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Summary for February 18 - February 22, 2008:

Monday, February 18, 2008 

President's Day

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Opinion: Salmon killers declare war on stripped bass

The folks who are killing California's salmon fishery have now declared war on striped bass.

 No joke: A new lawsuit says that to protect the fisheries, fish should not be protected.

 Agricultural groups who are sucking the Sacramento Delta all but dry, diverting the fresh water essential for salmon, bass and other marine creatures, contend fish are in trouble because striped bass are eating them.

 In a lawsuit filed against the Department of Fish and Game in federal court in Sacramento, farm groups seek to end California's policy of nurturing striped bass as a sport fishery, saying the move violates the Endangered Species Act.

 That's because non-native stripers, introduced into the bay in 1887, eat Sacramento River winter salmon and central valley spring salmon, as well as Delta smelt, the lawsuit says.

 Allowing such "destruction" of fish whose populations already are in trouble is "outrageous," said Michael Boccadoro of the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, which filed the lawsuit. The coalition includes Kern County farm and water interests who depend on Delta water to grow subsidized crops in the desert.

 State policy protecting the striped bass as a sport fish is at odds with federal protection of the species they eat, so limits on fishing for stripers should be abandoned, the lawsuit contends.

 John Beuttler, conservation director of the California Sportfishing Alliance, says the striper population has plummeted from 4 million to just 1 million in the last decade, and farming interests want to eradicate it because it takes too much fresh water to maintain the fishery.

 "The suite would remove game fish status from striped bass and make it vulnerable to unlimited exploitation and potential extinction," Beuttler said.

 It also could end salinity standards set by the state requiring fresh water for the estuary, meaning "all that water just might be available for export to growers," he added.

 And that's the last thing Northern California needs. – Nels Johnson, writing in Marin Independent-Journal

To protect fish, she wants to know where they are

Images of dolphins and turtles ensnared in tuna nets are a heart-wrenching reminder of the impact of fisheries on ocean bio-diversity. Known in fisheries science as ‘by-catch,’ this killing of non-target species is a complex problem that has resisted easy answers.

One possible solution, advanced by Dr. Suzana Dragicevic of Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia involves digital maps and mathematical analysis to visualize and better understand the location of the most vulnerable marine habitats. These so-called ‘geospatial’ approaches have already been used widely in managing land-based resources to help build consensus among stakeholders with conflicting interests.

“Many environmental problems, including by-catch, are spatial in nature, explains Dragicevic, associate professor and director of the Spatial Analysis and Modeling Laboratory in SFU’s Geography Department. “To resolve them you need to build an accurate and objective view of the environment in question.”

 Fines on bycatch could help make conservation groups, industry accountable.

Assessing fines on illegal bycatch could help clean up the fishing industry, reports a new study published in the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

U.S. fishing bycatch wastes 1 million metric tons of fish per year says study
A new study shows that for every five pounds of fish caught by U.S. commercial fisheries, one pound is dumped – dead, dying and wasted. Each year, U.S. commercial fishing operations throw away more than one million metric tons of fish, an amount equivalent to 28 percent of all commercial landings and more than all of the fish landed on the East and West coasts combined.

What makes the challenge daunting is the conflict between commercial fisheries driven by profit maximization and an increasingly determined conservation community intent on protecting as much as 30 per cent of the world’s marine habitats.

 “We must certainly be mindful of the need to protect marine biodiversity, but we can’t forget those who are dependent on the fishery for their livelihoods,” says Dragicevic, who is also funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

To find common ground, Dragicevic employs a mathematical optimization process known as multi-criteria evaluation. This tool factors in the competing preferences of stakeholders to help authorities arrive at management decisions acceptable to all parties. – MongaBay

Poor ocean conditions blamed for lower Napa salmon runs

Fewer chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Napa River this season, a fact that Napa County biologists think may be linked to poor ocean conditions.

Smaller salmon runs were reported in other watersheds in the region as well, noted RCD biologists who surveyed a stretch of the Napa River in December and January.

 Jonathan Koehler, a senior biologist at RCD, said these results point to poor ocean conditions, including shifts in the amount of plankton available to fish and shrimp for the salmon.

The waters where the counts are low have one thing in common — the ocean, he said. “All our fish go out to the ocean.”

