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Summary for January 7 - January 11, 2008:

Monday, January 7, 2008 

To the editor: Mid-water trawl bycatch is low

Recently KMXT ran a story about a proposal by the Kodiak Fish and Game Advisory Committee to close Deadman’s Bay to all trawl fishing.

 As Casey Kelly reported, local trawlers fish pollock in Deadman’s Bay using mid-water trawl gear. A basic look into trawl gear will show you that the reason they are called “mid-water” trawl nets is that they are designed specifically to be fished in the middle of the water column, not on the bottom.

 Walt Sargent, who supports a trawl closure of Deadman’s Bay, told KMXT “Call over to Near Island, one of the places over there — NMFS places — and they’ll tell you that over 80 percent of the time some part of that mid-water trawl is on the bottom.”

 We did call over there and were told by NMFS biologist Tom Pearson that he can’t think of anyone at NMFS who would have made such a statement.

 Sargent seemed particularly concerned about king crab stocks in Deadman’s Bay and suggests that there is no bycatch data. This is not true.

 A draft report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shows that for the years 2004 to 2007, 55 percent of the tows in the bay were covered by observers. The same document shows that the average annual king crab bycatch was 59 pounds. Just 59 pounds for the entire trawl fleet!

 Blaming the state of the king crab stock on trawl fleet bycatch is ridiculous. King crab stock abundance has more to do with the hatching and survivorship of king crab larvae and juveniles.

 Studying climate, currents, predation impacts, and acidification of the ocean does not necessitate a trawl closure. If Sargent is truly concerned about crab mortality, then let’s talk about all sources — pots, longline, trawl, subsistence and personal use — instead of singling out one gear type.

 Kodiak’s trawl fleet is proud to bring in 50 percent of the total volume of fish that lands in Kodiak. It’s important that people know that just because someone says something is true about trawl fishing, it doesn’t mean that it is true. --    Alvin R. Burch writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror


New float coming to Seward marina

Earlier this year the city was awarded a $1 million Denali Commission grant to help fund an additional float, part of the Seward East Harbor Expansion Project.

 On Dec. 10, Seward City Council appropriated $226,724 from the grant money to fund the continuing services of Tryck Nyman Hayes, the engineering firm that has been managing earlier phases of the project.

 The resolution authorizes City Manager Phillip Oates to enter into an agreement with the firm and adds an amendment, or change order, to the Tryck Nyman Hayes contract to begin engineering, design and contract management for construction of the Z float in the small boat harbor.

 Z float will be a long float along the east breakwater. How long it will be is yet to be determined. – Seward Phoenix Log


Crew lifted from foundering vessel aground near Kodiak

KODIAK -- Three crew members were hoisted off a fishing boat late Sunday afternoon when their longliner ran aground at Japanese Bay on the southwest side of Kodiak Island.

 Two other crew members -- the master and the engineer -- stayed aboard and hoped to refloat the boat overnight at high tide, Coast Guard Lt. Herbert Law said.

 The Clyde, a 59-foot longliner, sent a Mayday around 2:30 Sunday, Law said. The boat wasn't taking on water and the helicopter hoisting of the three crew members was not considered a rescue, he said. "We're just taking them in," Law said.

 The boat ran aground about 67 miles from town, he said. – Anchorage Daily News


Charter guide faces loss of license

The commercial fishing license of Bodega Bay skipper Rick Powers is on the line.

 Powers, skipper of the New Sea Angler and proprietor of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, could lose his commercial passenger vessel and commercial fishing licenses in light of fishing law violations.

 The California Fish and Game Commission is conducting a closed-door review and is expected to decide next month whether to revoke his license, suspend it or take no action.

 Powers was among sport fishing captains targeted by wardens in a sweep of ports from San Diego to Fort Bragg in 2002 in which 13 skippers were cited in nine counties.

Powers and a deckhand were busted by wardens posing as fishermen during the undercover investigation called "Operation Near Shore."

 Among allegations lodged against Powers were encouraging passengers to use more than two hooks when fishing for rockfish, distributing illegal four-hook rigs, overlimits, taking undersize fish, wanton waste of fish, failure to file fishing trip logs with the state, perjury and filing false documents.

 Powers faced a felony conspiracy case, reflecting the number of violations officials called the "most egregious" they encountered in the sweep. Initial charges could have sent him to prison for seven years.

 But a new prosecutor authorized a lenient deal in which 11 felonies were dismissed and Powers pleaded no contest to four misdemeanors, including using too many hooks for rockfish, unlawful taking of salmon and filing false fishing reports.

