Wednesday, March 31, 2021

PSMFC Extends Deadline for Harvesters to Apply for Pandemic Relief Funds to April 9

An application deadline for eligible commercial fishing, shellfish aquaculture, charter and seafood sector industry members to see pandemic relief funds has been extended to April 9 by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC).

Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said that the 15-day extension includes additional time for industry members who fish or land their fish in Alaska, but live in Washington state, to apply for relief. Washington-based commercial harvesters who fish in Alaska should apply to the Washington spend plan for assistance.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish policy director Ron Warren said the agency recognizes that these industry sectors are hurting, and the deadline extension is an important step in getting funding to those who need it most.

Industry members who saw a gross revenue loss greater than 35% of their 2015-2019 average from January through July 2020 are eligible to apply for federal relief.

Congress has provided under Section 12005 of the CARES Act $300 million to states to distribute to fisheries participants. NOAA Fisheries allocated the money among states territories and tribes, with Washington and Alaska receiving the highest allocation of $50 million each.

A total of $39 million was allocated to non-tribal commercial fishing, shellfish and charter industry members. The remainder is available to tribal members of 24 treaty tribes for losses associated with commercial activities and any negative impacts to commercial, subsistence, cultural and ceremonial fisheries resulting directly or indirectly from the pandemic.

The governor’s office has developed a plan to distribute this money with assistance from the Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Agricultural, commerce and the Washington Office of Financial Management. To better understand consequences of the pandemic on industry, state officials met virtually with commercial harvesters, shellfish growers and seafood processors in neighboring West Coast states as well. Discussions were held too with 24 treaty tribes to learn about the impact of COVID-19 on ceremonial and subsistence fisheries.

A second round of assistance is expected to cover losses incurred between August and December 31, 2020, made possible with another $255 million that Congress approved in December. The distribution plan for this second round of funds has not yet been released by NOAA Fisheries.

Application inquiries should be sent to or call (866) 990-2738.

More information about eligibility details and applications instructions is available on the PSMFC’s website:

Hatchery Operators Forecast Return of Some
65.8 Million Fish to Alaska in 2021

Hatchery operators are forecasting a total return of some 65.8 million fish this year, including 51.7 million pink salmon, 10.8 million chum, 1.9 million sockeye, one million coho and 95,000 Chinook salmon to hatchery projects.

That compares with 2020 hatchery returns of 34 million fish, which was lower than the 2020 forecast of 52 million fish. Returns of all salmon species were less than forecasted for 2020, coming in a 52% of forecast for chum, 57% of sockeye, 60% of Chinook, 71% of pink salmon 98% of forecasted cohos.

The forecasts are included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Alaska Salmon Fisheries Enhancement Annual Report.

For comparison, ADF&G biologists said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-ADF&G 2021 Southeast Alaska pink salmon commercial harvest forecast, which includes hatchery and naturally spawned fish, is 28 million humpies. The 2020 Southeast area pink salmon harvest, which was 14% hatchery production, was 7.5 million pink salmon and 63% under the 2020 forecast of 12 million humpies.

The report noted that possible causes for lower return than forecast are unknown but likely varied, and include lasting impacts of a 2014-2016 marine heatwave in the Gulf of Alaska, and the reduction in nutritional value of foraged fish.

The report is a review of hatchery production in Alaska based on information provided by hatchery operators, preliminary fish ticket data and reports from area managers. There are currently a total of 30 production hatcheries and one research hatchery operating in the state.

OHRC Board Seeks Comments Through April 5 on Hatchery Salmon Research

Public comment is being accepted through April 5 by the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC) on research projects designed to investigate effects from domestication, mate choice and olfactory imprinting on the fitness and behavior of hatchery salmon.

Comments may be sent via email to

The OHRC is a cooperative research project between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University. The board advises the OHRC director on activities and functions related to operation and maintenance of the OHRC.

Due to pandemic safety restrictions in the governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order, the OHRC board met online and by teleconference on March 29, with no public comment taken.

The meeting agenda showed that reports to be delivered included an update on the hatchery domestication project by OSU integrative biology professor Michael Blouin, and an update on the mate choice project by OSU professor Michael Banks, whose focus is on methods for resolving hybridized, admixed or recently diverged populations and statistical methods to determine component estimates for mixtures of such populations.

A third project update on the meeting agenda was on olfactory imprinting, with presentations by Marc Johnson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Andrew Dittman, who has studied the olfactory physiology and behavior of fish, particularly salmonids, for over 15 years. Fish have an acute sense of smell and almost every aspect of their lives is influenced by olfaction.

The next meeting of the OHRC is scheduled for June 8, but the agenda has not yet been posted.

Upcoming meetings of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are posted online at

Virtual Mariculture Festival Will Promote Alaska Shellfish, Seaweed

A virtual shellfish and seaweed festival set for mid-May will offer an introduction into this emerging Alaska industry, complete with visits to oyster and seaweed farms and presentations on how aquaculture benefits coastal communities.

The event kicks off May 17 with an introduction to mariculture by Melissa Good, a mariculture specialist in Kodiak with the Marine Advisory Program for Alaska Sea Grant, the festival host, followed by presentations on the basics of seaweed and oyster farming.

Day two features video tours of oyster and seafood farms, followed by a video meeting with an Alaska shellfish farmer. Day three will be all about cooking, with live oyster and kelp cooking demonstrations, plus instruction on how to shuck oysters and pickle kelp.