To do the survey, RCD biologists counted salmon nests or redds — areas in the bottom of the river the fish clear with its tail to spawn — from St. Helena to north Napa.

Counting redds is more accurate than counting fish, because adult fish can easily be double counted, the RCD biologists explained during a recent presentation of their findings.

The biologists found nine redds per kilometer — or more than four fewer than in 2005 and 2006 along the 4.5-mile stretch between Oakville Crossing and St. Helena, where most redds are found.

Koehler stressed more counts will have to be done to establish long-term trends. It is only the fourth year that data has been collected on the Chinook salmon spawning season in the Napa River, where an estimated 400 to 600 adults live.

In the Central Valley, the number of chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento River this fall was a record low, a particularly distressing result, according to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group that proposes salmon fishing rules to federal officials every spring along the Pacific Coast.

Chuck Tracy, a salmon staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, on Friday said a low salmon run in the Napa River is reflective of what is going on up and down the Pacific Coast.

“It does look like there is a coastwide trend,” said Tracy, whose organization studies data from major watersheds in California, Oregon and Washington state. However, the reasons are unclear.

“We don’t know for sure” why this is happening, said Tracy, who explained the lower count may lead to a shorter commercial salmon season this year.

Chinook salmon return to the Napa River at age 2-5 years to spawn and die.

Chris Malan, a Napa environmentalist, said she is not surprised at this year’s low Chinook salmon count. She saw hundreds of dead juvenile Chinook salmon this summer in isolated warm pools while kayaking, she said.

The river’s health suffers from various factors, including poor water flows, increased temperature and severely eroding banks along the river, she explained.

The Napa River has been declared an impaired river under the federal Clean Water Act. State water quality regulators are scheduled to review this spring a plan to restore the Napa River watershed.

RCD biologists also collected 70 DNA samples from carcasses which they shipped to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Santa Cruz to find out if they came from other watersheds. The studies could determine if fish from hatcheries have been able to establish themselves in the Napa River, explained Koehler. -- Napa Valley Register, California

Mysterious human feet floating ashore in B.C.

VANCOUVER -- A U.S. expert on ocean currents says mysterious right feet washing up on the islands off B.C.'s coast could have drifted in from as far as 1,600 kilometres away.

 "They could easily have come that far from California or Alaska," Curtis Ebbesmeyer said Friday from his home in Seattle. "I suppose they could even have come from Japan because things do drift in from that distance too."

 Ebbesmeyer is an expert on drifting objects and has assisted investigations in Washington State when body parts were found in the ocean or washed ashore.

 The RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service are investigating what are officially termed three incidents of sudden death, following the latest discovery of a bodyless right foot inside a running shoe on Valdes Island Feb. 8. 

 The Valdes discovery is the third such find -- all right feet, all in sneakers -- in less than six months in the area.

 The first foot was found washed ashore on Jedidiah Island on Aug. 20, then six days later a second was found on Gabriola Island.

 Gabriola, Jedidiah and Valdes are in the Georgia Straight, between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C.

 Ebbesmeyer said the fact they're all right feet is intriguing.

 "That's certainly very strange. There will be an explanation for it, no doubt, but it's very odd," he said.

 Not so odd is that they were all contained in running shoes, he said.

 Sneakers are the most likely article of dress to survive the "disarticulate" process of a body breaking up in the water due to decomposition, he said.

 "I've seen instances where legs were washed ashore protected by jeans, but certainly running shoes which are made of material that floats are the most likely to survive," said Ebbesmeyer who had a chance to study the issue when 61,000 pairs of Nike sneakers fell into the sea from a container ship in Alaskan waters in 1990.

 The shoes drifted to parts of the Canadian coast including the Queen Charlotte Islands, off B.C.'s north coast and as far south as Washington and Oregon.

 Running shoes float upside down protecting the remains inside from birds but leaving them open to the attention of fish and other water animals, he said.

 Jeff Dolan, the assistant deputy chief coroner, said Friday that an extensive examination of the remains was being made, including an attempt to generate a DNA profile of the three victims in an effort to link them to a known missing person.– Vancouver Sun

Kodiak advisory board rejects big-boat proposals

When the Kodiak Fish and Game Advisory Committee met last week, it wasn’t just to elect new members and talk about letters; they were also there to discuss and make recommendations to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on proposals affecting the crabbing fleet.

