Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund Issues
2021 Call for Proposals

The Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund has issued its 2021 call for proposals for Alaska’s allocation of funds from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. While the amount of this year’s available funds is not yet known, it is expected to be about $3.8 million.

Proposals are being accepted through noon on June 15, but those submitted before noon on June 1 will receive a courtesy administrative pre-review, and it is suggested that this option be utilized even by those entities whose proposal is not yet finalized.

All proposals must be submitted through the fund’s website,

Funding decision letters will be sent to applicants by late December. Those selected for funding must contribute a 35% nonfederal match of funds, and projects must be completed by Nov. 30, 2024. Objectives include habitat conservation, habitat restoration, monitoring and assessment and habitat resiliency.

Projects proposed for habitat conservation must directly attain long-term conservation of salmon habitat. While secondary activities and objectives, including ancillary surveys or data collection are not allowed as standalone projects, they are allowed as project components if necessary, to complete the project. Preference will be given to projects in areas with a high potential for habitat degradation, that benefit salmon populations utilized for subsistence, or that conserve salmon habitat prioritized in climate impact studies.

For habitat restoration proposals, with the exception of assessments to prioritize fish passage restoration projects, projects proposed must result in on-the-ground restoration of salmon habitat. Secondary activities from planning to ancillary data collection are allowed as project components, but not as standalone projects. Preference will be given to eradication projects.

Projects funded under the monitoring and assessment category must be necessary for exercise of subsistence fishing or contribute to sustaining salmon populations utilized for subsistence. Secondary activities again are not allowed as standalone projects, but will be allowed as project components if needed to successfully complete the project. Preference will be given to projects occurring in systems prioritized in climate impact studies.

Proposals for habitat resiliency projects must ensure that all data products such as geospatial models are open access and publicly available. For projects that develop a regional or statewide framework, preference will be given to interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate individuals with expertise in salmon ecology, subsistence salmon fisheries, hydrology population genetics and climate science.

GAPP Seeks Collaborators for New Partnership Program

Proposals are due by July 20th for the next round of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) Partnership Program funding in North America and Europe.

Participation is open to any organization in any country with a desire to build awareness and demand for Wild Alaska Pollock in North America and Europe, said GAPP Chief Executive Officer Craig Morris. GAPP’s goal is to spread the word about the versatility of Alaska Pollock, with a focus on bringing the fish into new markets, and new formats or associating it with new influencers and/or recipes. All product inputs will be considered, including fillets, surimi, roe, fishmeal and oil.

Proposal applications are available online at the association’s website,

GAPP, which is dedicated to the marketing of once-frozen Pollock products harvested and processed in Alaska, will also host an informational webinar on May 25 to answer questions from applicants prior to proposal submissions. Registration for the webinar is required and may also be completed at the association’s website.

Last year, GAPP’s board of directors approved over $2 million in funds for Partnerships in North America and Europe. To date GAPP has committed over $5 million to projects aimed at placing Wild Alaska Pollock into new forms channels or associated with influencers.

This year, final funding selections are scheduled to be announced no later than early September.

Testing Expanded for Gamma Radiation
in Alaska Seafood

Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation has expanded testing for gamma radiation in Alaska seafood as a precautionary measure as the Japanese government plans to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant in two years.

According to Dr. Bob Gerlach, the state veterinarian, testing to date has not detected any radiation in Alaska seafood since the initial Fukushima incident.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster, a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan, was caused by the 2011 magnitude of 9.0 Tohoku earthquake, and tsunami. It is considered the second worst nuclear power accident in history, after the 1986 Chernobyl incident. The tsunami itself resulted in a human death toll of some 19,500 people. According to the World Nuclear Association’s updated report of April 2021, there have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes as a preventive measure and government nervousness has delayed the return of May.

Scientists have continued to study the effects of radiation from the disaster. Alaska’s DEC has been monitoring for radiation in Alaska seafood since 2014.