A presentation on traditional Alutiiq seaweed uses, the future of mariculture, and economic benefits of mariculture to coastal communities will wrap up the final day of the festival.

The preliminary schedule calls for daily two-hour sessions, beginning at 6 p.m. Alaska time.

The event is open to the public. Anyone who orders seafood products from participating businesses during the festival will receive a special gift package that includes recipe cards, a shucking knife and other mariculture-related goodies.

Alaska Sea Grant officials said their goal is to provide participants an opportunity to learn what it’s like to run an oyster or seaweed farm, where to find quality shellfish and seaweed products, and interesting ways to cook Alaska’s fresh locally grown mariculture foods.

Interested parties can register online at to receive a link to the Zoom presentation. The event is also to be streamed live on Facebook from coastal communities around the state.

Businesses interested in participating in the festival or being added to Sea Grant’s Alaska grown shellfish and seaweed directory ( should contact Alaska Sea Grant at (907) 474-7086.

Updates on the event are available at

Peter Pan Seafood Announces Management Changes, Collier Moves to Senior Advisory Role

Longtime Peter Pan Seafood executive Barry Collier is stepping down as chief executive officer and transitioning into a senior advisory role with the company’s ownership group, the company confirmed this week.

The move was hailed by Rodger May, president and chief growth officer of Peter Pan, who noted that Collier, who has spent 33 years with Peter Pan, played a key role during ownership transition earlier this year. “We’re glad to have his trusted voice in his new role on our senior advisory board,” said May.

The company also announced on March 30 the addition of Mark Foster, Steve Minor and Jonathan Thorpe to the management team of the Bellevue, Wash.-based seafood company, with a focus on value-added sales channels.

The ownership group of Peter Pan is comprised of May, of Northwest Fish, the Na’Nuk Investment Fund LP managed by McKinley Capital Management LLC, and the RRG Global Partners Fund, managed by RRG Capital Management. The new management was finalized following the acquisition of Peter Pan Seafood on Dec. 31, 2020.

Foster, whose past senior roles include working with Alaska Communications Systems, is the company’s new chief financial officer. He’ll be working along with Steve Minor, who will serve as the manager of business development, exploring the potential development of new resources, community development and more.

Much of Minor’s career has been focused on development and protection of Alaska’s state and federal marine resources and coastal communities, management of commercial fishing assets and science-based, sustainable management of marine resources.

Thorpe, also a veteran of the seafood industry, hails from a multi-generational Cook Inlet set-net family. He will work on investments, strategically aligned partnerships and developing downstream products and customers. His past industry positions include serving as chief financial officer and chief investment and strategy officer for Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

11% of U.S. Seafood Imports in 2019 Were IUU Harvests

A new report from the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that 11% of the seafood imported into the country in 2019 was from illegal, unreported and unregulated harvests.

That’s $2.4 billion worth of seafood.

The commission said that removal of IUU imports from U.S. markets would have a positive impact on commercial harvesters in the U.S., with estimated increases in U.S. prices, landings and operating income for all species modeled. Removal of that illegally caught seafood would increase total operating income of the domestic commercial fishing industry by an estimated $60.8 million.

Major categories of this illegal harvest were swimming crab, wild-caught warmwater shrimp, yellowfin tuna and squid. Of the major import sources, China, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia are estimated to be relatively substantial exporters of marine-capture IUU imports to the United States, while Canada, the largest U.S. seafood import partner, is not, the report said.

U.S. commercial fisheries with the largest increases in operating income include harvesters targeting warm water shrimp, sockeye salmon, bigeye tuna and squid.

Reliance on imported seafood into the domestic market is a major determinant. The effect of IUU imports on Pollock fisheries, for example, is small because nearly all Pollock consumed in the United States comes from Alaska fisheries.

Alaska is the second largest Pollock producer in the world, accounting for some 44 percent of the volume of global Pollock production on average from 2014 through 2018. Russia is the world’s largest Pollock producer, accounting for 48.9 percent of production for those same years. Pollock caught in Alaska is known as Alaska Pollock, although it is the same species caught elsewhere in the North Pacific Ocean.

Pollock fillets are a commodity product used by secondary processors to produce processed fillet fish items, including fish sticks patties and battered and breaded fillets. Deep-skinned fillets – filets with the fat line removed – are normally used in fast food and other chain restaurants, including the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich. They command higher prices for primary processors than other fillets.

The report also estimated the amount of IUU raw materials processed into feed used to produce aquaculture-raised seafood and concluded that nearly 9% of the harvested weight of farmed fish imported into the U.S. was fed with IUU-based ingredients.

The complete report is online at

Coast Guard Issues Safety Alert on PFD Lights

Coast Guard officials at Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach have issued a warning about SEE-Me 1.0 LED PFD lights, after finding 11 non-compliant ones with their bottoms missing, cracked or bulging. The lights are manufactured by AOB Outdoor Products & Accessories Inc. and may be labeled as Model 51150 or strobe Model 51152. Both models use two customer-supplied AAA alkaline or lithium batteries. The affected lights all used alkaline batteries, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard report said the insulating seals at the end of the battery breached, allowing potassium hydroxide to escape and react with the air in the device, causing potassium carbonate to form. Leaks occurred due to either self-discharge, in which the stored charge was reduced due to an internal chemical reaction within the affected batteries, or the affected batteries surpassed the manufacturer’s recommended storage life and/or storage conditions, the Coast Guard report said.