 The first two on the agenda were proposals 366 and 367, written by Tary Middlesworth. One proposal aimed to repeal the super-exclusive registration area as it pertained to the Kodiak Tanner crab fishery. In the second, he wanted to implement crab pot limits based on vessel size.

 In Proposal 366, Middlesworth wrote Kodiak’s super-exclusive area discriminates against fishermen who have earned the right to fish in other fisheries. He wanted to change the super-exclusive to a nonexclusive fishery.

 According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game crabbing regulations, a vessel that has fished for Tanner crabs in a super-exclusive area cannot fish elsewhere. On the other hand, a fisherman can fish in as many nonexclusive areas as the fisherman has permits for.

 The regulation also pertains to vessel operators, but not their crew. This keeps vessel operators from changing vessels to circumvent regulations.

 Fish and Game officials said that last year there were 187 limited entry permits —142 were small vessel permits and the remainder were large vessel permits. Additionally, Fish and Game said last year, on the east side of Kodiak 30 vessels participated in the fishery, and on the northeast only nine. Large vessel permits can be used on any size vessel up to 120 feet.

 “I’m not going to support this,” committee member Alexus Kwachka said. “This is a small boat fishery and these guys in the Bering (Sea) are privatized and they can choose to fish when they want to go fishing. If the quotas increase here and the Tanner crab come back … I don’t want a guy stopping here and fishing and taking the cream off the top here and then going to the Bering Sea where he’s privatized and can participate at will.”

 Committee members agreed and voted unanimously not to support the proposal. They also voted unanimously not to support Proposal 367, which would have changed the pot limits depending on the size of the vessel.

 In Proposal 367, Middlesworth wrote that if the limits are not changed, large boats of 60 feet or more would continue to be at a financial disadvantage “due to higher expenses such as fuel, insurance and crew numbers. Larger vessels in the Bering Sea have larger pot limits for these very same reasons.”

 If passed by the Board of Fisheries, the pot limits for vessels less than 60 feet would change to 20 pots for less than 2 million pound quota, 30 pots for 2-4 million pound quota, 40 pots for 4-5 million pound quota and 50 pots for 5 million pound and greater quotas.

 Large vessel pot limits would change to 24, 36, 48 and 60.

 “I think the large boats participated just fine with the 20-pot limit,” Kwachka said. “I think increasing the pot limit for larger vessels disadvantages the smaller boats. The larger boats are the minority and the smaller boats are the majority (in Kodiak). I want to keep the playing field the same.”

 Ludger Dochterman agreed.

 “Twenty pots is just fine,” he said. “You can make your living with 20 pots. The problem is we’ve had too many pots for too many years and that’s what screwed up our fishery. It’s time we keep a close eye on it and keep it tight until we realize that we have some decent quantity crabs to catch.”

 New committee member Kip Thomet said he would also appose the proposal because he didn’t think the small boat fleet should be subsidizing the large boat fleet.

 “Hopefully the Board (of Fisheries) won’t get bamboozled by this,” Dochterman said. – Kodiak Daily Mirror


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Study: North Pacific council follows biologists' advice

ANCHORAGE – An analysis of the voting record of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) shows that its members consistently followed the recommendations of marine biologists in supporting actions that imposed constraints on the groundfish fisheries for purposes of conservation.  That conclusion is made in a report detailing a retrospective analysis that examined the voting record of the NPFMC from 1994 to 2006.

 “Such a record indicates the NPFMC has been able to allocate fish among a diverse user group, while never exceeding the recommendations of their scientific committee,” according to the study, Conflict of Interest Standards & Regional Fishery management Councils, issued by the Anchorage-based Institute of the North.

 On the NPFMC, there are seven appointed interest seats and four government seats (for the National Marine Fisheries Service and representatives of the States of Alaska, Washington and Oregon).  Criticism has been leveled in the past that regional fisheries management councils are dominated by commercial fishing interests who overpower state and federal council members when voting on such things as setting the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and restrictions based on conservation goals.

 “Such an accusation does not seem to be warranted when looking at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council,” said report author Ben Ellis, managing director of the Institute of the North.  Among the findings in the report:

 ·         Between 1994 and 2006 the council has never changed the SSC’s (Scientific and Statistical Committee’s) recommended Over Fishing Limits.