DEC’s Environmental Health Laboratory has the only portable gamma-ray analysis system deployed to a state lab in the country. Using FDA standard analytical methods, no detectable levels of gamma radiation have been found in Alaska seafood since testing began. DEC officials say they have proactively monitored for contaminants in seafood harvested in Alaska since 2001, including gamma radiation testing, and have confirmed the healthiness of Alaska seafood.

California Fish and Wildlife Identifies Invasive Seaweed at Newport Bay

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified an invasive algae species at Newport Bay known to grow quickly, choke out native seaweeds and potentially harm marine life through lost habitat.

The unusual patch of the algae, whose scientific name is Caulerpa prolifera, was found by a diver at Newport Bay and later identified by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which has alerted other federal, state and local agencies. Work is underway to determine the extent of the infestation of this algae, which is native to Florida and other subtropical and tropical locales. Authorities there said a similar invasive algae, Caulerpa taxifolia, was identified in California in 2000 and has since been successfully eradicated, thanks to a joint local, state and federal effort in 2006.

California authorities said the Caulerpa species can reproduce by fragmentation, which happens when small pieces of the algae break off and then root and quickly reproduce, causing them to rapidly outcompete with native algae and sea grasses. While harmful to native species this algae is not known to endanger humans. Still, people are being warned to avoid contact with the plant due to its extreme ease of recolonizing from tiny fragments.

Anyone who feels they have seen the invasive algae should not attempt to collect a specimen, which could lead to further spread, but to visit the “Reporting a Caulerpa Sighting” webpage - and complete a suspect invasive species sighting report.

ASMI Seeks $20M in American Rescue Plan Act Relief to Boost Alaska Seafood Sector

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is still awaiting word from Gov. Mike Dunleavy on a request for $20 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act relief money to help mitigate economic damage to the state’s seafood sector due to the global pandemic.

Jack Schultheis, chairman of the ASMI board and general manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries, made the request to the governor’s office in mid-March. Schultheis told the governor that harvesters and processors are doing their part to bring fish to market, but that they need help to create new markets for products that lost value. Recovering market losses from the pandemic will require additional investment, he said.

ASMI’s plan calls for using $5 million of those funds to replenish lost revenue; $5 million for the foodservice sector; $5 million for the trade/retail sector; and $5 million to target the consumer sector in order to mitigate economic harm and aid recovery of the seafood industry.

Before the pandemic, 70% of seafood consumed in the U.S. was via food service, but with over 100,000 restaurant closures nationwide, key species like halibut, sablefish and Pacific cod suffered, and rebuilding foodservice markets home and aboard is going to take ongoing support, Schultheis said.

The retail sector is also undergoing rapid change, with consumers being offered new protein alternatives in the form of farmed seafood, plant and cell-based products, so AMSI must promote the health benefits and sustainability of Alaska seafood as a value product, he said.

Despite urgent pleas, ASMI has received no pandemic relief funding to date.

The ASMI board is scheduled to meet Thurs., April 29. Its meeting materials, including budget memos, program reports and presentations are available online at

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Agreement Reached on Troll Salmon Season from US/Canada Border to Cape Falcon

 Members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the states of Washington and Oregon, have reached an agreement with National Marine Fisheries Service on management action for the commercial troll salmon season from the US/Canadian border to Cape Falcon.

In a conference call on Tuesday, April 20, it was agreed that the commercial fishery for all salmon except coho will open from May 1-15, as described in the 2020 season regulations.

The announcement from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the season will follow the same rules and specifications adopted by the PFMC on April 15 for the 2021 seasons.

The season will continue through the earlier of June 29, the May-June overall quota of 15,375 Chinook salmon, or the Leadbetter Point, Washington to Cape Falcon, or May-June subarea quota of 4,195 Chinook salmon.

The minimum length for Chinook salmon beginning with the May 1 season opening from the US/Canada border to Cape Falcon will be 27 inches total length, and this will apply in all open seasons in this area through May 15, 2022.

State officials said these actions will bring the adopted seasons from 2020 into compliance with the recently adopted seasons for 2021.