 Powers, who apologized in court for breaking the law, received two years' probation, a 90-day suspended sentence and an $8,000 fine, and agreed to make $30,000 in restitution through community service.

 Powers said this week that he paid his dues, including restitution by taking marine scientists out on research trips, and is surprised that his plea bargain in Sonoma County Superior Court didn't end his Operation Near Shore nightmare.

 Department of Fish and Game officials want his commercial licenses revoked, and in a certified letter last August, the Fish and Game Commission, citing his convictions, told him to appear before its hearing officer. The letter noted the commission suspended his license for other violations in 1985. – Marin Independent-Journal, California 


Today’s read: Salmon farming doomed?

The December issue of Science magazine ratcheted up the pressure on salmon farming to move further afield.

 In the first study to examine population-level effects of salmon farms on wild salmon runs researchers found that sea-lice emanating from salmon farms had killed 80 per cent of pink salmon runs on British Columbia's Broughton Peninsular.

 In four years, they predict, entire river systems could wave goodbye to pink salmon forever. Rather than just a nuisance, parasitic sea-lice from salmon farms are identified as potentially lethal. Bcause the decaying bodies of pinks, whose runs can be in millions, form a linchpin winter diet for other fish, bears and big cats this species disappearing could alter an entire ecology.

 Salmon farmers have been on red alert since July when Norwegian oil and gas billionaire John Fredriksen, himself the principal shareholder in the world's largest salmon farming company Marine Harvest, whilst standing on a Norwegian river-bank holding his fishing-rod told a reporter that salmon farms should be in places without wild salmon.

 Christened a “wild salmon saviour,” Fredricksen was inundated with messages of delight from the numerous angling and wildlife bodies which have been decrying marine pen cage salmon farming plonked in salmon migration routes for nearly 30 years.

 Salmon farming has attempted to improve its tattered image, but not fast enough to duck what is becoming an avalanche of evidence about its unfortunate footprint.

 As mechanisation and industry contraction have demolished its importance as a significant employer on Scotland's remote peripheries, the industry has assayed neighbourliness with wild fish interests. One method has been fallowing, or leaving a site to clean up naturally on the tides before recommencing operations.

 Another improvement was the use of a sea-lice antidote administered with food.

 Experiments in Ireland showed that treated young fish survived sea-lice assaults better. Recently, however, sea-lice in the west Highlands have started to develop resistance to the chemical.

 Some salmon farms undertook to rear young wild fish for sport fishery managers' restocking programmes, to compensate for the losses of wild fish due to sea-lice. The number of smolts going to sea were meant to swamp the saltwater sea-lice waiting at river-mouths for young bodies to attach to.

 However, the Canadian researchers found that local populations of sea-lice were generating up to a billion larvae, presenting an impossible gauntlet for vulnerable young fish to run.

 All along the costlier modifications to salmon farming were sidestepped. The greatest anxiety to scientists from farmed salmon is their escapement. Farming salmon on land using pumped sea-water water is a secure system, but costs more. Farming salmon in the open sea circumvents most problems, at any rate superficially, but also costs more.

 Every year in storms, and sometimes in calm weather, the cages in estuaries are broken. Reared fish swim out to mingle and interbreed with their wild cousins. Famished seals burst through the nets like foxes into a chicken-run, or storms overturn pens releasing all the occupants.

 In 2007 twelve Scottish farms reported significant losses, in one case a single salmon farm losing some 50,000 inmates.

 Escapement could be prevented by double-walled nets, but there has never been pressure sufficient to force the change. Consequently Scottish anglers report more and more farm fish in their bags, identifiable because of their abraded extremities.

 Farmed salmon are now being found on east coast rivers as well as west coast ones. The consequences for the survival of the wild salmon gene pool are unknown.

 Today salmon farming is shrinking in the UK. The industry is shifting to the unpopulated Chilean coast where costs are lower, and where wild salmon and vituperative critics do not exist.

 Despite the bizarre efforts of rookie politicians in the new Scottish government still trying to attract investment into salmon farming it is likely we are at a turning -point.

 Scotland has its EU obligations to protect wild salmon through the Habitats Directive.

There are powerful internationally-effective lobbyists for wild Atlantic salmon such as the charismatic leader of the Iceland-based North Atlantic Salmon Fund, Orri Vigfusson.

 His efforts have reduced commercial salmon netting to a shadow of its former self.

 If Scottish politicians desperate for a solution to the unique problems of the far-flung Scottish Highlands had not kept pumping the balloon of Scottish salmon farming with cash tipping from their sporrans, it would have relocated elsewhere long ago. (We pause now for an editorial interlude from Pacific Fishing magazine. We had no idea what a “sporran” is, so we looked it up. Turns out, a sporran is the purse of a traditional Scots kilt. We now return you to the article.)  There has been a weird blinkered refusal to face the towering dossier of damning studies.

