut harvested in the International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 4A 4B 4C and 4D for the 2021 IFQ fishing season.

The fourth motion would suspend the residency requirements applicable to the Adak Community Quota Entity Program for 2021.

Once NOAA Fisheries concludes its analysis of the council’s recommendations, and if they are approved by the Secretary of Commerce, a rule will be published in the Federal Register. While the process typically takes five to six weeks the exact timing may vary for each action.

In response to a number of inquiries from participants in each of these Alaska fisheries, NOAA Fisheries has developed a questions and answers webpage - - to answer the most frequently asked questions on recommended emergency or expedited regulations.

Those with additional information or questions about permits or transfer applications should contact the Restricted Access Management Program at 800-304-4846 option #2 or 907-586-7474 or via email at

For additional information or questions about regulations and the rulemaking process, contact the Sustainable Fisheries Division at 907-586-7228.

Oregon Salmon Industry Group Meeting Set for Thursday, Feb. 25

Oregon fisheries officials will meet virtually on Thursday, Feb. 25 with commercial, sport and others interested to review the 2020 season and take a first look are salmon forecasts for 2021.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will offer background materials and presentations, then work with those in attendance to develop preferred alternatives to use as guidance moving forward through the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s season setting process.

OSIG recommends that participants test their system prior to the meeting, set to begin at 10 a.m., to iron out any technical problems they may have, or plan to call in by phone. A lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. will give participants time to formulate concepts for proposals.

The complete agenda is now posted online at If you have questions prior to the meeting, please email Eric Schindler at

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Environmental Issues Posed Anew as Navy Prepares for Future War Games in Gulf of Alaska

U.S. Navy officials doing the groundwork on future military war games in the Gulf of Alaska are being challenged by several conservation entities who contend the Navy should prepare a revised draft supplemental environmental impact statement. The Navy contends that the document is at an appropriate level of analysis because there are no major changes in proposed future training activities included.

Still all public comment received on the draft document will be addressed in the final EIS/OEIS (overseas EIS), Navy officials said.

According to the letter sent in mid-February to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, concerns from the conservation groups include potential impact to fisheries, marine mammals and seabirds who live in and migrate through the Gulf of Alaska, where the military exercises, known as Northern Edge, have been held every other spring. Documents being prepared by the Navy now are for getting renews permits for war games beyond 2022.

The conservation groups contend that the current EIS/OEIS discounts the potential impact of the war games on fish and fisheries from high intensity noise, including seismic air guns and some anthropogenic noise as well.

A review of 42 studies on the effect of noise on fish suggests that the majority of fishes are sensitive to noise, including alarming impacts on foraging, predation risk and reproductive success, they said. Noise has been shown to produce a stress response and behavioral reactions in some fish that include loss of coherence, dropping to deeper depths, milling in compact schools, “freezing” or becoming more active, they said. The letter also contends that some fish species, including cod, have been reported to flee as inferred from decreased catch rates for both long lines and trawler fisheries near operating air guns. Recent studies also have shown that seismic surveys are detrimental to zooplankton, which could have damaging effects up the food chain, they said. The letter was signed by representatives of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and two entities based in Cordova, Alaska, the Eyak Preservation Council and Native Conservancy.

Navy officials acknowledged that planned future activities include use of active sound navigation, including sonar and weapons systems that may use non-explosive or explosive munitions at sea. However, the Navy will continue to implement mitigation measures to avoid or reduce potential impacts on marine species and the environment, they said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Federal Mask Mandate Will Be Enforced by Coast Guard In Conjunction with Routine Business

A mask mandate issued by the Centers for Disease Control that applies to commercial fishing vessels will be enforced by the Coast Guard, but only in conjunction with regular operations.

Chief Warrant Officer Kurt Frederickson said that the Coast Guard will not be deploying separate COVID compliance monitoring teams, but instead will continue to perform routine vessel inspections and in the conduct of regular Coast Guard business observe, education, direct compliance and take any needed enforcement actions to ensure compliance with safety protocols. It is the responsibility of conveyance operators to ensure vessels are operated in accordance with public laws, regulations and good marine practice, he said.

In general, Frederickson added, mask wear will be required unless their wear would pose risks to personal, workplace safety or prevent compliance with personal protective equipment by regulation.