 ·         Between 1994 and 2006, the council has never exceeded the SSC’s ABC (Allowable Biological Catch) recommendations.

 ·         In 1994 and 1995, the council substituted the more conservative Plan Team ABC recommendation for the SSC’s recommended ABC for Pacific Ocean Perch.

 ·         In the 12-year study period of final groundfish TAC specifications and 12 significant conservation actions, in no instance did the final vote include more than two government objectors.

 The report also looked at the legal framework of conflict of interest standards as they applied to the council process and other similar federal committees.

  “Given the voting record of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on conservation issues, the consistent application of science to management questions, plus the 25-plus year history of managing stocks such that there are no overfished groundfish stocks in the North Pacific, it appears that the application of these (conflict of interest) standards is working to ensure that conservation takes precedence over short-term economic interests.”

 Congress amended the Magnuson Stevens Act, the nation’s premier fishery management law that sets up the regional council process, in late 2006. Many of the changes Congress made were based on the successful conservation practices of the NPFMC. Congress also made adjustments to the conflict of interest provisions for the regional councils.

 “I had the privilege to serve on the North Pacific Council and saw the process first hand,” Ellis said. “The conservation record of the Council is solid and provides a model for the rest of the country.” – Press release

Alaska seafood marketing fund shrinks

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which promotes Alaska fishermen's catch around the world, projects it will run on savings for the next couple of years.

 "We can't live on this budget," said Bruce Wallace, ASMI board member and fisherman.

The budget is decreasing, according to data supplied by Wallace. How much the state will contribute for fiscal year 2009 is up for discussion this week in the Alaska Legislature.

 Gov. Sarah Palin recommended a $250,000 increase in state funding to ASMI, bringing the total to $750,000. Last week, the House Finance Subcommittee took a recommendation from its chairman, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, to cut that increase by $138,000.

 Kelly did not respond to a request for comment.

 ASMI's budget for fiscal year 2008 is $22 million. It projects an income of $20 million for 2009, and gradually less in the years that follow.

 The organization's money comes largely from federal funds and from a half-percent tax on ex-vessel values of Alaska seafood, which are a measure of the money paid to commercial fishermen for their catch. The state has contributed money since fiscal year 2006.

 ASMI promotes the Alaska harvest in international markets, domestic retail and service markets. It means, for example, going to trade shows or sending celebrity chefs on marketing tours. This year, ASMI will feature the governor in a five-minute video, which an estimated 35 million people in the Lower 48 likely will see, about the tastiness and health benefits of Alaska seafood.

 ASMI doesn't directly sell seafood, so it's difficult to quantify how the money it spends to promote the state's seafood is helping the industry.

 Board member Bruce Wallace points to ex-vessel values, which rose to $7.3 million in fiscal year 2007, from $2.9 million in 2004.

 "Some of that is in volume," he said, referring to an increase in the harvest. "Most of it is in price."

 Richie Davis, who fishes for salmon, black cod and halibut, said much of the marketing for his own fish is done by the Seafood Producers Cooperative. The ASMI tax is still taken from what he sells to processors, but it's less important to him. Yet he said that the ASMI money is well spent.

 "That's a humble opinion from one fisherman that says without them, we'd be worse off," he said. "But I can't say how much in dollars and cents."

 A more subjective measure that several people mentioned: In recent years, Alaska salmon has become one of the most recognizable brands of food in the Lower 48, according to market studies.

 "If you're right behind Oreo cookies, you've obviously done something right," said Kathy Hansen, president of the Southeast Fishermen's Alliance. "They do what they can with the budget they have." – Juneau Empire

Copper River group needs logo

The Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association is sponsoring a logo contest to solicit designs for a regional product branding logo for the legendary and world-famous Copper River salmon.

 To attract the efforts of resident artists and graphic artists, the association is offering a $1,000 prize for the winning entry. According to Brandy Johnson, executive director for the local marketing association, the association is hoping for numerous entries from the many talented graphic artists and artists living on the eastern shores of Prince William Sound.

 "Over the years, Cordova has developed quite a reputation for the number of talented artists that reside here, and those are just the artists that the public knows about. I know there are quite a few ‘closet’ artists here as well. I would love to see a winning design come from one of my neighbors," Johnson said.