 The jobs issue, long after only a handful of jobs was actually at stake, was permitted to defeat rational argument. A sustainable migratory fish resource blessed with amenable geography, and beloved of sportsmen, was disregarded in favour of an intensive form of food production which would not have survived a week if protracted in a publicly visible location. Salmon farming, surreally, was allowed to parade as Scotland's post-oil solution.

 Wracked with health scare revelations, lambasted by food writers, anathema to marine environmentalists, and now condemned by wildlife biologists, salmon farming's paradise for parasites and its soupy effluent continue to disfigure west Scotland's estuaries. But maybe not forever. Allowing these regions to remain disengaged might be more sensible. – Michael Wigan, writing in The Telegraph, U.K.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Fishermen should aim higher in the market

Aquaculture, which includes fish farming, will dominate the future world seafood industry, but there will be increased opportunities for wild products in the upper end of the market, a professor of economics says.

 The forecast for increased demand for seafood is good for Alaska but fishermen must remember they are competing against other proteins, said James L. Anderson, chair of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island at Kingston, R.I.

 In the long run, all significant commercial seafood supplies will come from three sources: fish farms, aquaculture-enhanced fisheries and wild fisheries that adopt sustainable management systems, Anderson told participants at the recent Alaska Young Fishermen's Summit II in Anchorage.

 Wild fisheries will thrive if harvesters adopt management systems that clearly define rights and responsibilities; stop fighting over access and allocation; emphasize economic and environmental sustainability; improve quality; understand markets; and adapt to meet consumer demands and reduce bureaucracy and waste, Anderson said.

 To enhance the sale of wild products, he told the fishermen to create a message of diversity. Sell the "sauce," sell the "image," Anderson said, but also meet the demand for consistent availability and quality, stable or declining costs and other consumer demands.

 The industry should also expect to see continued rapid growth in markets for cod, cobia, tilapia, pangasius, channel catfish, flatfish and barramundi. The tilapia market has experienced very rapid growth, and many environmental nongovernment organizations are positive about tilapia, he said.

 Anderson said in the competition for seafood consumption, shrimp, tuna, salmon, Alaska pollock, catfish, tilapia, crab, cod, clams and flatfish ranked in the top 10 in 2005, according to a survey of fisheries of the United States completed in 2007. The survey information did not specify whether the seafoods were wild or from aquaculture sources.

 The biggest issues facing the seafood industry today are aquaculture, international trade, the rising influence of China in the market and large retail and restaurant entities concerned about ecolabeling and sustainability, Anderson said.

 Continued growth in aquaculture imports will continue, with per capita seafood consumption in the United States concentrated on fewer species produced primarily in aquaculture facilities, he said.

 Despite criticism from environmental groups, aquaculture will not go away. Attempts to curtail aquaculture development will be circumvented by new technology and product substitution, he said. The growth in aquaculture parallels a shift in the market toward value-added products that enhance consumer convenience.

 Still, there will be increasing opportunities for wild products in such upper-end market segments as natural food retailers and luxury restaurants, he said.

 Anderson's research in fisheries and aquacultural economics began in 1980 with a study on the bioeconomics of salmon ranching in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon "ranching" involves raising young salmon fry in hatcheries and releasing them to mature in the open ocean.

 Anderson has also been involved in numerous research projects related to fisheries and aquaculture management, seafood marketing and international trade, and seafood price forecasting. His recent work has focused on analysis of salmon and shrimp markets and evaluating how aquaculture development and rights-based fisheries management are changing the global seafood sector. – Anchorage Daily News


Fishermen die in Kodiak plane crash

KACHEMAK SELO, Alaska -- The young fisherman's body came down the treacherous switchback trail in a snowstorm Sunday. Andrian Reutov completed his last trip home from the fishing grounds on Russian Christmas Eve.

 For several decades, the men of the three Old Believer communities at the head of Kachemak Bay have made their living from the sea. Lately, the commercial-fishing routine has included longlining for cod in the Gulf of Alaska. Several dozen Russian boats dock in Kodiak during the winter so their crews can make frequent trips home via charter flights.

 As fishing communities, the Old Believer settlements near Homer know what it is like to have family members never return. But the crash of a charter flight in Kodiak Saturday, which took the lives of five local fishermen, was something new.

 "There was tragedies all along, but nothing like this. This was big," said Sergei Reutov, a former mayor of Kachemak Selo, the village along the tidal flats at the head of the bay. "They were all coming home for Christmas."