AOB is recommending use of Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries, which are considerably more leakproof than alkaline batteries. These batteries also outperform alkaline in extreme temperature conditions and have a longer shelf life than alkaline batteries. AOB also recommended that prior to storing the SEE-Me 1.0 PFD Light that users remove depleted batteries and replace with new ones to avoid degradation during storage.

The Coast Guard recommends that those using any PFD lights store the lights where they will not be exposed to extreme temperatures or saltwater and that manufacturer-recommended batteries are used for optimal life of the equipment.

The safety alert was developed by the Coast Guard Office of Design and Engineering standards and Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. Questions and comments on this equipment should be sent to

COVID-19 Vaccinations for Seafood Workers Stepped Up

A collaborative effort led by the Alaska COVID-19 Unified Command is getting a number of seafood industry workers and residents of communities dotting the Aleutian Chain vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

The aggressive vaccination effort began March 17. According to the Unified Command, well over 2,500 doses of COVID-19 have been given to seafood workers at land-based processing plants and onboard fishing vessels at Akutan, plus other seafood industry workers and residents of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.

Eastern Aleutian Tribes, the city of Unalaska, Iliulliuk Family and Health Services Clinic and the Unified Command have partnered with others to coordinate delivery of the vaccine to these very remote communities. The Eastern Aleutian Tribes health sector received an allocation of the vaccine from the federal government, plus additional vaccine through a program for Federally Qualified Health Centers.

“The commercial fishing industry is the lifeblood of many Alaskan communities and it’s critical they are able to continue their work,” said Bryan Fisher, incident commander with the Unified Command. “The challenge is balancing the economic needs with the health needs of the communities and the workforce.

State health officials meanwhile are continuing to take steps to ensure that the commercial fishing industry keeps operating as the pandemic continues.

Employers who hire nonresident workers are being asked to submit community/workforce protective plans, implement social distancing measures to protect workers and communities, and to conduct regular screening of their workers.

National Ocean Exploration Act Reintroduced in Congress

Legislation to update national priorities for ocean mapping, exploration and characterization is included in the National Ocean Exploration Act, which has been reintroduced by five U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle.

The legislation would authorize and improve the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration and Characterization Council, and reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s existing Ocean Exploration, Ocean and Coastal Mapping, and Hydrographic Services programs from fiscal years 2021 to 2030. It would also establish a system to enhance public access to the National Environmental Policy Act documents and the geo-referenced data included in them.

It is sponsored in the current Congress by Senators Roger Wicker, R-MS, Maria Cantwell, D-WA, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and Brian Schatz, D-HI. Cantwell notes that the bill would renew a focus on mapping and ocean research and allow for innovative partnerships and cooperative agreements to expand ocean exploration efforts.

“NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program supports Pacific Northwest research from mapping the Arctic of facilitate shipping, tourism and commerce to exporting the biological and cultural importance of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary,” Cantwell said.

“Given Alaska’s vast coastline and our changing climate, responsible exploration, stewardship and development of the nation’s oceans is as important as ever,” Murkowski added. “For a state as under-mapped as Alaska, sustained federal attention and investment into ocean mapping will be absolutely imperative to close the charting backlog in the Arctic and bring spatial datasets into the 21st century,” she said. The legislation was introduced during the last Congress by Cantwell, Schatz and Wicker.

A bill can only become law during the congressional session where it is proposed. When the National Ocean Exploration Act was not signed into law during the 116th Congress, it had to be reintroduced in the 117th Congress. The reintroduced bill was minimally modified from the version introduced in the last Congress, Murkowski’s staff said.

The full bill can be seen online at

Saildrones Deployed to the Arctic Validating Data from Satellite Remote Sensing

A new report from Saildrone, one of the world’s leading collectors of ocean related in situ data on unmanned vehicles, says data collected by the wind and solar powered saildrones are validating information gathered via satellite remote sensing.

The report focuses on the 2019 NASA Multi-Sensor Improved Sea Surface Temperature Project mission in the Bering and Chukchi seas, the first of five years of temperature calibration and validation at high latitudes.

The Saildrone report quotes NASA’s Jorge Vazquez, the lead author of the study, who notes that he and his team found a strong correlation between measurements taken by satellite and measurements taken by the Saildrones in situ.

Vazquez presented his findings during last year’s fall meeting of AGU, a global community of earth and space scientists. He noted that one of the challenges in remote sensing is how to improve the satellite-derived data sets so people can use them for monitoring purposes. While satellite technology can offer estimates for sea surface temperatures, there’s still a question of how accurate those satellite estimates are, so Vazquez and his team deployed a number of Saildrones to collect similar data, finding a strong correlation between the two sets of measurements.

Data collected by the 2019 Saildrone fleet also is being used by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to develop machine learning tools to improve estimates of air-sea heat exchange in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.

WHOI senior scientist Lisan Yu notes that Arctic surface air temperature is rising at twice the speed of the rest of the world and that sea ice in the Arctic is retreating up to three times faster than the rate projected by climate model simulations. Yu said the significant underestimate of Arctic sea ice loss in models underscores critical gaps in knowledge concerning interactions between the atmosphere, the polar ocean and ice-covered regions.

