Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Commerce Names Members to Regional Fishery Management Councils

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

They include:

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

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

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

Commerce Confirms Fisheries Disaster in Alaska, Washington State

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

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

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

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

Research Shows Japanese Seafood Consumers Have Preference for Alaska Seafood

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

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

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

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

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

Alaska Congressional Delegation Pushes for More Transboundary Rivers Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alaska Commercial Salmon Harvest Pace Picks Up Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Commercial Halibut Season Opens on West Coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spinrad Confirmed as 11th NOAA Administrator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPFMC Plans Return to In-Person Meetings in October

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

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

The draft schedule for both meetings is online at

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

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

Additional Relief Anticipated for California Fishing Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

CDC Ends Mask Requirement Aboard Maritime Vessels as Salmon Harvest Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton Returns to San Diego

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

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

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

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

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

Ocean Wise Launches Great American Shoreline Cleanup

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effort Increases to Protect Transboundary Rivers from Adverse Impact of Mining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

From the Editor: Containing Container Spillage

By Mark Nero, Managing Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at:

Growth in Marine Economy Outpaces Overall National Economy

A new U.S. Commerce Department report says businesses that are dependent on the nation’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes saw their marine-related gross domestic product grow 4.2% from 2018 to 2019, compared to 2.2% growth of the national GDP.

Businesses included in the report – including commercial fishing, aquaculture, ship and boat building – generated a total of $665.7 billion in sales and supported 2.4 million jobs in 2019, according to the report announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on June 8.

“These statistics show how powerful America’s blue economy is as a driver of jobs, innovation and economic growth,” Acting NOAA Administrator Ben Friedman said. “This information will assist our nation’s economic recovery by helping policymakers, industry advocates and organizations track and accelerate investments in target markets.”

The 10 sectors ranked by NOAA and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) by their sales include: tourism/ recreation/recreational fishing, $235 billion; national defense and public administration, $180 billion; offshore minerals, $93 billion; transportation and warehousing, $64 billion; commercial ship and boat building, $31 billion; living resources, including commercial fishing and aquaculture, $27 billion; utilities, $12 billion; research and education, $10.4 billion; construction, $7 billion; and professional and technical services, $6.3 billion.

Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Services, said such statistics are further proof of the importance of the blue economy.

“It is nearly impossible to go a single day without eating, wearing or using items that come from or through our ports and coastal communities,” she said.

In 2020, NOAA and the BEA released ocean economy prototype statistics for 2014-2018. This year’s statistics offer updated national estimates for ocean, coastal and Great Lakes-related economic activity by major sectors, accounting for inflation.

Additional data and related materials are online at Marine Economy | US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and on NOAA’s Digital Coast website.

NPAFC Says 2020 Salmon Harvests Were Lowest in Four Decades

A new report from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission says preliminary North Pacific-wide total salmon harvests in 2020, as reported by member countries, were the lowest recorded since 1982, as indexed by aggregate commercial catches.

Member countries portions of that catch include 48 % by Russia, (292.7 thousand metric tons), 41% by the United States (245.7 thousand metric tons of which 241.1 thousand metric tons was caught in Alaska), 10% by Japan (61.1 thousand metric tons), about 1% by Canada (7.1 thousand metric tons) and less than 1% by South Korea (139 metric tons).

The majority of the total commercial catch, 46% by weight, was pink salmon, followed by chum, 27% and sockeye salmon 23%. Coho comprised just 3% of the catch. Chinook salmon, cherry salmon and steelhead trout were each less than 1% of the catch by weight.

NPAFC officials said pink and chum salmon dominate Asian catches with their overall harvests generally declining since 2011. Pink salmon harvests reached a high of 516.9 thousand metric tons in 2018, but declined to 178.2 thousand metric tons in 2020.

The total North American catch of 252.7 thousand metric tons was the lowest since 1988. The 2020 chum salmon catch in Alaska, 28.1 thousand metric tons, was the lowest since 1989. In Canada, pink, chum and sockeye salmon were the most abundant species caught. Even as catches remain historically low, harvests of sockeye, pink and chum salmon rose compared to 2019. In Washington, Oregon and California Chinook, chum and coho salmon are typically the most abundant species harvested.