 Orthodox Christmas will be marked today with long early-morning church services in all three communities: Voznesenka on the bluff at the end of East End Road, 23 miles from Homer; Razdolna, another three miles beyond; and Kachemak Selo, at the foot of the icy switchback road negotiated in winter by trucks with chains.

 The communities were established by different family groups in the early 1980s when conservative Old Believers split from the area's original settlement, at Nikolaevsk near Anchor Point. Today, the combined population at the head of the bay is well over 500, said Sergei Reutov, who is not closely related to Andrian.

 The Old Believers are an Orthodox sect that split from the Russian Church in the 17th century over matters of religious practice. Spread around the world today, they tend to live in isolated, tightly-knit communities, speaking Russian at home and rejecting certain trappings of the modern world while embracing others.

 The Kachemak Bay communities lost two pairs of brothers to the air crash in Kodiak.

Zahary Martushev, 25, and Iosif Martushev, 15, lived near Kachemak Selo but outside the village. Iosif, also known as Joe, was in ninth grade in the village school.

 Stefan Basargin, 36, and his brother Pavel Basargin, 30, lived in Razdolna. Both died in the crash. Stefan had a large family, villagers said. A third Basargin brother and a cousin were among the four survivors.

 Andrian Reutov, a Cook Inlet driftnet fisherman in summer, was the youngest son in a family of six boys and four girls. He was 22 and got married last May. Andrian had recently converted his boat for longlining cod and was fishing late into the season to pay off his investment, said an older brother, Alexander Reutov. – Anchorage Daily News


Charter boat owner named to North Pacific council

The Commerce Department today announced the appointment of Robert E. Dersham, of Anchor Point, Alaska, to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

 The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional bodies established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that prepare fishery management plans for marine fish stocks in their respective geographical areas of responsibility. NOAA’s Fisheries Service submits the management plans to the Secretary of Commerce for review and approval.

 A charter boat operator for more than 23 years, Dersham has been an active participant on the Alaska Board of Fisheries for more than eight years, is a fisheries coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and is co-owner and operator of a fishing lodge on the east side of Cook Inlet. Dersham represents the recreational sector. Under this appointment, Dersham will serve on the Council until Aug. 10, 2009 – Press release

 Council members represent diverse fisheries’ interests. Their combined knowledge and experience represent commercial and recreational fishermen as well as environmental, academic, and other interests from each geographical area concerned. They are selected from nominations submitted by governors from the areas served by the eight councils and are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. – Anchorage Daily News


Kathy, Ed Hansen named Fishermen of the Year

The United Fishermen of Alaska Board of Directors, composed of 37 fisheries trade organizations and four at-large members, have named Kathy and Ed Hansen as "Fishermen of the Year" for 2007, based on the Hansen's tireless work helping to forge long term solutions to the issue of fisheries allocation between the traditional commercial and emerging sport charter sectors of the industry.

 "Usually just one person wins this award," said UFA President Joe Childers, "but in this case we had to make an exception. Where Kathy goes Ed goes, and vice versa, and wherever they go and whatever they do they complement and support one another."

 The Hansens are the fisherman's version of a "Power Couple" and are well known, having fished together throughout the southeast region for over 23 years. Kathy and Ed are Juneau residents who longline for halibut and troll for salmon out of Hoonah and Sitka.

 They also are recognized in meeting halls throughout Alaska for their work in regulatory forums at the local, state and national levels. Kathy has been Chair of the Juneau-Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Council since 2000, and is also the Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance (SEAFA).

 Her participation on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Halibut Charter working group is deeply appreciated because she is one of only two commercial fisherman's representatives. The working group was formed in 2005 to pursue long-term solutions to the controversial Gulf of Alaska halibut allocation issues between rapidly expanding commercial charter fisheries and the traditional commercial longline fisheries. Kathy is also the only commercial representative on the State taskforce on charter limited entry taskforce. – Press release


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Today's read: Huge wind project comes as a surprise

ASTORIA — “We thought we had a plan.”

Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson spoke about the sunken Finavera Renewables test buoy off the coast near Newport, the company’s plans to salvage it and other issues during a Wave Energy Working Group meeting.

 Thompson and other fishermen in Newport have been working with Finavera, discussing buoy placements in the ocean that would have the least impact on fishermen. Finavera still is unsure about the status of the prototype buoy resting on the ocean floor and weather calm enough to remove it hasn’t materialized.

But there was another issue that gave several members of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council’s subcommittee pause. It was the announcement of a nearly 30-square-mile wave-and-wind energy project proposed off of Grays Harbor in Washington.