Additional regulations that apply to vessels fishing out of Oregon North of Cape Falcon that apply to the 2021 seasons include vessels landing in Oregon being limited to only fishing between Leadbetter Point, Washington and Cape Falcon, Oregon. The regulations also include a limit on vessels landing into Oregon being limited to locations on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, the beaches at Gearhart/Seaside and Cannon Beach, or into Garibaldi.

BBRSDA Plans a Second Year of Digitized Quality Monitoring in Bristol Bay

 Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Certified Quality Foods (DBA Seafood Analytics) and Digital Observers are teaming up for a second year to do digital quality monitoring of the 2021 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon season.

In 2020, pandemic challenges notwithstanding, quality measurements from over 6,000 sockeye salmon off 200 boats were taken by Digital Observers on five tenders throughout Bristol Bay. Certified Quality Foods cloud-based business intelligence platform analyzed the data and allowed for key takeaways around trendlines, comparisons between regions, seasons, boats, tenders and more.

Having a robust amount of data from the 2020 Bristol Bay sockeye season provides a valuable baseline for comparison of salmon quality and salmon fat content harvested each year, BBRSDA officials said.

This year, Quality Control technicians will work with 15 tenders throughout Bristol Bay to measure the quality of salmon at point of delivery using the noninvasive Certified Quality Reader a device using electrical currents to measure cell degradation of the fish. The 2021 program will also triple measurement capacity and expand from aper entry to digitized apps to do measure odor, visual, temperature and whether the fish has been bled.

Temperature is an important piece of the data, said Chuck Anderson, vice president of sales and marketing for Seafood Analytics. “We are curious to see the correlation between temperature (of the fish) and quality,” he said.

Data from the Certified Quality Foods cloud-based platform and digital forms will be automatically merged and available to customers upon uploading the data during or after the 2021 fishing season. The project will help determine better handling practices to continue to improve the quality of salmon harvested in Bristol Bay, Seafood Analytics have provided similar services to harvesters and processors of tuna and rockfish on the West Coast, as well as for Pacific cod. “We work with the whole supply chain,” said Anderson, whose company is also talking with others in the seafood industry about additional services this coming summer.

Fishing for Alaska Pollock in Gulf of Alaska Statistical Area 630 Halted Through May 31

 National Marine Fisheries Service has called for the temporary closure of directed fishing for Alaska Pollock in Statistical Area 630 in the Gulf of Alaska through May 31 to avoid exceeding the “A” season allowance of the 2021 total allowable catch for that area.

NMFS published the order in the Federal Register this week, noting that the “A” season allowance for Statistical Area 630 of the Gulf is 6,297 metric tons, as established by the final 2021 and 2022 harvest specifications for groundfish in the GOA.

Federal fisheries officials determined that the “A” season allowance of that TAC of Pollock would soon be reached and is setting aside the remaining 200 metric tons as bycatch to support other anticipated groundfish fisheries.

NOAA Research Warns of Climate Threats to Young Pacific Cod Food Sources

 NOAA Fisheries researchers say temperature shifts in the southeast Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska are increasing the risk of prey mismatch and starvation for Pacific cod larvae.

The study, led by NOAA Fisheries scientist Ben Laurel of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, notes that the first feeding of the young Pacific cod is a life-or death situation. Cod larvae are nourished by a yolk sac after they hatch, but once the nourishment in that sac is depleted, they must find food within days to avoid starvation, so there must be prey available at that time for first feeding.

“Warming (waters) can increase the metabolic demands of fish and shift the timing of their food production,” Laurel said. “So, you have temperature unraveling the system, moving food around.”

When mismatched prey timing and increased metabolic demand line up, he said, “it can be pretty disastrous. The better we can understand and predict these effects, the more effectively we can manage them now and in the future.”

Laurel has been studying the early life stages of cold-water commercial fish species for over 20 years, with a particular focus on how cod respond to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

While researchers have always seen relationships between temperature and marine populations, they don’t always know how temperature drives change. Stakeholders want to know why there are no fish in a given year, so it is important to understand why things are happening.

The research team found that in the Bering Sea timing of prey production has historically been more variable, but mismatch effects continue to be buffered by cooler temperatures.