The Saildrone project, he said, brings all available observations together in a consistent and comprehensive way to help models make accurate predictions vital for development of effective policy responses to climate change.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Alaska Seeks to Intervene in Southeast Alaska Troll Lawsuit from Washington State

State of Alaska officials are seeking to intervene in litigation filed by a Washington state conservation entity that wants Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon troll fisheries halted to ensure a sufficient food supply for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

The state’s request to intervene was filed this past week in U.S. District Court for the western district of Washington state. No decision has been issued yet on Alaska’s request, but the Alaska Trollers Association earlier this month hailed a decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denying a motion by the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall, Washington, for preliminary injunction to halt the Chinook troll fishery this summer.

“Great news,” said Amy Daughtery, executive director of the trollers’ association.

Meanwhile, the Wild Fish Conservancy is pushing ahead with its lawsuit, citing the biological opinion issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Chinook harvests.

According to Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, research shows that 97 percent of the king salmon harvested in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery are from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

“When they are overharvested, it threatens recovery of those wild Chinooks on the West Coast,” Beardslee said.

The lawsuit seeks to shut down all salmon fisheries in federal waters from three to 200 miles off the coast of Southeast Alaska, which comprises about 87% of the commercial fishing area in Southeast Alaska. Management of that area was delegated to the state by the National Marine Fisheries Service, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

State fisheries officials say that the Southeast Alaska salmon fishery has averaged $806 million in output, $484 million in gross domestic product, $299 million in labor income or wages and 6,600 full time equivalent jobs. Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang notes that sustainable fisheries management was a primary driver behind statehood. Vincent-Lang said the state is abiding by terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and complying with terms of the biological opinion tied to it.

Maritime Publishing Acquires Professional Mariner, Ocean Navigator Magazines

San Diego-based Maritime Publishing, the owner of Fishermen’s News and Pacific Maritime magazines, has acquired Professional Mariner and Ocean Navigator magazines from Portland, Maine based-Navigator Publishing, Maritime Publishing announced March 15.

“We are in the business of providing mariners with knowledge through education. Professional Mariner and Ocean Navigator have been providing knowledge through current industry news and original editorial content for decades, so they are a natural extension of our existing business,” Dave Abrams, CEO of Maritime Publishing’s parent company, Training Resources Limited, explained. “The titles give us the ability to provide mariners with advocacy, news and information about the industries and adventures we train them for.”

“I am very excited to be passing the torch to Dave and his team at Maritime Publishing,” Navigator Publishing President Alex Agnew said. “I believe they will elevate the already outstanding content that we have been known for and provide resources to expand our efforts in both print and digital media. We could not think of a better successor to carry on our legacy.”

“This is the kind of strategic deal that we see as the future of special interest and (business-to-business) publishing,” Ed Fitzelle, Managing Director of Luntz, Suleiman & Assoc. Inc., a publishing industry M&A veteran, added.

All Navigator Publishing employees, including Agnew, will continue with the magazines and will work with Fisherman’s News and Pacific Maritime Magazine, according to Maritime Publishing.

What’s Eating Juvenile Salmon?

A new study on predation mortality of juvenile salmon from the Columbia River Basin suggests that several conditions near the mouth of the Columbia River are useful indicators of potential juvenile salmon mortality that could be helpful in salmon management.

The study by Beth Phillips, titled “Characterizing juvenile salmon predation risk during early marine residence,” was published online at Phillips is a post-doctoral research associate with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

“While predation mortality is often assessed using direct observations of prey consumption, potential predation can be predicted from co-occurring predator and prey densities under varying environmental conditions,” Phillips wrote in an abstract on the study.

Her research team opted to estimate smolt predation risk based on observations of piscivorous seabirds and local densities of alternative prey fish, including northern anchovy in Oregon and Washington coastal waters during May and June of 2010-2012. They evaluated predation risk relative to availability of alternative prey and physical factors, including turbidity and Columbia River area plume and compared risk to returns of adult salmon. River plumes are the region where the most intense river-sea-land interaction occurs. They are characterized by complex material transport and biogeochemical processes.

The presence of seabirds and smolts consistently occurring at sampling stations throughout most of the study area indicate that juvenile salmon are regularly exposed to avian predators during their early marine residence. The study found that predation risk for juvenile coho, yearling Chinook and subyearling Chinook salmon was on average also present.

Predation risk was greater in turbid waters and less as water clarity rose. Juvenile coho and yearling Chinook salmon predation risk was lower when river plume surface areas were greater that 15,000 km2 while the opposite was estimated for subyearling Chinook salmon, the study found.

Comment Sought on Proposals for Washington State’s Ocean Salmon Fisheries

Fishery managers have developed options for Washington’s ocean salmon fisheries reflecting the need to minimize impacts to low forecasts of abundances of coastal coho stocks, while providing opportunity to access the large forecast for Columbia River coho. Three ocean options approved by the Pacific Fishery Management Council are now up for public review.

Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said these options are crafted with quota levels designed to address the conservation needs of coastal coho stocks and Puget Sound Chinook stocks, while still trying to provide angler opportunities to access more abundant stocks in ocean areas.

Two of the options would limit quotas on Chinook and marked coho. A third option would close all ocean areas to salmon fishing.

Adicks notes that fisheries managers use public feedback on various options to negotiate a final season among states and tribes represented at PFMC that rarely mirrors a specific initial option, but is refined to incorporate preferences shared by the public.