Particularly low catches of chum and sockeye salmon in 2020 resulted in the lowest total catches of salmon on record, 4.5 thousand metric tons in the NPAFC database for those three states combined, the report said.

Hatchery releases of salmon and steelhead from NPAFC member countries have remained stable since 1993, with some five billion fish released annually. Hatcheries in 2020 released 2,002 million fish (39% of the total) in the United States, 1,593 million, or 31% in Japan; 1,287 million, or 25% in Russia, 209 million, or 4% in Canada, and 8 million (about 1%) in South Korea.

The NPAFC, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, met virtually in late May. Member nations continued to support efforts of the International Year of the Salmon. The commission plans to launch a multi-vessel expedition in the winter of 2022, a collaborative international effort to send multiple research vessels to survey the winter ecology of Pacific salmon across the entire North Pacific Ocean.

Merchant Mariner Examination Working Group Resumes Meetings

Officials with the National Maritime Center (NMC) have announced the resumption of working group meetings to review existing and new examination questions for accuracy and availability of examination references.

These meetings were cancelled in 2020 due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic. With the continued reduction of COVID restrictions, NMC announced on Monday, June 7, that the process is resuming.

NMC has accordingly scheduled an engine session for Aug. 10-12 and a deck session for Aug. 24-26, both at NMC headquarters in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Anyone wishing to participate in these or future sessions should follow application instructions on the examinations page ( of the NMC website (

Once on the examinations page click “Working Group” to access application information. Submit the required information to the

All requests will be reviewed and individuals will be contacted to discuss further details and confirm the session the individual wishes to attend.

Additional information regarding building access and health and safety protocols ( will be provided to work group attendees in a separate email.

Copper River Salmon Fishery Reopens

Drift gillnetters in the Copper River fishery were on the grounds ready for a long awaited 12-hour opener on Wednesday, June 9, hoping for a robust harvest after two weeks of sitting on the beach. A good commercial harvest is, after all, the economic life blood of Cordova, on Alaska’s Prince William Sound, and demand for Copper River reds and kings is high.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists in Cordova made the decision on Tuesday, June 8, after seeing a big boost in the sonar count.

“We are back to getting into the goal range,” said Jeremy Botz, finfish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Cordova. “I think we are seeing a late compressed run.” Botz said he felt that while it may be a relatively small run, it’s still higher than in 2018 and 2020.

The collective Copper River harvest from three periods of fishing stood at an estimated 60,127 salmon from 1,192 deliveries, including 5,259 kings, 52,752 reds and 2,116 chum salmon. Fish are also starting to come in from the Coghill, Eschamy and Prince William Sound general seine fishery and a number of other commercial salmon fisheries will open soon statewide.

Jerry McCune, president of Cordova District Fishermen United, said that he felt that while ADF&G was being very cautious because initial numbers were flat, perhaps they were a bit too cautious. More real time reporting data is also needed on subsistence and personal use harvests, so the abundance of these harvests is known, he added.

Another veteran gillnetter from Cordova, John Renner, said ADF&G should have employed the fleet earlier to collect data, to see if the run was coming in weak or strong, rather than just waiting for the sonar count. Renner said that upwards of 40,000 salmon went past the counter on Tuesday, June 8.

“Nobody knows how many fish have gone up the river,” he said.

Renner estimates this is going to be a moderate run, maybe 1.2 million to 1.6 million fish, which would be double that of a year ago.

“They need to use the fishermen to learn what the run is doing,” he said. “We should use the commercial fleet as an indicator of abundance. How do they know what’s going on without us?”

There are 38 systems in the Copper, a very large and complicated system, he said. “The runs we had (fished) were early and they didn’t show much. It’s very tough for the commercial fleet to just sit on the beach. People are upset. It’s not the biologists’ fault, except for not using us to test for abundance.”

Dockside Vessel Exams, Safety Classes Offered in Advance of Bristol Bay Fishery

In advance of this year’s Bristol Bay salmon season, the U.S. Coast Guard has begun conducting courtesy dockside exams of commercial fishing vessels, while the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is offering maritime safety education to fishermen in Western Alaska and Bristol Bay.