“Spring plankton production in the Bering Sea is tied to the timing and extent of sea ice cover, which fluctuates widely from year to year,” Laurel explained. “But cooler temperatures in the Bering Sea buffer food demands of fish larvae so that they are not as sensitive to timing.”

In the Gulf of Alaska, the timing of prey production historically has been less variable, but warmer temperatures mean larvae are more sensitive to variability. There, the larvae use yolk sac reserves faster and have less time to find food when the yolk sac reserves run out.

Climate warming means both metabolic demands and shifts in timing of prey production,” he said. “In the Gulf of Alaska, young cod are facing double jeopardy.”

Coast Guard, Federal Agents, Team Up in Port Angeles Meth Bust

Coast Guard officials lent a hand in mid-April in the Port Angeles, Washington seizure of some 342 pounds of methamphetamine worth nearly $1.7 million.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents had received information about suspicious bags observed near the beach on April 11. A Border Patrol agent dispatched with his K-9 partner located multiple bags, which contained the methamphetamine. The bags were seized and federal agents then coordinated with partner agencies on the bust. The team included the Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations, the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Chief Patrol Agent David BeMiller hailed the team effort of the U.S. Border Patrol in partnership with other federal entities and Canadian law enforcement partners.

 “Trans-national criminal organizations capitalizing on this vulnerable area by smuggling narcotics are a danger to the community,” said BeMiller. “By focusing on border security, we are enhancing national security.”

Rear Admiral Anthony Vogt, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District, praised participating Coast Guard crews for helping to secure the maritime border. “The operations of trans-national criminal organizations are ongoing regardless of the COVID pandemic,” Vogt said.

Coast Guard assets and crews that contributed to the effort include Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Coast Guard Cutter Blue Shark crew, Coast Guard Cutter Adelie crew, Coast Guard Station Port Angeles boat crews and Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles air crews.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Alaska Legislators Back Abundance-Based Management of Halibut Bycatch

Four Alaska legislators have added their support to a proposal before the North Pacific Management Council to base allowable incidental halibut catch in Bering Sea groundfish fisheries to halibut abundance.

The issue is on the agenda today for the federal fisheries board’s spring meeting, normally held in Anchorage, but being held virtually this year because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Directed halibut harvesters have been working within the NPFMC since 2015 to identify alternatives and analyses to mitigate risks that static Prohibited Species Catch limits in the Bering Sea present in times of low halibut abundance.

Action taken would impact halibut users in Southeast Alaska represented by the four House members: Sara Hannan, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Dan Ortiz and Andi Story. The four legislators told the Council in a letter in support of revising halibut bycatch management that the proposed management alternative would ensure sustained participation of fishing communities.

At this meeting, the Council is expected to perform an initial review of a draft environmental impact statement on the matter and take action as necessary. The document to be reviewed analyzes a proposed management measure to link Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for the Amendment 80 commercial groundfish trawl sector in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to halibut abundance. The objective is to minimize halibut PSC to the extent practicable under the Magnuson-stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act National Standard 9 and to achieve optimum yield in the BSAI groundfish fisheries on a continuing bases under the Magnuson-stevens Act National Standard 1.

The Council said action taken should provide incentives for the Amendment 80 sector to minimize halibut mortality at all times. Achieving these objectives could result in additional harvest opportunities for the commercial halibut fishery, Council staff noted.

The Amendment 80 program, implemented by the council in 2008, allocated BSAI yellowfin sole, flathead sole, rock sole, Atka mackerel and Aleutian Islands Pacific Ocean perch to non-American Fisheries Act head and gut trawl catcher processors.

National Fisheries Standard 1 mandates that conservation and management measures prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, optimum yield from each federal fishery.

National Standard 9 mandates that conservation and management measures minimize bycatch, and to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, to minimize mortality of such bycatch.

First Aid at Sea Workshop Set for May 7 in Washington’s Gig Harbor

Washington Sea Grant and the Gig Harbor BoatShop at Eddon Boatyard are cosponsoring an all-day Coast Guard-approved first aid at sea workshop on May 7.

Topics on the agenda include CPR, patient assessment, hypothermia and cold-water response, near drowning, shock and trauma, burns and fractures, choking and patient immobilization and first aid kits.