Under any of the three scenarios WDFW would monitor the number of salmon caught by recreational anglers and may close earlier if quotas are met. More details about the options are online at the PFMC website,

An online public hearing on the alternatives is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23. The meeting link is Enter the meeting ID: 149 199 7052, click “JOIN” and follow further instructions. For the best audio experience, computer audio is advised.

More information, including how to sign up for oral comment, plus hearing materials, is available online at For technical assistance, email Kris Kleinschmidt or call/text (503) 820-2412; or email Sandra Krause or call/text (503) 820-2419.

Big Increase in 2021 Commercial Salmon Harvests Forecast by ADF&G

State fisheries biologists are forecasting a big increase in Alaska’s 2021 commercial harvest of salmon harvests totaling over 190 million fish, including 269,000 Chinook, 46.6 million sockeye, 3.8 million coho, 124.2 million pink and 15.3 million chums.

When compared to the 2020 commercial harvests, the projected upcoming commercial harvest would include 63.5 million more humpies, 203,000 more reds, 1.4 more coho and 6.7 million more chums.

With the exception of Southeast Alaska, pink salmon forecasts are generally based on average returned from previous brood years, but forecasters caution that there is always a great deal of uncertainty in predicting pink salmon returns.

Also, with the exception of Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon fisheries and the South Peninsula June fisheries, Alaska salmon management will be based on in-season estimates of salmon run strength, since the primary goal is to maintain spawning population sizes.

The projection breakdown includes a forecast harvest of nearly 36 million salmon in the Bristol Bay fishery, including 34.6 million sockeyes, 1.2 million chum, 137,000 coho, 31,000 chinook and 9,000 humpies.

For the westward region, the forecast harvest is over 48 million fish, including 38 million pinks, 6.9 million sockeyes, 2.1 million chums, 887,000 coho and 32,000 Chinook salmon.

Kodiak’s forecast is for over 25 million fish, including 14 million wild and 11 million hatchery fish. The anticipated pink salmon harvest alone is predicted to include 11.6 million wild and nearly 11 million hatchery pinks.

For Southeast Alaska, the forecast is for a total harvest of over 40 million fish, including 31 million in natural production and 8.9 million of hatchery production, with the largest harvest being 28 million natural production and 288,000 hatchery humpies.

For Prince William Sound, the forecast includes over 50 million pink salmon of which 37.5 million would be hatchery production and over 17 million wild fish., plus 1.2 million hatchery and 842,000 sockeyes, nearly two million hatchery and 308,000 wild chum, 323,000 wild and 193,000 hatchery coho and some 8,000 Chinooks.

Coast Guard Cutter Berholf Returns After Major Cocaine Busts at Sea

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf has returned home to Alameda, California, after 50 days patrolling the Eastern Pacific Ocean on a counter-narcotics mission, returning with some 6,200 pounds of confiscated cocaine valued at over $107 million.

Commanding officer Capt. Brian Anderson said that early in the patrol, the 418-foot Bertholf interdicted three go-fast vessels over a span of six hours using three pursuit boats, their helicopter and a Scan Eagle drone to apprehend four suspected drug smugglers and seize over 1,700 pounds of cocaine.

The Bertholf mobilized its advanced capabilities, including a small, unmanned aircraft system, an attached Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron MH-65 helicopter and air crew, and an embarked Law Enforcement Detachment from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team.

The Coast Guard said that its fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires a collaborative effort of detection, monitoring and interdictions, with criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ offices in districts nationwide.

The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions themselves, including actual boardings, are conducted by the Coast Guard.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

IPHC Studying Recreational Discard Mortality

International Pacific Halibut Commission biologists are studying recreational discard mortality in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska to examine the impact of halibut release practices and associated mortality.

Participating charter vessels in areas 2C, in Southeast Alaska, and 3A, in Southcentral Alaska, must complete their recreational discard mortality sampling by June 30, the IPHC said.

The survey goal is twofold: the IPHC wants to evaluate effects of fish handling practices on injury levels and their association with the physiological condition of captured halibut. It also wants to investigate the effects of fish handling methods and associated injury level and physiological condition on post-release survival of these halibut in the guided fishery.

The IPHC issued a request for tenders for the study in early March, for vessels capable of carrying up to six anglers to take a minimum sample size of 240 Pacific halibut from each site targeted. The application deadline is March 19. More information is available at or by calling (206) 634-1838.

Each fish was to be measured, weighed, evaluated for injuries, sampled for blood and fat content, scored a survival viability and subsequently tagged and released. No fish are to be retained for consumption or other reasons.

Ian Stewart, a quantitative scientist with the IPHC, said the commission does stock assessments on an annual basis, and that right now discard mortality rates are part of the ongoing research. About 5-7% -- or one out of every 20 fish discarded – end up dead, he said. Given the large numbers of fish handled each year, this is one area where there’s a large amount of uncertainty, he said.

“The IPHC can make recommendations about handling processes and gear types,” he remarked. “We generally work with National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on this. It would be good to know if we could document differences in gear types, which gear causes the least harm to halibut,” he said.

“Halibut are an incredibly resilient fish, but nonetheless it’s still an appreciable amount of mortality. Regulations require minimizing mortality to the degree possible. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recognizes different mortality differences,” he explained. “For example, the circle hook provides on average the least amount of damage. This study will help us better understand that.”