 In 2005, the Copper River/PWS Marketing Association was the first regional seafood development association to form in Alaska. Since then, a second RSDA has sprung up in Bristol Bay. – Cordova Times

Lower Columbia harvest split announced

Anglers on the lower Columbia River from Astoria to St. Helens will get 12 days to fish for spring Chinook salmon this year.

Oregon and Washington officials agreed to keep a recreational salmon season open from March 24 through April 4 from Buoy 10 to the Hayden Island power lines west tower.

The daily limit in Oregon will be two salmon, only one of which may be a Chinook; in Washington it will be one salmon and two steelhead.

Spring Chinook angling will be open March 16 through April 30 from Portland upstream to Bonneville Dam with six Tuesday closures to allow for gillnet fishing.

This year, a large run of 269,300 upriver spring Chinook is forecast for the Columbia River, but a weak run of just 34,000 Chinook is projected to return to the Willamette River.

To protect the weak run of Willamette spring Chinook, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted earlier this month to keep all spring Chinook sport fishing seasons on the Columbia River above the mouth of the Willamette. Anglers on the lower Columbia worried they would have to move upstream to the Portland area to catch any of the plentiful upriver Chinook run.

But the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to keep a fishery for the lower Columbia River. At a joint compact hearing Friday, the two states agreed to allow 450 Willamette Chinook to be caught in the lower Columbia, which could pave the way to a spring Chinook sport season of about 2,500 fish below the Interstate 5 bridge.

The sport season above the I-5 bridge to Bonneville Dam is expected to produce a catch of 15,800 spring Chinook.

"I was happy Washington overrode Oregon's decision," said fishing guide Billy Davis, of Warrenton's Gale Force Guides. "It's better than nothing. I was happy to see a one-fish limit too. That might make it last a little longer. It's definitely better than what we thought they were going to do."

Gillnet seasons will be open on the Columbia River mainstem on Tuesdays from March 25 through April 29 upstream of the Willamette River to Beacon Rock. The sport season will be closed while gillnets are on the river to avoid conflicts between the two contentious groups.

The commercial fishery will be managed up to 76 percent of its allocation of impacts on wild spring Chinook up to May 1. According to Jim Wells, president of the gillnetting group Salmon for All, the commercial fleet lost about 4 percent of its allocation, which determines how long the fleet can fish for hatchery stocks.

"We lost probably 600 fish when those four points of impacts were shifted to the sport side," he said.

After a contentious battle before both Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions, the two states reconciled their decisions on splitting the wild spring Chinook allocation between sport and commercial fishers Friday.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to change the split of impacts from 57 percent sport and 43 percent commercial to 65 percent sport and 35 percent commercial, and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife decided not to change the allocation split but to use a 10 percent buffer to keep the sport season open through April 30 above the mouth of the Willamette River.

Wells said Friday's meeting left sport fishers with 61 percent of the wild spring Chinook impacts and the commercial fleet with 39 percent. – Pacific Fishing columnist Cassandra Marie Profitta writing in The Daily Astorian

Editorial: Commercial fishery deserves more salmon

After initially indicating there might be no spring Chinook fishing whatsoever in the lower Columbia this year, Oregon and Washington fish managers were in the end convinced to allow the slimmest-imaginable season here. There will be 12 days for recreational fishermen only, with a daily limit of one.

Lower Columbia gillnetters weren't even this lucky. Not only was the commercial allocation cut to 39 percent of the total permitted catch -- down from 50 percent in the recent past -- but there also will be no commercial fishing at all downstream from the Interstate Bridge between Vancouver and Portland.

The end result is lousy news for the economy here on the Columbia estuary, the ancient capital of salmon fishing. Less than two weeks of fishing is better than nothing, but far fewer fishing dollars will put additional strains on local businesses and the people they employ.

No commercial season here for the king of salmon will have an over-sized impact on the small-time fishermen who look forward to this season as a time for finally making a little money and getting caught up with bills. After a crab season crippled by storms, this latest news is very sour indeed.

All of us who depend on gillnetters to supply our annual taste of spring Chinook will have to make do with salmon flown in from elsewhere. Our grandparents would be appalled.