The mandate issued by the CDC on Feb. 1, notes that the mask rule does not apply when individuals are eating, drinking, taking medicine or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

The mandate is already prompting a lot of comment among commercial fishermen, who note that particularly during inclement weather situations, with high seas and the routine loud sounds of vessel engines that mask wearing would not make sense to them. On the other hand, one veteran harvester acknowledged, when someone unknown to the crew is boarding a vessel, including a Coast Guard inspector, it would make sense for everyone to be masked. During the 2020 fisheries in Alaska’s famed wild salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, a number of veteran harvesters chose another safety option to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay. They and their crew quarantined for two weeks before setting out in their drift gillnetters for Bristol Bay and remained on their vessels for the entire fishery.

A copy of the CDC mask mandate is online at

Questions regarding the mandate may be emailed to the Coast Guard at

Alaska Officials Open COVID Vaccinations
to Seafood Workers

A plan announced by Alaska officials this past week seeks to provide COVID vaccines for seafood workers, including nonresidents, who are at least 50 years of age and working as essential frontline workers, but it’s still a work in process, with nothing finalized.

According to Jason Wiard, with the state’s COVID-19 Unified Command, Alaska officials have had a conversation with the state of Washington regarding vaccinations, but nothing has been decided yet. “We have also encouraged our industry partners interested in the vaccine to look into having eligible employees seek vaccination in their home state before coming to work in Alaska,” he said. One option being considered is to have these essential workers get their first shot in their home state and the second on when they arrive for work in Alaska, but no details have been worked out on that either.

In a letter sent to fishing industry representatives, Alaska Commissioner of Health Adam Crum and Ben Stevens chief of staff for Gov. Mike Dunleavy noted that the state to date had not received any additional amounts of vaccine from the federal government.

Industry representatives who met with state officials after learning about the proposal to vaccine qualified resident and nonresident seafood workers noted that just because the state has opened up vaccinations to nonresidents doesn’t mean those vaccines are going to be quickly available. The problem, said one, is the supply of vaccines is currently limited and if a community has a wait list for vacations, it could be quite a while before one’s turn came for the shot, so fishing industry operators also need to engage with communities and work with them to get these people vaccinated before they come to work in Alaska.

Seafood processing workers often work in close quarters and despite efforts to quarantine and pretest them before they go to work, often in rural areas of the state, there have been outbreaks of COVID-19, most recently at Trident Seafoods huge processing facility at Akutan in the Aleutians, as well as two processing facilities at Unalaska.

VHF Radio System Issues in Southeast Alaska Remain a Work in Progress

Coast Guard officials say the VHF network issue that has been causing intermittent communication outages across Southeast Alaska has been resolved and that repairs are ongoing. Still due to extreme weather conditions and the remote locations where these radio towers are installed does remain an issue and intermittent outages are expected to continue at various locations.

Sites that the Coast Guard is still unable to receive communications from or have intermittent VHF communications include Mt. McArther, Deception Hills, Sukkwan Island, Althorp Peak, Cape Gull and Raspberry Island. The Coast Guard is urging mariners to use extra caution in areas serviced by those VHF towers.

Mariners are also reminded that due to mountainous terrain and limited VHF coverage, even with fully operational VHF sites, that the Coast Guard cannot hear VHF calls in all areas. Mariners are advised to have secondary means of communications on board at all times, file a float plan with a trusted person and carry safety equipment on board in the event they find themselves in a survival situation.

All boaters are also asked to also carefully evaluate their ability to assist distressed mariners and to always relay any heard distress calls to the Coast Guard. Emergency phone numbers include 907-463-2980 for Sector Juneau Command Center, 907-428-4100 for Sector Anchorage Command Center and 907-463-2000 for the 17th District Command Center. Charts showing the locations of VHF tower sites in Alaska on the Coast Guard’s Navigation Center websites include and

Commercial Crab Fishery Opens North of Cape Falcon
in Oregon

The commercial fishery in the most northern section of the Oregon Coast has opened after a significant delay for the harvest of Dungeness crab.

Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said that the fishery, one of 12 such harvest areas in the state, opened yesterday, and will continue through Aug. 14.

Some 424 permitted vessels have access to the derby fishery.

According to DFW officials the area had remained closed to commercial crabbing to coordinate an orderly start with the Washington coastal Dungeness crab fishery. Results of recent testing of crab viscera, or guts, for the marine biotoxin domoic acid conducted by Washington state fisheries biologists indicate that levels of the biotoxin are still elevated in crab viscera. That said, until further notice all crab harvested from Point Chehalis, Washington to the Washington-Oregon border must have the viscera removed by a licensed crab processor prior to sale to ensure that crab going to market are safe for consumption.