The 2021 study is a follow up to one done on commercial halibut fishery several years ago, where the IPHC stratified the fish into different injury rates, Stewart said. Information gathered during that study is still being evaluated.

Transboundary Waterways Study Draws Conclusions; Tribes Say It’s a Beginning, Not an End

A water quality report on salmon-rich transboundary rivers by environmental agencies for the governments of Alaska and British Columbia concludes there has been no measurable impact to Alaska waters from historic mining activities in British Columbia.

The collaborative four-year effort of the governments industry, indigenous nations and the public, will serve as baseline data to assess potential impacts from future industrial activity, says Alaska Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Jason Brune.

“Water and wildlife don’t recognize borders, and so it’s up to all of us to protect our critical and priceless watersheds regardless of jurisdiction,” said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC government.

The governments said in their final BC-Alaska Transboundary Rivers Monitoring Program report that the Stikine, Taku and Unuk transboundary watersheds continue to support and sustain aquatic life in conjunction with mining and other land use activities. For now though, they said, the transboundary rivers monitoring program has concluded its work.

However, tribal and environmental entities in Southeast Alaska, disagree, saying the report should be the beginning, rather than the end of studies to assure that the watersheds remain viable as salmon habitat.

While many tribal members work in mining, “these mines must operate safely and responsibly and with best practices and strict liability for harm to the environment,” Tlingit & Haida Central Council President Richard Peterson said.

While some water sample results exceeded BC water quality guidelines at B.C. sample sites, there were no exceedances of Alaska water quality standards for all samples taken downstream of the BC-Alaska border, the report stated.

The testing program was initiated out of a 2015 memorandum of understanding and statement of cooperation agreement signed by the governor of Alaska and premier of British Columbia, which called for creation of the collaborative working group, including partnerships with local indigenous nations, industries and environmental groups.

The report is being challenged by Alaska’s Indigenous peoples and environmental groups, who say the report should not be an end unto itself but the beginning of the ongoing collection of data to protect the habitat that wild salmon depend on for survival.

What is needed, said Fred Olsen Jr., executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC), is federal involvement by the United States and Canada.

Of major concern to salmon harvesters, tribal entities and environmental groups are the acid drainage still flowing from the Tulsequah Chief mine, which has been shut down for several decades, and potential adverse environmental impacts of other existing and planned mines.

“The state has oversimplified the complexity of this international issue and without binding agreements in place, Alaskans remain unprotected,” Jill Weitz, director of Salmon Beyond Borders, said.

According to the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, they have not been engaged in the project’s water monitoring since 2018, which diminishes the collaborative effort described in the data report.

Pacific Great Blue Herons are Chowing Down on Thousands of Chinook, Coho Salmon

A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology estimates that thousands of juvenile wild and hatchery reared Chinook salmon and hatchery Coho salmon in the Salish Sea region of British Columbia are being consumed by Pacific great blue herons.

The study, led by University of British Columbia doctoral candidate Zachary Sherker, is the first to estimate the abundance of juvenile salmon being preyed upon by an understudied bird species.

Sherker had been looking for evidence of salmon being preyed upon by freshwater predators recorded in western scientific literature, like racoons, otters, king fishers and mink, but found nothing. Then on a ride to seal haul-outs with Cowichan Tribes biologist Tim Kulchinksy, said Sherker, Kulchinksy regarded a bunch of herons foraging at the outflow of the river and asked if Sherker had ever thought of herons.

That day, Sherker scanned the forest floor of heron rookeries and recovered from scat beneath the nests about 100 Passive Integrated Transponder tags that had been placed inside juvenile salmon by scientists and salmon hatchery staff between 2008 and 2018 to study their migration to the Pacific Ocean.

Those tags are about the size of a grain of rice, Sherker said. When heron swallow the fish whole, the tag passes straight through the heron’s digestive tract and out in the scat. Considering the number of tags deposited outside of rookeries, Sherker and his co-authors estimate that heron predation may account for up to three percent of all juvenile salmon deaths and could be as high as six percent in some years with low water flow.

“It should be noted that the relatively small size of juvenile salmon compared to other heron prey items suggests that they may be a particularly important food source for chicks during early rearing, when young herons are gape-limited and at high risk of choking on larger fish prey,” Sherker explained.

Knowing where young salmon are dying has become more critical as salmon stocks decline. Researchers believe that herons preying on smaller, weaker salmon may even be beneficial.

According to Sherker, such predation could benefit salmon stocks by weeding out the weak and allowing for less competition and higher growth among other fish in these critical juvenile life stages.

The great blue herons are stalk-and-strike hunters who locate their prey by sight and so need to hunt by day. They belong to a non-migratory and marine-oriented subspecies that range from Alaska to southern Washington state, with the largest concentration occurring in northwestern Washington and southwest British Columbia. During the non-breeding season great blue herons are widely dispersed in Puget Sound, foraging and roosting in coastal and lowland areas.

Pandemic and More Shaped Work for California’s Marine Region Accomplishments

The new California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2020 Year in Review provides an overview of the hurdles its marine region faced and accomplished, despite challenges of the pandemic, the worst fire season in the state’s history and a period of great social unrest.