Examiners will look to identify safety issues before mariners leave the dock and won’t issue fines or other penalties for any problems at the dock or before launch, according to the USCG. The exams will note flares, charts, navigational signals, fire extinguishers, emergency radio beacons and the serviceability of immersion suits, among other items.

Exams are being offered June 14-25 at Dillingham, Egegik and King Salmon. To schedule an exam in Dillingham, call (907) 764-5071 and for an appointment in Egegik, the number is (907) 538-8062. For an exam in King Salmon, call (907) 717-6270 or (907) 538-9748.

Fishermen can run a ring buoy up on the mast or on the anchor/bow to show they are ready for an exam.

Russ Hazlett, a fishing vessel safety examiner at Sector Anchorage, noted that these exams are free, ensure compliance with all federal regulations and can reduce the likelihood of getting boarded at sea so long as the vessel passes and earns a decal.

Mariners may also sign up for one-day fishing vessel drill conductor classes on June 10-11 in Naknek and on June 12-13 in Dillingham. Visit or call (907) 747-3287 for more.

Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA, notes that the course provides a comprehensive, hands-on, maritime lifesaving education in a short amount of time.

For more on how to prepare for a vessel exam, visit

To make an appointment for a vessel exam at other locations, contact any of the following USCG marine safety offices:
  • Marine Safety Unit Valdez: (907) 835-7220
  • Marine Safety Detachment Dutch Harbor: (907) 581-3466
  • Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak: (907) 486-5918
  • Marine Safety Detachment Seward: (907) 224-4784
  • Marine Safety Detachment Homer: (907) 235-3292
  • Marine Safety Detachment Sitka: (907) 966-5454
  • Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan: (907) 225-4496

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Coast Guard Ends Illegal Use of ‘Paper Captains’ in Washington-Based Tuna Fishing

U.S. Coast Guard officials, having detected eight separate “paper captain” violations in the commercial tuna fishing vessels operating out of Washington state in summer months, have halted the use of illegal foreign nationals in that fleet.

‘Paper captain” is a term applied to an individual listed on documents as the captain of a U.S.-flagged vessel when in fact the individual is a deckhand or working in a similar lower-level capacity. Federal laws dictate that these vessels be under the command of a U.S. citizen.

The Coast Guard said that in fact many fishing vessels have engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring foreign nationals to serve as captains on American commercial fishing vessels, while U.S. nationals identified on paper as captains serve in subordinate roles.

Since 2019, Coast Guard personnel working collaboratively with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and law enforcement teams with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have detected eight separate “paper captain” violations at work in the Pacific Northwest. Many of these violations have been supplemented by underlying fraudulent documents designed to avoid detection and mask the illegal operation, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard said that the conspirators listed the “paper” captain on their notices of arrival/departure submitted to the Coast Guard and CBP and produced fraudulent fishing agreement contracts to the Coast Guard. Providing fraudulent documents to any federal agency, including the Coast Guard, is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years.

To date, one Washington-based fishing fleet has paid $9,150 in civil penalties, and also been cited for $140,000 in additional penalties still pending adjudication.

Coast Guard Cutter on Narcotics Patrol Seizes $33M Worth of Cocaine

The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, based in Astoria, Oregon, has returned home after a 10,000 mile, 49-day counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean with over 2,400 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $33 million. The Coast Guard also brought three suspected drug traffickers who were detained during the interdiction from a single suspect vessel.

The Steadfast was serving as a law enforcement asset in support of U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South and Coast Guard District 11, with a focus on drug and migrant interdiction, search and rescue and international relations.

They were joined by Coasties from other Coast Guard units, including the USCGC Waesche, Maritime Safety and Security Teams LA/LB and San Francisco, Sector Field Office Southwest Maine, and Coast Guard headquarter, plus the Coast Guard Cutter Active.

The Steadfast is a 53-year-old Reliance Class 210-foot medium endurance cutter that has been homeported in Astoria since 1994. Its primary missions have been search & rescue, counter-drug, migration interdiction and homeland security operations.

Copper River Wild Salmon Fishery Remains Closed

After three openers that yielded far less than the forecast for the Copper River’s famed Chinook and sockeye salmon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has halted the commercial fishery, pending a boost in the sonar count.