The cost is $50 for commercial fishermen and $100 for all others. Registration is required for participation. Register online at or contact Sarah Fisken at 206-543-1225 or Washington Sea Grant is based within the University of Washington College of the Environment.

More information is online at

PFMC Announces Sablefish Management Strategy Evaluation Workshop

The deadline is right around the corner for participants to register for a two-day online workshop to solicit feedback on the ongoing range-wide sablefish management strategy evaluation (MSE). The event is planned for April 27-28 to foster discussions among Pacific and Pacific Northwest regions about sablefish science and management.

Organizers say the workshop will introduce the successful sablefish MSE experience from British Columbia, along with the range of time horizons for incorporating stakeholder input into this sablefish MSE.

The first key focal point for participant feedback will be to identify fishery objectives. Participants will be provided with an overview of types of objectives commonly used for MSE and recommend objectives for this MSE. No management actions will be decided by participants. Their role instead will be development of recommendations for consideration by the Pacific Sablefish Transboundary Assessment Team (PSTAT) in developing a Northeast Pacific Sablefish MSE.

Collaborators with the PSTAT include the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Alaska Fisheries science Center, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Registration options include signing in as a participant or observer, with participants expected to engage in the full two-day workshop.

Facilitators will guide breakout group participants through discussions aimed at collecting feedback on each focal topic. Early registration is being encouraged to ensure the ability to participate. Observer level registrants will be able to listen to presentations and full group discussions and ask questions as time permits during full group discussions.

The registration deadline is April 16 for those interested in participating and April 23 for those wanting to be observers. Registration is available online at The meeting will be live streamed via YouTube, where individuals may listen to presentations and group discussions without registration, but YouTube viewers will not be able to ask questions or view breakout sessions.

Comment Sought on Proposed Rule to Revise
2021 IFQ Pacific Halibut Fisheries

National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking comments through April 28 on a proposed revision of regulations for commercial individual fishing quota (IFQ) Pacific halibut fisheries for the 2021 IFQ fishing year.

The proposed rule would remove limits on the maximum number of halibut IFQ that may be harvested by a vessel in IFQ regulatory areas 4A (Eastern Aleutian Islands), 4B (Central and Western Aleutian Islands), 4C (Central Bering Sea) and 4D (Eastern Bering Sea). NMFS said this action is needed to provide additional flexibility to IFQ participants in 2021 to ensure allocations of halibut IFQ can be harvested by the limited number of vessels operating in these areas.

Such action is within the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to establish additional regulations governing the taking of halibut which are in addition to and not in conflict with, those adopted by International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

Comments should be identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2021-0032 and may be submitted via electronic submission or the U.S. mail.

The IPHC and NMFS manage the halibut fisheries through regulations established under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982.

For electronic submissions, go to and enter NOAA-NMFS-2021-0032 in the search box. Click on the “comment” icon, complete required fields and enter comments. Mailed comments should be sent to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Susan Meyer, at P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

All comments received become part of the public record and will be posted online at without change. All personal identifying information (such as name and address) confidential business information or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. Those wishing to remain anonymous should enter N/A in the required fields when submitting comments.

Alaska Symphony of Seafood 2020/2021 Cancelled
Due to Pandemic

Organizers of the annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood, which encourages investment in product development of wild Alaska seafood, have cancelled the rescheduled Symphony events planned for this spring due to ongoing health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation said that before making the decision they polled industry partners and participants, and the results were clear that COVID-19 has hindered the industry’s ability to produce new value-added products or to participate in large events. Without healthy participation by industry, the benefits of an in-person or virtual event are limited, AFDF said.

Additionally, event producer Diversified Communications recently announced the cancellation of the 2021 Seafood Expo North America (SENA) which had been rescheduled for July 11-13 in Boston. SENA is the major event at which AFDF promotes the winning Symphony products.

Now AFDF plans to resume its call for product in August for the resumption of the Symphony competition next year. AFDF officials said they will continue to feature Symphony winners at the Boston seafood event, including entrance in the Seafood Excellence Awards, when SENA resumes in March 2022.