Despite much of the marine region’s workforce relocating to home offices, a tremendous amount was accomplished, regional manager Craig Shuman wrote in the report, now available online at

Among the department’s accomplishments were closely tracking and responding to dramatic shifts in commercial and recreational fish activity as behavior changed in response to the pandemic, Shuman said.

Field work and sampling programs were curtailed to focus on the most essential needs and to develop new protocols and procedures to ensure that the critical work could continue in a COVID-safe manner, he said. Then in response to passage of the federal CARES Act, they mobilized leadership across all commercial sectors to develop a spend plan and allocate the $18.3 million of Fisheries Relief funds allocated to California.

Other accomplishments included initiating a buyout program for the California drift gillnet fishery in partnership with the Ocean Protection Council and implementing new regulatory programs. These included the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program and the lost or abandoned commercial Dungeness crab gear retrieval program to further reduce the risk of whale and turtle entanglement, Shuman said.

“While we must not forget the sorrow, loss and adversity of this past year, we can take pride in knowing that we joined together to persevere and will forever be stronger because of the hardships we overcame,” he said.

Alaska Board of Fisheries Revises Future Years’ Meeting Cycles

Members of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, meeting virtually in the midst of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, have voted to postpone further 2020/2021 meetings until the 2021/2022 meeting cycle.

During its virtual meeting on Jan. 25 the board determined it would attempt to conduct all of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 meetings next year. But during a special meeting held on Monday, March 8 the board revisited that decision, deciding instead to conduct only the 2020-2021 meetings.

The entire board spoke in opposition to doubling up on meetings and withdrew support from their previous action.

The board also noted that doubling up on meetings would have been impossible under the flat funding included in Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget and would have put extreme pressure on staff of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

During the special session, the fisheries board made note of a number of public comments submitted by United Fishermen of Alaska, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association and over two dozen other entities, as well as a letter from members of the Alaska House of Representatives in opposition to doubling up on meetings. Board members also noted the importance of in-person meetings as part of the board’s public process.

Board meetings now scheduled for the coming year include: the Prince William Sound finfish meeting beginning on Nov. 30, 2021; the Southeast/Yakutat finfish meeting in January 2022; and the hatchery meeting and statewide shellfish meeting in March 2022.

According to Glenn Haight, executive director of the board, meetings originally planned for the 2021-2022 cycle will now take place in 2022/2023, meetings planned for 2022/2023 will occur in 2023-2024, and so forth.

The 2022/2023 meeting system will include the Alaska Peninsula, Bering Sea, Aleutian Island and Chignik areas Pacific cod; Bristol Bay area finfish; Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim areas finfish; Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Island and Chignik area finfish, and statewide provisions for finfish.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Coast Guard Mobile App Offers Safety Features for Pacific Northwest Voyages

Coast Guard officials are promoting a Boating Safety Mobile App designed to aid maritime voyage planning, boating safety and maritime distress in the Pacific Northwest.

The app – available free on iPhone and Android devices – was developed as a tool that merges an easy-to-use interface with common cellphone operating systems and offers users a central application for commonly searched boating information.

Location settings in the app can be customized to offer real-time weather information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys and to let mariners report navigational hazards or possible pollution incidents to Coast Guard responders.

The app is also designed to store vessel registration and contact information. User profiles can be vital sources of information to search and rescue teams dealing with maritime distress situations. A critical feature of the app is the bright red “Emergency Assistance” icon on the home screen. This icon will connect mariners in distress with the nearest Coast Guard unit or 911 emergency service while also providing a real-time GPS location.

The app also offers a unique way to file a float plan with designated contacts, including information on future voyages. Float plans can prove critical in emergency situations where facts need to be accurately remembered and provided to search and rescue teams. The Coast Guard does not actively monitor float plans, but many mariners may find comfort in providing voyage information to family and friends who can then provide detailed information to search and rescue officials if the boat does not returned when expected. More information on float plans is online at

For information on the app itself go online to

Application Period Opens for Proposals for NFWF Fishing for Energy Program

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is seeking proposals by March 30 for projects to host cost-free recycling and/or energy conversion gear disposal opportunities for fishing communities. This year the Fishing for Energy program is also seeking projects to build capacity and logistics development to prepare communities to host bins for gear collection in the future including exploring opportunities for gear recycling, upcycling or other alternative disposal options.

By helping to prevent and remove derelict gear, the program restores the quality of marine and coastal habitat, supporting communities that rely on these resources.

Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, state or territorial government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, tribal governments and organizations, educational institutions, or ports.

This year program managers will give priority to projects that maintain an existing port, establish a new port opportunity, or host an event for the fishing community to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear. Priority will also be given to projects to develop capacity for comprehensive logistics for port communities interested in implementing a long-term bin program for the future.

The full request for proposals is online at All application materials must be submitted online through NFWF’s Easygrants system, with registration available at or call the Easygrants Helpdesk at 202-595-2497.

The program is a partnership between NFWF, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Convanta, a world leader in sustainable waste and energy solutions; and Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of recycled metal products in North America.

Over the past decade, Fishing for Energy has worked directly with 59 domestic fishing communities in 14 states to provide a no cost solution for harvester to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear and to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear in and around coastal waterways.

$50 Million In CARES Act Fisheries Assistance Approved for Alaska

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given final approval to Alaska’s draft spend plan, to be shared by seafood processors, commercial harvesters, sport charters, subsistence users and aquaculture.