All Dungeness crab tested from all Oregon crab harvest areas have been well below alert levels and determined to be safe to eat. The Oregon Department of Agriculture plans to continue to regularly test crab and shellfish to ensure that toxin levels in all areas remain below alert levels.

Crabbers fishing in this area were allowed to begin setting gear on Feb. 13, using the pre-soak period to set gear in anticipation of the first pull of ocean crab pots yesterday.

More information about Oregon’s shellfish marine biotoxin monitoring is available from the Oregon Department of Agriculture shellfish safety information hotline at 800-448-2474 and online at

PSMFC Application Period Opens for COVID Relief Funds

The application period is now open for eligible commercial fishing shellfish, charter and seafood sector industry members hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for assistance with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Those in the industry who saw a gross revenue loss from January through July 2020 that is greater than 35 percent of their average for 2015-2019 are eligible to seek federal relief funds. Washington-based commercial harvesters who fish in Alaska are also eligible.

Congress has provided under Section 12005 of the CARES Act $300 million for states to distribute to participants in these fisheries. NOAA Fisheries allocated the funds, with the highest allocation - $50 million each – going to Washington and Alaska.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a deep impact on commercial fisheries. “This sorely needed relief will help protect our people, businesses and communities,” he said.

The governor’s office has developed a plan for distributing these funds with assistance from the state departments of Fish and Wildlife, Agriculture, Commerce and the Washington Office of Financial Management.

State officials have already met virtually with commercial harvesters, shellfish growers and seafood processors to better understand the impact of the pandemic on the industry and to coordinate with fisheries managers in neighboring West Coast states as well.

WDFW is inviting those who may qualify to participate in a virtual public meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Meeting details will be available online at

More information, including eligibility details and applications, is on the PSFMC website,

Applications may be submitted through March 25.

The second round of assistance is expected to cover losses incurred between August and Dec. 31, 2020, made possible by another $300 million approved by Congress in December.

NOAA Fisheries has not yet announced how these funds are to be divided between the state territories and tribes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Northern Dynasty, Pebble Partnership, Former CEO Subpoenaed by Feds

A Canadian mining company, its Alaska subsidiary and the former CEO of that subsidiary have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s office for Alaska to produce documents in connection with a grand jury investigation apparently regarding the proposed Pebble mine.

Northern Dynasty Minerals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced receipt of the subpoenas by the parent company, the Pebble Limited partnership in Anchorage, and former PLP CEO Tom Collier on its website, saying they intend to cooperate with the investigation.

Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty, said the grand jury investigation apparently involves previously disclosed recordings of private conversations regarding the proposed mine. Thiessen said that Northern Dynasty is not aware of any charges filed against any entity or individual in this matter. Thiessen said that Northern Dynasty will provide updates on the investigation in its periodic and interim filings and releases as necessary and appropriate. The company provided no further details on the matter.

Controversy over the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine has been ongoing for decades. Northern Dynasty has been working for several years to get to the point of permitting. The mine site is adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska, home to the world’s largest run of millions of wild sockeye salmon. The company contends that the mine can be built and operated in a manner that will not adversely impact salmon habitat, a contention challenged by fishermen, biologists and several environmental entities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently declined to issue a critical water quality permit required for construction. Collier resigned in September after the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency, a private entity in Washington D.C., released online in September videotape recordings known as the “Pebble Tapes.” The tapes, which are still online, are a series of recorded conversations with Thiessen and Collier who thought they were having private discussions with potential investors in the mine.

The tapes revealed plans to build a long-term mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, plus plans to expand the mine plan to open up other large areas of western Alaska, with the mine life expanded to 180 to 200 years. The recorded conversations include statements from Thiessen and Collier that contradict previous public statements by company executives on plans for Pebble to be a 20 year mine, as described in the company’s application for a Clean Water permit.

Preseason Testing for Upcoming Crab Fishery in Petersburg, Alaska, Reveals One Positive Case

Officials with OBI Seafoods LLC say that preseason testing of its workforce for the upcoming Tanner and golden king crab fishery in Petersburg, Alaska, confirmed one positive case of the novel coronavirus. OBI Seafoods said that the infected individual was immediately isolated and that other employees who might have been in contact with the infected person were identified for additional testing and quarantine.

The company has hired a completely local workforce for this fishery, which begins on Feb. 17.