That’s huge, when compared to the 1⁄4-square-mile wave energy project currently proposed off of Gardiner by Ocean Power Technologies.

The 30 or so people in the audience were quiet as working group member Scott McMullen read the specifics of Washington Wave Company’s project.

It would have up to 90 wind turbines and 350 wave converters to produce 400 megawatts/hour at peak and 168 on average. It could cover the entire coastal zone, out to 3 miles, on both sides of the Grays Harbor entrance, for 10 linear miles.

“This makes it one of the largest proposed wind and wave projects in the world,” the company’s Web site says.

Washington Wave Company has a different kind of idea for its hardware. The wave energy converters would be fully submersed, marked only by a small buoy on the surface of the water. The anchors for the wind turbines and wave energy converters are designed as structures that would foster fish habitat. Moreover, fishing vessels could navigate through the area, according to the Web site.

This plan, however, has something most other proposals haven’t suggested. It’s a feature that could be appealing to communities on long, sandy peninsulas or stretches of beach: Protection.

The array of wave converters and wind turbines could cut down on the power of damaging waves generated by big storms and help control coastal erosion.

Proposals such as Washington Wave Company’s recent application are the kind for which fishermen have no plans. Applications for more projects are continuing to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Most companies file for applications before they talk with existing ocean users, fishermen at the meeting said.

The added complication of potential marine reserves — closed areas in the ocean, also being considered by the council — could have disastrous effects.

“These wave energy things ... it’s going to take some time to get there,” Coos Bay Trawlers’ Association Executive Director Steve Bodnar said. “But the double-whammy is not good for the crabbing industry. It’s not good for the salmon industry.”

For any of the projects — the 1-4-square-mile Reedsport project, 28-square-mile Grays Harbor project or the whopping 68-square-mile project in Northern California — it boils down to the basic politics of competing interests of ocean users and renewable energy. The common thread binding the two interests is state and federal agencies who provide input and oversee the projects.

And FERC, working group members said, holds most of the cards.

It’s an issue of concern to other federal agencies.

FERC recently issued the first license for a buoy park project to Finavera, for a project off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The license is for five years and is conditioned that Finavera continue some studies. It takes advantage of a recently approved FERC policy that speeds up the approval for some wave energy projects.

“Basically, what the policy says is FERC can actually condition these licenses prior to the completion of all their consultations,” National Marine Fisheries Service representative Cathy Tortorici said, such as talking with NMFS about Endangered Species Act impacts.

“Our agency is really concerned about this — there’s not enough time (for consultation),” she said. “What this says to me is that these projects are not going away. They’re actually going forward.”

It’s not just federal agencies concerned about the process of slowing things down so that adequate studies can be done.

“FERC steps out of the way and resource agencies are impeding the process,” Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Developement representative Greg McMurray said. “That’s the perception of the public. It’s politics. We have a problem with the (FERC) policy.” – Coos Bay World

Global warming may kill off salmon

Salmon survived massive dams and fishing fleets, but now they're feeling the heat of global warming -- and it's likely to hammer them as hard as anything they've faced.

 Although the government has spent billions to save salmon, warming will probably force even more extreme measures in coming years at the expense of water and power for people.

 Biologists who have spent their careers watching over the fish said temperatures expected to rise an average of 0.2 to 1 degree per decade over the next century will probably wipe out some fragile runs of salmon. Snow will fall as rain instead, feeding floods that flush away their eggs. Heat waves will multiply, leaving less refuge to which they can retreat.

 The region's signature fish needs cool water the way people need air. But temperatures in the Columbia River, their critical conduit to the sea, are rising toward lethal levels. The coolest years now are often warmer than the hottest years of the 1950s, according to temperature gauges near Bonneville Dam.

 The climate is not the only thing driving that trend. Dams that slow water flow, allowing it to warm, and the loss of plants that once shaded tributary streams, keeping them cool, also play a part.

 But climate is growing more dominant and is expected to push river temperatures about 2 degrees higher on average by 2040, according to the Independent Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of top fish and wildlife researchers who advise federal agencies.

 Already, some steelhead going home to the Snake River divert into the cooler Deschutes River to escape the warm Columbia, said Bob Heinith, a biologist at the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

 Days of unusually scorching heat and meager river flows killed more than 100 salmon last July in the Middle Fork of the John Day River, a tributary of the Columbia. That wiped out a large piece of the river's remaining salmon run.

 "We've had some fish kills, but they've never been this extensive," said Tim Unterwegner, a state biologist who helped survey the dead fish. "It did not cool off at night like it usually does." -- The Oregonian

Editorial: East Coast fishermen must pull back

The seafood industry has long been in need of a reality check.