AFDF plans to continue to monitor the pandemic and provide updates to the seafood industry and partners for the 2021-2022 competition. In addition, AFDF will explore opportunities throughout this year to promote past Symphony winners.

Annual Symphony competition has attracted an array of entries from throughout the United States in categories ranging from food service and smoked product to pet treats. Along with first, second and third place winners in each category and a grand prize winner, ADFG has in past years sponsored galas in Anchorage, Juneau and Seattle where participants vote on a “People’s Choice” award for the product entry they feel is the best. The grand prize winner, other first place winners and companies to win the “People’s Choice” honors all get airfare and booth space at the Boston seafood show to hawk their winning product and take orders.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A New Beginning

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

Dear Readers,

As you may know if you read last month’s editorial in PMM Online by publisher Dave Abrams, I’m the new managing editor for the Fishermen’s News Online newsletter and its sister publication, Fishermen’s News Magazine.

To longtime readers of this site and the print edition associated with it, my name may be familiar. I wrote for the print edition of FN for a number of years, as well as its sister publication, Pacific Maritime Magazine.

And now, in my new position, I have some exciting news to share: the print edition of FN is returning, and soon.

In mid-April, those who subscribed to the magazine before it went on hiatus will see a new issue arrive at their homes and/or workplaces. Among the content scheduled for the issue are articles on deck machinery and Bering Sea fisheries processing and transportation.

Future stories planned for the magazine include a Bristol Bay report; marine propulsion cold storage & distribution; and a review of new and emerging trawl technology.

The relaunching the magazine will first consist of a couple of bi-monthly issues – April/May and June/July – and then we’ll return to our regular monthly schedule, with the exception of a combined November/December issue later this year during the holiday season.

We’re very happy to be able to once again bring you the quality news and feature stories that you’ve come to expect from FN, and we hope that you’ll join us for the journey.

And with that being said, if you happen to read this and are not a current subscriber to Fishermen’s News, please consider purchasing a subscription for yourself or someone else who may be interested. Or if you operate a business, please consider purchasing an ad. Information on how to both will be included in the upcoming issue of the magazine. For placing an ad, contact Katie Higgins at or call her at 206-914-4248.

Subscribers and advertisers are essential partners to ensure that we keep the print edition of the magazine a healthy and economically viable source of news about West Coast marine business. We are dependent upon your ongoing support.

Thank you.

You can reach Mark Nero at

Alaska Harvesters Want Climate Considered
in All Fishery Management Decisions

A group of Alaska seafood harvesters say climate must be considered in all fisheries management decisions, with managers, in turn, given the tools to respond quickly to extreme events.

The comments from collaborators with the Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP), an affiliate of SalmonState, an Alaska initiative to ensure healthy wild salmon populations, were sent this past week to several federal agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, in response to a federal request for recommendations on how to make fisheries more climate resilient.

Signers, including more than a dozen commercial, environmental and tribal entities, said that Alaska fisheries and fishing communities are experiencing in real time the magnitude and urgency of the global climate crisis. These changes, they said, include, but are not limited to, persistent, unusually high-water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea in 2018 and 2019, unusually high-water temperature in salmon spawning grounds in Western Alaska, and shifts in abundance and range of economically and culturally important marine fish and shellfish species.

“Meaningful, equitable engagement with fishing communities must be a prerequisite to establishing board climate policy goals,” said Linda Behnken, a veteran harvester and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Alaska fishermen have been asking for protection of critical fish habitat for decades in the Bristol Bay watershed as well as the Tongass National Forest.”

The fishermen said it is critical that any ocean-based solutions be locally defined and crafted in a way that supports local livelihoods, both in terms of commercial fishing and traditional user groups. They said that the definition of “conservation” must include sustainable fisheries as an allowable activity.

Also on their list of recommendations is an improved reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act that ensures that fisheries management is science-based and uses a precautionary approach in all fisheries management decisions.