In addition to preseason screening, OBI Seafoods said plans are to continue testing at regular intervals during the season, as mandated by the state.

The company is working closely with the local medical team and public health officials to identify any further quarantine and testing recommendations, initiate contact tracing, and identify any potential risks to the individuals and the community.

Mark Palmer, chief executive officer of OBI, said they are glad to see that their preseason screening protocols were able to identify this asymptomatic positive case before the season began, so that the individual could be isolated and minimize possible spread of the virus.

Preseason testing and isolation of employees who test positive for COVID-19 is considered an important step in reducing the spread of the virus.

Company officials said that as they continue operating in an unprecedented pandemic and learn more about COVID-19 that they are updating their existing plans and protocols to protect their employees and the communities they work in.

All employees will undergo daily symptom and temperature checks prior to entering the worksite and periodic continuous screening testing, in compliance with state health mandates. OBI said that all of its locations have adopted heightened standards for cleaning and sanitation, and all employees are trained on enhanced personal protective equipment protocols and personal hygiene practices.

OBI Seafoods was formed in 2020 through the merger of the Alaska salmon and Gulf of Alaska groundfish operations of Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, two of the oldest seafood companies in Alaska. OBI operates 10 processing plants in Alaska and is a leading producer of fresh, frozen and canned Alaska seafood. OBI’s ownership includes Cooke Seafood and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., a community development quota group based in Dillingham that supports economic development in the villages of Southwest Alaska.

House Committee Holds Hearing on COVID-19 Impact on U.S. Maritime Sector

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is looking into the impact of the global novel coronavirus on the U.S. maritime supply chain and the maritime workforce as well as strategies to improve the nation’s marine transportation industry.

In opening remarks during a virtual Washington D.C. hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 9, committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, noted that over the past year the maritime industry has endured significant hardships and substantial impacts to business.

“With so much of U.S. trade and our national economy dependent on a seamlessly efficient global maritime supply chain, it is critical that we understand the impacts and implications moving forward as we shape recovery actions and future responses to national emergencies,” DeFazio said. The situation is complicated by the fact that certain portions of the industry weren’t faring well even before the pandemic, he said, with the internationally trading fleet shrunk to 85 vessels and carrying less than 1.5 percent of the goods entering and exiting domestic ports.

“Without a robust U.S. flag maritime industry, we would not have the mariners needed to go to war or supply our internationally deployed members of the military,” he said.

Constructive action must begin now to support all sectors of the maritime supply chain, from Coos Bay to Port Miami to revitalize the economy, he said.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-CA, and chair of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, told the committee that many passenger vessels operating in the Jones Act trade lost the entirety of their 2020 operating season. While passenger vessels and ferries are one of the few sectors of the maritime industry to receive federal assistance, they were left to compete for that assistance with other modes of passenger transportation, he said.

Meanwhile the remainder of the maritime industry had to shoulder the burden of increased costs of new safety measures, acquiring protective gear and complying with public health measures while other industries received federal assistance, he said.

Carbajal called for funding of the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief program, to protect American maritime jobs and assist operators struggling to stay afloat.

ALFA, Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust to Host
Virtual Fishermen’s EXPO

Educational workshops on topics ranging from skipper training, sleep deprivation and emergency skills to loan opportunities and financing for commercial fishermen will be offered during a virtual midwinter Fishermen’s EXPO set for Feb. 22.

The event being held online from Sitka, Alaska, this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted by the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT).

Commercial and subsistence fishermen of all gear types can participate at no cost in interactive classes on skipper training, bathymetry mapping updates, loan and financing opportunity, dealing with sleep deprivation while fishing, fisheries policy, management updates and more.

Presenters will include Jerry Dzugan, executive director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association; Lela Klingert, president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank; and Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Those wishing to participate is asked to register free online at, where updates on EXPO will also be posted.

ALFA is an alliance of small boat commercial fishermen who support sustainable fisheries and coastal communities by involving fish harvesters in research, advocacy and conservation initiatives. ASFT is a non-profit entity dedicated to strengthening fishing communities and marine resources through research, education and economic opportunity.

Trident Seafoods Gains Control Over COVID-19 Outbreak at Akutan Facilities

Trident Seafoods officials responding to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus at their remote shoreside processing facility at Akutan, in the Aleutian Chain, say their daily positive virus test results are ebbing. Since the company learned of the virus outbreak on Jan. 17 a total of 307 of 706 employees originally on-site tested positive for COVID-19. All employees have remained in quarantine, but as a precaution, Trident has chartered flights to move those employees at high risk including individuals over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions, from the island campus. They are quarantining in Anchorage, where additional medical support is available as needed.