There's no denying that Willamette Chinook appear to be in trouble this year, down by a projected 34 percent from 2006. The states are legally obliged to keep the catch of returning Willamette salmon to a minimum.

But there's also no denying that Portland and the other communities on the Willamette, along with the valley's powerful agricultural interests, have far more political muscle than we do. At the same time, their decades of chemical runoff, wetlands destruction and other urban choices have hammered salmon every bit as bad as a dam.

So here we sit, as hundreds of thousands of Chinook swim past our homes, destined for upriver sportsmen upon whom fish managers have lavished very generous seasons and bag limits. These same fishermen and the politicians who serve them made the choices that landed Willamette Chinook in so much trouble.

Fish managers should start planning immediately for how to address this ridiculously unfair situation before next season. And city dwellers should take care of their own salmon instead of taking ours. – The Daily Astorian


Friday, February 21, 2008

Humboldt Bay to be dredged this year

EUREKA – Dangerous conditions at the mouth of Humboldt Bay have prompted the government to step up preparation of a dredge to take care of a shoaling problem, a harbor official said.

 Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Executive Officer Dave Hull said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recognized the problem and is readying the dredge Yaquina to be in Humboldt Bay in mid-March.

 ”They're pushing it out of dry dock and they have to do sea trials and Coast Guard inspections and as soon as it's signed off it's on its way to Humboldt Bay,” Hull said.

 Every winter, storms cause sand to pile up in the shipping channel near the tip of the South Jetty. This year, the problem has been particularly acute, and draft restrictions for ships have been set. It led to one ship being turned away, and others rearranging their schedules to come into the bay lightly loaded.

 Fishermen have been warily crossing the bar. Dave Bitts with the vessel Elma Rue said the problem has been bad especially at the tip of the South Jetty, and boats that would normally pass on a 13- to 15-foot swell often are staying in port when the swell is only 10 feet.

 ”It's scary,” Bitts said.

 While many fishermen have quit Dungeness crab fishing for the season, Bitts said it's surprising how many still have gear out.

 Hull said that the Army Corps has made major efforts to treat the problem, but is dealing with constraints because the larger of its two West Coast dredges, the Essayons, is being retrofitted with new engines and won't be available for months. – Eureka Times-Standard

Humboldt Bay to be dredged this year

EUREKA – Dangerous conditions at the mouth of Humboldt Bay have prompted the government to step up preparation of a dredge to take care of a shoaling problem, a harbor official said.

 Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Executive Officer Dave Hull said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recognized the problem and is readying the dredge Yaquina to be in Humboldt Bay in mid-March.

 ”They're pushing it out of dry dock and they have to do sea trials and Coast Guard inspections and as soon as it's signed off it's on its way to Humboldt Bay,” Hull said.

 Every winter, storms cause sand to pile up in the shipping channel near the tip of the South Jetty. This year, the problem has been particularly acute, and draft restrictions for ships have been set. It led to one ship being turned away, and others rearranging their schedules to come into the bay lightly loaded.

 Fishermen have been warily crossing the bar. Dave Bitts with the vessel Elma Rue said the problem has been bad especially at the tip of the South Jetty, and boats that would normally pass on a 13- to 15-foot swell often are staying in port when the swell is only 10 feet.

 ”It's scary,” Bitts said.

 While many fishermen have quit Dungeness crab fishing for the season, Bitts said it's surprising how many still have gear out.

 Hull said that the Army Corps has made major efforts to treat the problem, but is dealing with constraints because the larger of its two West Coast dredges, the Essayons, is being retrofitted with new engines and won't be available for months. – Eureka Times-Standard

Average year for Oregon crab

The latest numbers emerging from a stormy Dungeness crab season are pointing toward an average year for Oregon's crabbers.

Three months into the season, landings of Oregon's signature crustaceans are poised at the 10 million-pound mark, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. As of Feb. 2, Oregon ports had received 9,979,504 pounds, with Newport/Waldport/Depoe Bay leading the way at 4,002,774 pounds, followed by Astoria/Seaside (2,520,248); Charleston/Coos Bay (1,660,557); Nehalem/Garibaldi/Pacific City (593,963); Brookings/Gold Beach (580,382); Bandon/Port Orford (348,616); and Florence/Winchester Bay (272,964).