The collaborators said that climatic events have already directly impacted fisheries with large-scale pre-spawn die-offs of mature adult salmon and changes in prey availability at all life stages for all species and shifts in predator populations and ranges. Climate change has also impacted water temperatures that exceed survivable limits, caused large scale scouring of anadromous spawning beds due to flooding of freshwater systems associated with heavy rainfall events, and caused the loss of spawning and rearing habitat due to absence of water during drought and periods of abnormally high temperatures in summer months. These issues and more need to be play a role in decisions involving fisheries management, they said.

Pacific Fishery Management Council, NPFMC are Both Meeting via Webinar

Two federal fisheries council meetings are underway virtually this week in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Adaption of final exempted fishing permit recommendations for 2021-2022 coastal pelagic species fisheries is a top item on the agenda for the April meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, being held via webinar from April 6-9 and April 12-15.

The Council also plans to adopt final management measures for this year’s ocean salmon fisheries and adopt a Pacific sardine assessment, final harvest specifications and management measures for the 2021-2022 Pacific sardine fishery.

Also up for action is guidance to the National Marine Fisheries Service on development of groundfish management measures to satisfy terms and conditions of the humpback whale Endangered Species Act consultation, and adoption of final incidental Pacific Halibut catch recommendations for 2021 and early 2022 non-Indian salmon troll fisheries.

All Council meetings are open to the public online. The agenda and more meeting details are online, with copies of briefing materials prepared for the meeting at

Scallop and halibut matters are earmarked as major issues for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting from April 12-17.

The Council’s scallop plan team met virtually in February to discuss the status and appropriate harvest level for weathervane scallops off Alaska. At next week’s meeting, the Council and it’s Scientific and Statistical Committee will review the plan team’s report and set appropriate harvest limits for the 2021-2022 scallop season.

The Council is also expected to review an analysis to modify halibut bycatch limits that apply to most trawl vessels that fish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and process their catch onboard. The major change being considered is to switch from a fixed bycatch limit to one that fluctuates every year based on BSAI halibut abundance.

Meetings of the NPFMC’s scientific and statistical committee were set for April 5-9 and the council’s advisory panel was set to meeting from April 6-10. All NPFMC meetings are also open to the public via Adobe Connect,

Atlantic Cod Study May Have Implications for Other Troubled Fisheries

A new study from Rutgers University that included first time sequencing of genomes from Atlantic cod may have implications for other fish maturing earlier as a result of fishing.

According to first author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick, there is evidence that many species of fish are maturing earlier as a result of fishing, including haddock, European plaice, whiting, American plaice, sole and sockeye salmon.

The study, led by Rutgers and the University of Oslo, concluded that overfishing likely did not cause the Atlantic cod to evolve genetically and mature earlier.

“Evolution has been used in part as an excuse for why cod and other species have not recovered from overfishing,” Pinsky said. “Our findings suggest instead that more attention to reducing fishing and addressing other environmental changes, including climate change, will be important for allowing recovery.”

Atlantic cod may be about eight million years old. Pacific cod split off from Atlantic cod evolutionarily some three to four million years ago when some stray fish got through the then-open Bering Strait from the Atlantic Ocean.

There has been much debate over the last few decades about whether cod have evolved in response to fisheries, a phenomenon known as fisheries-induced evolution. Atlantic cod, for example, now mature at a much earlier age and this is a concern because cod populations that mature later can produce more offspring and more effectively avoid predators, said Pinsky. They are also better protected against climate variability, more stable and less likely to collapse, he added.

Both theory and experiments have suggested that fishing can lead to an earlier maturation age, but up until now no one had tried to sequence whole genomes from before intensive fishing to determine whether evolution had occurred. For this study, researchers sequenced cod ear bones and scale from 1907 in Norway, 1940 in Canada and modern cod from the same populations. The northern Canadian cod had collapsed due to overfishing in the early 1990s and the Norwegian cod had faced high fishing rates, although with smaller declines, the study notes.

Researchers concluded that the cod likely did not evolve in response to fisheries.

There were no major losses in genetic diversity and no major changes that suggested intensive fishing induced evolution. While evolution cannot be entirely ruled out, it’s more likely they are developing earlier in response to their environment and would be able to mature later if the environment changes, benefitting the species, Pinsky said.