Trident’s Akutan plant has more than 1,400 employees there during peak season. The plant operates year-round, with a multi-species frozen seafood operation capable of processing as much as three million pounds of raw fish daily. While the primary focus of the plant is wild Alaska Pollock, seafood workers there also process significant amounts of Pacific cod, Alaska king and snow crab, halibut and other species.

Meanwhile Trident has been utilizing its facilities at St. Paul, Kodiak and Sand Point and the M/V Independence to keep operations moving.

Stefanie Moreland, vice president of government relations at Trident, said that the daily positive rate had dropped significantly, an indication that response protocols are working. Moreland said that Trident had bolstered its onsite medical staff, was conducting twice-daily wellness checks, mass testing and rapid response to new positive cases.

The company is also working on plans for employees who have completed their quarantine to return to work. For those employees wishing to leave, the company has arranged quarantine accommodations, meals, wellness monitoring and testing in accordance with state mandates in preparation for their travel home.

Trident CEO Joe Bundrant expressed the company’s appreciation for support and guidance from state health officials, the city of Akutan, the city of Unalaska and regional medical providers, as well as Eastern Aleutian Tribes and the Iliuliuk Clinic in Unalaska.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Coast Guard Sets Virtual Formal Hearing on Sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose

U.S. Coast Guard officials have announced a virtual formal hearing on the sinking of the fishing vessel Scandies Rose by the U.S. Coast Guard in at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in Edmonds, Washington, from Feb. 22 through March 5.

The 130-foot crab fishing vessel, homeported in Dutch Harbor, sank near Sutwik Island in Alaska at about 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 2019, with seven crew members aboard.

Two of them were rescued and the other five were never found, despite a search that lasted over 20 hours and covered 1,400 square miles. Four MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, two HC-130 Hercules airplane crews, and crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mellon participated in the search.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic participation will be limited, but the hearing will be live streamed each day via

Maritime Commons, the Coast Guard blog for maritime professionals, will provide hearing updates via and via Twitter @maritimecommons with the hashtag #ScandiesRoseMBI The hearing is to focus on conditions influencing the vessel prior to and at the time of the sinking, including weather, icing, fisheries, the Scandies Rose’s material condition, owner and operator organizational structures and culture, the regulatory compliance record of the vessel and testimony from survivors and others.

The Coast Guard has established an email address – – for the public and interested parties to provide information, ask questions and make comments related to the ongoing investigation and schedule hearing. This email will be checked regularly and all correspondence will be acknowledged during the hearing and throughout the investigation, Coast Guard officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is concurrently conducting an investigation of the sinking of the Scandies Rose and will produce a separate report.

IPHC Moves to Boost 2021 Catch Limits

Halibut catch limits are up by 39 million pounds, or 6.6 percent, for 2021 under new harvest limits set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission during its annual meeting this past week.

The new limits cover commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use catches from Alaska to British Columbia to the west coast of fisheries in Washington, Oregon and California.

The big change was the percentage boosts, calculated by Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer, Alaska, which showed increased quotas for all IPHC areas except for 4CDE in the Bering Sea.

The biggest boost came from Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska, with the catch limit rising from 7.05 million pounds a year ago to 8.95 million pounds in 2021, an increase of 26.95 percent.

Area 4A, in the Aleutians, saw its quota rise from 1.41 million to 1.66 million pounds, up 17.73 percent, and in Area 4B, in the Aleutians, the quota rose from 1.10 million pounds to 1.23 million pounds, up 11.82 percent. Area 2C in Southeast Alaska, saw its catch limit rise from 3.41 million pounds to 3.53 million pounds, up 3.52 percent. In Area 4CDE, meanwhile, the catch limit dropped from 1.73 million pounds to 1.67 million pounds, down 3.47 percent.

In Area 2A, in waters off of California, Oregon and Washington, the catch limit remained at 0.87 million pounds, while in Area 2B, in the waters off of British Columbia, the IPHC boosted the catch limit from 5.12 million pounds to 5.23 million pounds, up 2.15 percent.