If fishermen do not stop taking more fish than are hatched every year, they will eliminate one of the world's vital food sources and put themselves out of business in the process. According to a 2007 U.N. report, 25 percent of the fish stocks being monitored are either "overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion."

The report also states that "more than half of highly migratory oceanic sharks and two-thirds of high-seas fish stocks, including hake, Atlantic cod and halibut, orange roughy, basking shark and bluefin tuna, are either depleted or at high risk of collapse."

Fortunately, there are the beginnings of a sustainability movement in the industry. USA Today recently reported that a New England couple who used to be in the lobster export business are now making a go of an environmentally conscious seafood company.

Henry and Lisa Lovejoy started EcoFish eight years ago. The Dover, N.H., company sells only seafood grown or caught by producers who don't harm the environment, who don't over-exploit the species and who limit the other fish or marine animals caught with the targeted species.

 USA Today reported that EcoFish deals with a dozen species, including shrimp and salmon, and avoids heavily fished species. That consumers are willing to pay about 20 percent more than what competitors charge means it's possible to have commercial fishing and a sustainable fish supply.

Last month, Congress passed legislation that should strengthen protection of the nation's vulnerable fish stocks. The law requires that when scientists determine a species is in danger of being overfished, a regional fishery management council must immediately end the overfishing and develop a plan for rebuilding the stock within two years.

Everyone should hope the combination of market incentives and better government regulation will keep the world's oceans alive with aquatic life for future generations. – Hartford (Conn.) Courant

Murkowski named politician of the year

The United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) Board of Directors has selected Senator Lisa Murkowski as "Person of the Year in Alaska Politics for 2007."

 The statewide fisherman's umbrella association cited Senator Murkowski's exemplary work on behalf of Exxon Valdez oil spill plaintiffs as one of the most significant efforts on behalf of Alaska fishermen in 2007.

 "Senator Murkowski introduced the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Tax Relief Act and was able to get this measure attached to the Senate version of the Farm Bill of 2007 through dedicated work. With plaintiffs from every state, Senator Murkowski was able to draw bipartisan support for the measure, which calls for one-time contribution of up to $100,000 of settlement to retirement accounts, and allows three year income averaging, said UFA President Joe Childers.

 "We also feel that in moving this legislation, Senator Murkowski has highlighted the matter of the Exxon Valdez tragedy to the highest levels of government as the issue goes before the Supreme Court., said Childers.

 "It doesn't begin to make up for what these families have gone through, but it helps." stated Mark Vinsel, UFA's Executive Director.

 This is the second year that UFA has recognized the outstanding contributions to the seafood industry made by Senator Murkowski. Her work in 2005 improved seafood labeling and resulted in the public's ability to better discern whether they were purchasing wild or farmed seafood products. – Press release


Thursday, January 10, 2008 

A safe Pebble mine? Look to the Fraser

The Pebble mine proposed for development in Bristol Bay would be located in the watersheds of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers – two of the most productive salmon rivers in the world.

 Mining advocates have argued that this mine would not pose any risk to local salmon populations. The history of the Fraser River, Canada’s most productive salmon system, has repeatedly been cited as evidence that hard-rock mining is entirely compatible with the maintenance of productive salmon populations.

 In stark contrast to the messages being communicated by Pebble promoters, salmon populations in the Fraser River have declined dramatically during the last two decades. Annual catches of sockeye salmon that averaged over 60 million pounds in the early 1990s have plummeted to less than 10 percent of those levels since 1999. These declines have occurred despite substantial public investment in state-of-the-art salmon habitat enhancement during the last three decades.

 The Fraser River watershed has been developed for a variety of purposes including mining, urban development, agriculture and forestry. Recent climate warming has also stressed salmon populations during their spawning migrations from the ocean. Although the causes for their population declines remain ambiguous, it is clear that Fraser River sockeye are currently in deep trouble. All claims by mining advocates that Fraser River salmon populations are healthy and productive are simply incorrect.

– Dr. Daniel Schindler and Dr. Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington, writing to the Anchorage Daily News

My Turn: Proposed halibut limits don't hit mark

It's discouraging to learn that several fishing organizations will not oppose the proposed reductions for Area 2C halibut allocations that cite low catch rates and the need to rebuild halibut stocks.

 Are we following good science?

 The pat tag is a cylinder that attaches to the halibut. Inside the cylinder is a micro-computer that collects the movement, depth and location of the halibut. This data is sent via satellite after the cylinder disengages from the halibut over time. There is a shortage of funds for a fully implemented pat tag study.