A big question, he remarked, is whether other species, especially those with shorter lifespans, may show signs of evolution, in contrast to the long-lived cod. The research team is now investigating this by DNA sequencing 100-year-old specimens from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The study was published by Rutgers University and also reported this week at EurekAlert, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Northern Edge Military Exercises Begin in Gulf of Alaska May 3

Military officials preparing for biennial war games in Alaska say that environmental protection of fish, marine and other wildlife are an integral part of these exercises, but are not providing any specifics about weapons to be used or specific precautionary measures.

One Pacific Air Force spokesperson who declined to provide details told the Air Force Times that it was necessary to keep these details under wraps to preserve a degree of realism for participants.

Air Force Capt. Kitsana Dounglomchan, who is stationed in Hawaii, said that the Navy’s training activities use an extensive set of mitigation measures designed to minimize potential risk to marine life, including posting qualified lookouts who observe for marine species during at-sea activities. According to Dounglomchan, if marine species are detected, training activities will cease until the animal leaves the mitigation area or activities will be delayed until a later time. Participating military units are also required to report sonar use and submit marine mammal sighting reports, he said. These are included in the Navy’s annual report to National Marine Fisheries Service on Northern Edge in the Gulf of Alaska as part of compliance permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act an Endangered Species Act, he said.

None of this information has eased concerns of residents of the Gulf of Alaska’s coastal fishing communities, who rely on the fish, marine mammals and other wildlife for economic stability and subsistence. Several community councils have passed resolutions against conducting these war game in the Gulf of Alaska in May. Fisheries and environmental groups have also voiced concern about these events happening right before fishing begins.

Northern Edge 2021 is scheduled to be active in the Gulf of Alaska from May 3 to May 14.

The famed Copper River salmon fishery begins again this year just after the war games end.

Dune Lankard of Cordova, Alaska, a veteran commercial and subsistence fish harvester who now works for a conservation entity, noted that the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound salmon fisheries have had three disastrous commercial fishing seasons in a row. These salmon fisheries are critical to the survival of coastal communities and Native villages, where fishing is a way of life, he said. Absolute facts and scientific date are necessary to determine the true impacts of Northern Edge on the area’s wild salmon and wildlife, he said.

Washington Conservation District, Weyerhaeuser
Team up to Remove Fish Barrier

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have announced a team effort of the department’s Lewis Conservation District and the Weyerhaeuser Company to remove a fish passage barrier on the West Fork Chehalis River. The project, which is to begin this summer, will open seven miles of previously isolated stream habitat for salmon and steelhead.

Back in the early 1960s, the West Fork of the Chehalis River was rechanneled as part of a forest road construction project. It included an impassable bedrock cascade, often referred to as the West Fork Falls fish barrier, which prevents salmon and steelhead from migrating upstream. Now Weyerhaeuser had identified and proposed the project to remove this barrier and providing over 50% of the funds needed for the work. The remainder of funds will come from the conservation district, which received funds from the Chehalis Basin Strategy’s Aquatic Species Restoration Plan 2020 grant round.

According to Donald Schuh, an engineering specialist with Weyerhaeuser, the company has been working since the early 1990s to identify and repair forest road related fish barriers and to re-establish fish access across its Pacific Northwest properties.

The West Fork Chehalis River will be restored to its original channel by relocating the existing forest road and adding two bridges over the historical channel. The reconnected channel will have natural wood structures installed along the edges to create additional habitat for salmon, other fish, amphibians and other aquatic species.

Channel restoration work will allow juvenile coho salmon, steelhead and spring Chinook salmon to migrate up and downstream through this reach of the river during their early life stages. State fisheries officials said this project represents the ongoing development of a cooperative relationship with working lands, such as commercial forestry to enable protection of ecosystems, unique habitats and critical ecosystem functions described in the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan.

The Chehalis River originates in several forks in southwestern Washington, flows eat, then north, then west, in a large curve, before emptying into Grays Harbor, an estuary of the Pacific Ocean.

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