Under details spelled out on the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website, all sectors other than subsistence will have to certify that they suffered a loss of greater than 35 percent in fishery participation revenue from March 1, 2020 through Nov. 30, 2020 as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic.

They also must have been fishery participants in 2018 and 2019.

Nonresident commercial permit holders whose home states, including Washington and Oregon, are also eligible for this aid must apply in their own states.

Applications for aid are available on the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission webpage-

NOAA is also working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify subsistence users in Alaska. The completion date for that effort is not known yet.

State officials noted that the economic impact of the pandemic on fisheries was felt across the state, from reduced wholesale prices and reduction in demand due to economic shut down or sharp declines in tourism. The spend plan goal is to broadly distribute stimulus payments to those eligible while balancing rapidity, equitability and workload with limited resources, they said.

Questions related specifically to Alaska’s Section 12005 CARES Act Fisheries assistance relief may be emailed to or call 1-888-517-7262.

Also sharing in the total $300 million in Section 12005 funds for those economically injured by the pandemic are Washington, California, Oregon, Hawaii, federally recognized tribes in Alaska and on the West Coast, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

eDNA May Prove a Cost-Effective Alternative to Better Understanding Coastal Species Diversity

NOAA Fisheries researchers are looking to use of environmental DNA metabarcoding as a feasible, cost-effective alternative to traditional sampling for collecting species diversity data in coastal areas and identifying essential fish habitat.

Preliminary results of an e-DNA study released in late February by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Auke Bay Laboratories said a pilot study using eDNA techniques in 2020 identified more than 40 species in nine sites around Juneau.

According to Wes Larson, program manager for the genetics lab at AFSC at Auke Bay, there are many ways eDNA can help them do their jobs better. Through water sampling, researchers are able to detect a fish after it has left an area, including cryptic fish, those that may not typically be sampled in traditional survey gear, or may be a rare or low-density organism that surveys miss. e-DNA sampling can also help identify pelagic fish like Pacific cod and Alaska Pollock that may be offshore and could avoid smaller nets, he said. To assess species diversity, researchers are using eDNA metabarcoding, a cutting-edge technique that allows for identification of numerous species from a single water sample.

Resource managers at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are all interested in this project also for its importance in identifying essential fish habitat (EFH), as well as the possibility of using eDNA as a cost-effective way to learn which fish and crab species are present at specific locations throughout Alaska.

State and federal fisheries managers, as well as the Corps of Engineers can use EFH information in numerous ways, from fisheries management to making decisions on permitting resource development projects. Larson also sees this work as an important complement to long term genetic studies, including estimating stock compositions of salon caught as bycatch in federal fisheries and understanding stock-specific impacts.

Other NOAA laboratories are already conducting eDNA research at Northwest and Northeast fisheries science centers. Long term plans are to conduct eDNA sampling in many areas of Alaska, including nearshore habitats near Baranof Island, Kodiak, Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Larson and Gretchen Harrington, with NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region Habitat Conservation Division, said they are also exploring use of eDNA to understand fish and crab habitat use and distribution in the nearshore and to detect marine invasive species, such as European green crab. “As budgets shrink, we are continuing to find innovative ways to do more with less,” they said. “We are particularly excited about pairing eDNA with un-crewed instrumentation such as remote autosamplers.”

Researchers are currently piloting the use of eDNA autosamplers that can collect samples in remote locations, in hope that these samplers will be able to provide high-resolution data on species presence and/or absence and abundance without requiring a boat, crew and infrastructure to set and retrieve nets.

USACE Agrees to Hear Appeal from Pebble on Denial of Critical Permit for Mine

A Canadian mining company in pursuit of building and operating a copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed has won the right to appeal a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision denying them a crucial permit. The Corps has agreed to let Northern Dynasty Minerals’ wholly owned subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, appeal its decision regarding a Clean Water Act 404 permit. The Corps issued a record of decision late last year saying that issuing that permit would not be in the public interest.

NDM officials said USACE guidelines indicate the appeal process should conclude within 90 days, although it could be extended under certain circumstances.

The Corps declined to allow the state of Alaska to also appeal its permit denial to the PLP on grounds that the state did not meet the criteria of being an affected party. The Corps notified the Alaska Department of Law of its decision, prompting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to say that as the owner of the mineral estate impacted by that decision, the state would continue to pursue all options to have Alaskans heard.

“This is another example of the federal government imposing a flawed decision that blocks Alaska’s ability to responsibly develop its land and resources,” Dunleavy said. “We will not stop fighting for Alaska’s economic prosperity.”

Commercial fishermen and conservation opponents of the Pebble mine meanwhile urged the Biden administration to provide permanent protection for the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. Tim Bristol, executive director of the conservation entity SalmonState, said the state of Alaska needs to accept the reality that the majority of Alaskans, except for Governor Dunleavy, have said for decades that the Pebble mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place.

It’s time for the EPA to take action to reenact lasting protections for Bristol Bay, he said.

The national coalition Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay also weighed in on the issue, urging federal action that would lay to rest once and for all the uncertainty of the future of the largest wild sockeye salmon run in the world. The fishermen want protections for the Bay, which provides some 15,000 jobs in commercial fisheries and $2.2 billion in economic activity and a generational fishing way of life, said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. A reversal of this permit denial would put Bristol Bay and the world’s largest salmon fishery back in peril, she said.

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