 The International Pacific Halibut Commission needs to hear the working knowledge from seasoned fishermen with significant time on the grounds, running the gear, seeing what's coming up and what's not. One can conjecture that the fishing grounds were empty because five other boats just fished the same area.

 Vessel survey results show fewer fish and lower catch rates with the ongoing overlap of fishing skewing vessel survey catch rates downward. Ocean entrance corridors experience greater fishing pressure. Logbook data supports these statements.

 The abundance of dogfish, once the gear is down, fills up the hooks fast. Fishermen have never seen so many dogfish. Lingcod and sharks shaken off the gear affect the catch per unit effort. These species eat crabs, blackcod, halibut and almost anything they can prey on. In Alaska, there should be a directed fishery for spiny dogfish to promote an underutilized and nonutilized resource.

 Fishermen know what's in the bellies of their catches, lots of crabs. Those who have been around awhile know the offshore crab stocks plummeted from overfishing by the crab fleet. Here in Pelican, the dead loss that went overboard while unloading was staggering during the heydays of the 1980s. (Kodiak experienced this same thing in the king crab and shrimp industry.)

 With little or no crab fishing occurring for the past two decades, these stocks are rebounding. Predator-prey correlations in biological population growth models affect species abundance.

 Western Alaska and Bering Sea crab and pollock stocks are diminished. Rebuilding healthy populations will take considerable time. The Americanization of fisheries caused overcapitalization and the fleet hammered the grounds with crab pots and trawl gear, which influences habitat productivity and viability. Crab stocks were overfished and fishing grounds are damaged from the effects of crab pots and trawl gear.

 What about the unknown and unreported halibut bycatch from every user group in every area? Halibut productivity is influenced by these unknown variables. A better understanding is needed of factors influencing population dynamics to have a bountiful resource.

 For more than 80 years the International Pacific Halibut Commission has managed the halibut resource well enough to have a viable fishery, because it listened to commercial halibut fishermen from British Columbia, Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

 The unknown percentage of halibut resource intercepted by guided sport harvest in all areas, especially Areas 2B, 2C and 3A is significant. Only estimations are provided. The Canadians don't know their actual sport fish harvest, either. Sport harvest has no hard numbers to quantify actual harvest. Creel census surveys are seasonal.

 The sport fish season is 300 days, two fish per day; the actual harvest level is incalculable. Every pound caught should be accounted for. For guided sport fishermen, their resource is people. There are more people who want the experience of fishing, but the resource is limited.

 All areas must equitably bear reduced halibut allocations. Limited data from pat tag studies reflect an eastward migration of halibut. A greater percentage of halibut must move eastward to shorten the time needed to replenish halibut productivity in Area 2. Canadians need to be persuaded to bear a fair share of reduced allocations. Area 2C has been cut over and above the 60/40 split.

 The commission should allocate coastwide harvest rates for 3A, 3B and 4A at 2006 levels to provide eastward migration of halibut until the 2C and 2B constant exploitation yield improves. And decrease the harvest rate analysis for 2C and 2B quota by 10 percent per year, especially since the mid-term outlook is positive, with stronger than average recruitment projected for the 1994-96 year classes with sport fish catch controls in place.

 This makes sense and places a share of the burden on the entire coast, while implementing the new coastwide model formula. -- James Phillips and Patricia Phillips, who own a commercial fishing business in Pelican, writing to the Juneau Empire

Wave power proponents receive state money

The Oregon Wave Energy Trust, or OWET, has received the first part of its $4.2 million budget approved by the 2007 state Legislature, and is moving ahead with plans and activities to make Oregon a global leader in this emerging industry.

 As the state’s newly established wave energy association, this group of industry, academic and state agency representatives just received $1 million from the Oregon Innovation Council. Among recent and planned activities:

  •  OWET will allot $50,000 of its initial funds to support education and coastal community outreach, in programs designed by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association.
  •  Last October, OWET provided matching funds to sponsor an Ecological Effects Workshop at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, and key findings from this workshop will be used to direct environmental effects analysis and monitoring studies.
  • About $225,000 will be used to conduct a whale migration study through Oregon State University’s Marine Mammals Institute, to establish baseline data on marine mammal migration patterns off the coast of Oregon.
  • New wave energy technologies and applied research activities will also be supported at OSU, as they seek to develop a National Wave Energy Center and test new wave energy devices.  

 For more information, contact Justin Klure, – Press release

B.C. fish trader fined

VANCOUVER, -- Environment Canada's Wildlife Enforcement Division announced today that on January 4, 2008, Pacific Marine Union Corporation of Vancouver, British Columbia, entered a guilty plea in Vancouver Provincial Court to two counts under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and was fined a total of $78,566.94.