Major Food Service Says No to Genetically Engineered Salmon

A major international food service, Aramark, has announced a commitment to not sell genetically engineered salmon. The announcement early this week came in the wake of AquaBounty Technologies announcing plans to sell its first ever harvest to the United States in the first quarter of 2021.

Aramark officials sad that avoiding potential impacts to wild salmon populations and indigenous communities, whose livelihoods are deeply connected to and often dependent upon this vital resource, is core to our company’s commitment to making a positive impact on people and the planet.

The decision makes Aramark the third major food service company committed to not selling GE salmon. There has been widespread market rejection of GE salmon already by Compass Group and Sodexo as well as many U.S. grocery retailers, seafood companies and restaurants.

The Federal District Court or the Northern District of California ruled in November that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty Technologies’ genetically engineered salmon was issued unlawfully. The court concluded that FDA violated several core environmental laws in issuing the approval, including the Endangered Species Act. The court ruling currently does not prevent the sale of GE salmon in the United States, although plaintiffs have sought reconsideration of that decision.

Jaydee Hanson, policy director for Center for Food Safety, said it is crucial that companies like Aramark refuse to sell GE animals to wholesalers and consumers. The recent court decision on GE salmon makes clear that they are poorly regulated and do not have clear labeling.

Oceana Urges Increased Transparency, Traceability
of Seafood

Results of a nationwide poll released by the ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana show that Americans overwhelmingly support an end to illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

Respondents to the survey made clear that Americans want and need to know more about the seafood they’re eating,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns.

The majority of respondents agreed that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as seafood caught in the U.S., that they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in domestic markets caught using human trafficking and slave labor, and that they want all seafood to be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate. This agreement was overwhelming among both Republicans and Democrats who participated in the survey.

The Biden administration has an opportunity to lead the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while leveling the playing field for American harvesters and seafood businesses while protecting consumers, Oceana said. According to Oceana illegal fishing poses one of the greatest threats to the world’s oceans., since up to 30 percent of the seafood caught worldwide is a product of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing valued at $25 billion to $50 billion annually.

Up to 90 percent of all fish consumed domestically is imported, with up to one third of wild caught imports sourced from IUU fisheries. Fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas and fishing with illegal gear or for prohibited fish or wildlife all constitutes IUU fishing.

Forced labor and human rights abuses are also commonly associated with IUU fishing, a low risk, high reward activity, especially on the high seas, according to Oceana.

In 2018, federal authorities required catch documentation and traceability for seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud, but the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) currently only applies to 13 types of imported fish, and only traces them from the boat to the U.S. border.

In 2019 Oceana released results of a seafood fraud investigation testing popular seafood not covered by SIMP and found that one in every five fish tested nationwide was mislabeled.

Salmonstate Voices Support for Biden Administration Oceans Conservation Plan

A new Biden administration plan calling for conservation of 30 percent of lands and oceans by 2030 is winning kudos from SalmonState to increase protection of wild salmon watersheds.

“Coming on the heels of an alarming report from the state of Washington showing salmon on the brink of extinction with climate change being a major factor, we need to take bold steps right now if we are going to have a fighting chance to preserve the healthy wild salmon runs many of us take for granted,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState. The Alaska based initiative, which works with commercial harvesters, businesses, scientists and others, is urging the Biden administration to move quickly to protect some of the nation’s best remaining fish and wildlife habitat, include Alaska’s wild salmon watersheds.

The controversy between conservation and development of other parts of the economy remains a constant struggle, particularly as the nation wrestles with recovery now from the economic challenges of the global pandemic. Legal battles range over the wisdom of some conservation plans because of their perceived potential or immediate adverse impact on resource extraction in the mining, oil and gas and timber industries. Particular concern has been voiced, for example, over a new Biden administration decision suspending new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on U.S. lands and waters for 60 days as the new administration moves to reverse energy and environmental policies of the previous administration.

But changing ocean and freshwater conditions in recent years have been causing Alaska’s wild salmon to return smaller and produce fewer eggs than historic norms, and studies confirm that the future of Alaska’s wild salmon will depend on stemming the pace of climate change.

Bristol said that SalmonState is looking forward to working with the new administration to address threats to fisheries from climate change. SalmonState believes this conservation plan can demonstrate quickly a positive impact on the lives of Alaskans dependent on the fisheries, specifically by protecting Southeast Alaska’s transboundary rivers via international agreement, salmon watersheds in the Tongass National Forest by reinstating the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, and Bristol Bay’s massive sockeye runs through the Clean Water Act, Bristol said.

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