To date, the harvest in the first three openers has delivered an estimated 60,127 fish, including just 5,259 kings, 52,752 sockeyes and 2,116 chums.

In the latest update from Alaska Fish & Game’s Cordova office on Tuesday, June 1, finfish area management biologist Jeremy Botz noted that the sonar count was the 13th lowest on record since 1978. The cumulative sonar count through May 31 was 54,154 fish, whereas 132,531 fish were projected by this date to meet the in-river run goal, Botz stated.

Veteran harvesters like Cordova’s Bill Webber, who has been fishing in the Copper River for 54 years, are wondering what impact events like the Northern Edge military exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, climate change and subsistence, personal use and sportfishing to the north may be having on returns to the Copper River. While there has been a lot of speculation on these and other possible causes for the decline in runs, no conclusive answers have come to date.

Webber said that while they have had a cold spring this year, he has seen large returns before, even in cold springs. He added that the more than 500 commercial harvesters who fish in the area are wondering too about things like whether all the munitions that end up in the water from military war games in the Gulf are impacting yearling salmon making their way out to the ocean.

They want more answers also on how climate change and fisheries to the north of the Copper River area, which include a lot of spawning grounds, may be impacting the return of salmon in the spring.

It goes without saying, he said, that some folks engaged in subsistence, personal use and sport fishing are taking too much, adding that given that it’s human nature to take more fish than you are allowed if you can, if ADF&G enforced the current laws, the fishery would be in a better position than it is today.

Elliott Bay Design Group Develops New Ship Weld Procedure

Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG) says that its recent weld procedure in a complex engineering and inspection project for the U.S. Defense Department saved construction time and cost, reducing downtime for a critical national defense asset.

EBDG developed an optimized weld procedure for an uncommon grade of steel for TOTE Services, LLC, in support of work on the USNS SBX-1 X-band radar vessel, part of the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency, which provides key tracking and identification of potential ballistic missile threats. The regulatory agencies in control of the approval and oversight of the procedure include the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and U.S. Coast Guard, in support of the Department of Defense Military Sealift Command.

The challenge, said EBDG officials, was to develop a regulatory-approved weld procedure appropriate to the exotic grade of steel used for the hull of the SBX-1. The steel is an American Bureau of Shipping grade FH-36 low temperature steel, which is suitable for service in arctic conditions because it retains higher impact toughness in very cold ambient temperatures compared to more common ABS grade-A steel.

EBDG partnered with Industrial Resources Inc (IRI) at its Sedro-Woolley, Washington location for fabrication and welding of the test assemblies for the range of weld procedure configurations. They worked with IRI to identify weld parameters that would satisfy the material property requirement and also be useable for the real-world fabrication on the vessel. EBDG also employed the Mistras Group in Burlington and Ferndale, Washington to provide nondestructive and destructive testing of the completed test assembly.

As final proof of the success of the procedure development, it was successfully implemented by the shipyard with the final welded joints passing all quality assurance and performance requirements, they said.

Alaska Sea Grant Envisions Mariculture Growing into a $100 Million Industry

Alaska Sea Grant officials say the state’s mariculture industry has great economic potential and the governor’s mariculture task force has set a goal of growing it into a $100 million industry over the next two decades.

Shellfish and seaweed farming are well suited to the state, with farmers benefitting from Alaska’s pristine waters, coastal workforce and robust seafood infrastructure, Sea Grant reports in its latest newsletter. These aquatic farms are operated by individuals and families who live and work in small coastal communities, and their aquatic farms may supplement other seasonal jobs such as fishing and working on the water.

The mariculture task force has also identified barriers for entry of new farmers, including requirements to file multiple permits with at least four different state and federal agencies, depending on the project.

To address this issue, Alaska Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region have teamed up to create user-friendly tools to guide applicants through the permitting process. State and federal agencies involved in permitting aquatic farms have reviewed each permitting step and drafted tools to help navigate the process, as have prospective and existing aquatic farmers.

The working group is currently creating a PDF guide and website to serve as a one-stop-shop for prospective shellfish and seaweed farmers. The portal is expected to be online by year’s end, in time for applicants to use it in the 2022 application cycle.

For more information, contact Hannah Wilson at or

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