The charges were a result of Operation Shell Game, an 18-month long investigation into the unlawful import and export of Queen conch. This investigation involved federal wildlife officers in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia as well as Special Agents from both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Law Enforcement in New York and Florida.

In January of 2005, Pacific Marine Union Corporation unlawfully exported two shipments of Queen conch to Caribbean Conch, Inc. of Hialeah, Florida. Then, between July 2005 and March 2006, Pacific Marine Union Corporation unlawfully imported five shipments of Queen conch meat from Haiti (declared as either "clams" or "whelk") which was subsequently repackaged and relabelled as "whelk meat" (a non-endangered species) and exported to Caribbean Conch, Inc., in Florida. Over 24,000 kilograms (54,000 pounds) of Queen conch meat was unlawfully exported to the United States. -Press release


Friday, January 11, 2008 

Fishing vessel battles ice, now aground

The fishing vessel My Oar was aground this morning near the boat launch at Anton Larsen Bay after breaking through several hundred yards of ice in the bay Wednesday afternoon.

 The Coast Guard reported hearing a person onboard the vessel say over bridge-to-bridge radio that they were taking on water.

 After losing contact with the vessel the Coast Guard launched an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and located the 55-foot fishing vessel on the beach at Anton Larsen Bay.

 The commanding officer of the Marine Safety Detachment, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Lee, said breaking through the ice probably caused a small area on the vessel’s port bow to fracture.

 “The investigation is still ongoing,” Lee said. “From what we hear from the owner, they had made a repair to that portion of the hull before, and during the attempt to get to Anton Larsen, and breaking through that ice probably caused it to fracture.”

 A rescue swimmer and a pump were lowered from the helicopter to assist the fishing vessel. The vessel’s crew was able to get the flooding under control.

 The Coast Guard dispatched an accident investigation unit to further examine the vessel. They were on scene this morning. – Kodiak Daily Mirror

Alaska Legislature eyes fish legislation

The Alaska Legislature begins a 90-day session next Tuesday, and so far lawmakers have pre-filed at least a couple of bills of note to the commercial fishing industry.

Here’s a rundown:

 House Bill 289 – This would exempt fishing boat owners from paying unemployment insurance tax for crewmen involved in oil spill cleanups or drills. The sponsors are Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

 The impetus for the bill was the flap created last year when the state Labor Department sent letters to Prince William Sound skippers saying they needed to start paying the tax for crewmen working on their boats during spill response and training.

 Valdez is home to the big Alyeska oil tanker dock, and a bunch of commercial fishermen hold contracts for spill response in the Sound.

 Alaska law already exempts boat owners from paying unemployment tax on crewmen engaged in catching fish, and this bill would extend that exemption to cover spill response and training.

 Senate Bill 187 – This would increase the minimum wage to at least $8 an hour. The current minimum is $7.15.

 A trio of Democratic senators are sponsoring the bill – Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage, Joe Thomas of Fairbanks and Kim Elton of Juneau. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Feds won't replace Juneau research vessel

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration will not replace its oldest research ship, the John Cobb, after 57 years of scientific service to Alaskan fisheries, according to a NOAA spokesman.

 Additionally the federal agency said it was not interested in homeporting ships in Juneau.

 The comment follows a December letter sent from Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, asking for help replacing the Cobb. The NOAA ship provides a platform for scientific research affecting issues from fishing quotas to construction of the Juneau Access Road.  – Juneau Empire

Russians slash crab quota

Quotas for crab catches have been slashed by 20 percent for the year 2008 and the catches are allowed for scientific purposes only, a spokesman for Goskomrybolovstvo, or Russian Fishing Committee, Alexander Savelyev said Wednesday.

According to Goskomrybolovstvo’s fishing quotas, allowable quotas for crab stand at 51,761 metric tons, a 20-percent decrease compared to 61, 539 tons in 2007, Savelyev said. Catches of most crab species are allowed only for scientific purposes according to the results of the state ecological expertise, he added.

In the fishing territories near the Kuriles and Sakhalin, catches of two types of crab – triangle tanner crab and red crab - are allowed for commercial fishing.

The restriction on crab catches is caused by the necessity to restore the crab population exhausted by poaching.

In 2006 the quotas for crab were set at 60,000 tons but the actual catches made were 150,000 tons with most of the catch being exported to Japan, South Korea, China and the United States.

Cutting crab quotas, Goskomrybolovstvo has increased pollock quotas for Sakhalin and Kuriles. The total allowable catches for all kinds of fish in this region are set at 795,000 tons. Humpback salmon catches are allowed at 123,000 tons and chum salmon, or keta, at 20,000 tons. – Vladivostok News