 Although the season lasts until Aug. 14, peak harvest generally occurs during the first eight weeks, when crabbers typically haul in up to 75 percent of their annual take.

A decent starting price (compared to 2006), perfect pre-soak, and quality crustaceans fostered high expectations when the 2007 season opened Dec. 1. Ideal weather conditions set the stage for the 2007 pre-soak, which began Nov. 28, followed by a successful opening day. Winter storms -- including back-to-back blunderbusses that raked the Oregon and Washington coasts on Dec. 2-3 -- have since roiled seas and wreaked havoc, toying with the crabbers' fortunes.

While an 11-million-pound-plus harvest is possible, officials from the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission say it pales by comparison to a 15-million-pound take in 2006, and record-breaking landings of 23.7-million pounds in 2004 and 33.7-million pounds in 2005 (with 24.6-million pounds gleaned during the first eight weeks).

 The 2005 record was set during a season when crabbers and processors were ready, but the crustaceans themselves weren't. In 2006, the crabs were ready, but crabbers and processors couldn't agree on price, crab quality, or market perspective. Both seasons were delayed, but recovered nicely, setting the stage for this year's optimism.

This cyclical fishery still ranks 14th among the state's agricultural commodities and remains vital to the economy of Oregon's coastal communities.

In fact, Newport officially dubbed itself the "Dungeness Crab Capitol of the World," registering the tagline as a trademark in 2007. – Newport News-Times

Lower Columbia fishermen mourn lost fishery

SKAMOKAWA, Wash. -- Well-known Lower Columbia gillnetter Kent Martin of Skamokawa sees this year's historic loss of a commercial spring Chinook season as part of a long-term imbalance in political power between urban elites and the working people who rely on fishing for a basic livelihood.

"Well, I think it's an urban-rural conflict -- basically a form of colonialism where the people on the lower river don't have much value except for tourism, to entertain recreational sport fishers."

Martin said it has been found that people who stay at the bed & breakfasts and inns around the Peninsula are very enthusiastic buyers of local products, especially salmon and other seafoods.

Martin feels that he and other local fishers are being ham-strung from selling local products as part of what would attract people to the Peninsula by urban sports fishers "who feel they should have the entire resource."

"Both in the spring and the fall as the [salmon] run moves through the Lower Columbia River, there's quite a bit of traffic around here with regard to that recreational fishing, but it lasts a couple or three weeks, max. And then it's gone. They talk about all the benefits, but they bring squat to the lower river for the most part. They come here, put their boats in the water and then leave."

"It's a looting of resources that we've used for generations. And that's not to say that there shouldn't be fisheries up there [in the Portland area], I'm just saying they shouldn't have it all. And certainly not all for recreational fishing. But that's the mind-set."

Martin said that he feels the solution would come with "hard and fast, long-term regulation, dividing the allocation up." But, he said, "The recreational people are against that, because they want it all. They want to keep stealing and taking as much away as they can."

Martin has been a gillnetter as long as he has been a fisherman, his entire life. His family has fished that way along the Columbia River since immigrating here from Norway and Sweden in the 1870s. Both of his great-grandfathers were fishermen for local canneries. After college and graduate school Martin returned to the value and the family tradition.

"I keep hearing that gillnets are the problem, and I think that's hog wash. The problem is they [urban sportsmen] want every last fish to run by them, preferably more than once, before there's any kind of commercial fishery."

Today, due to the commercial fishing restrictions on the Columbia, Martin has to travel to Alaska in order to make any real money from fishing.

He said that while his career is coming to an end, he is very concerned with future generations of fishers along the Lower Columbia.

In comparing how fishing has been a part of him and his family for over 100 years here, he said, "It's like being Jewish. I couldn't not be one, even if I wanted to. Can't put it any plainer than that. It's my whole life." – Chinook Observer

Nominees sought for Salmon Hall of Fame

The new Pacific Northwest Salmon Center of Belfair, Wash., is seeking nominees for the 2008 Wild Salmon Hall of Fame Award.

 The purpose of the Wild Salmon Hall of Fame is “to honor and celebrate people who have demonstrated, over time, actions that have inspired and which continue to guide a passion for the preservation and recovery of abundant and diverse Wild Salmon populations throughout the Pacific Northwest.  (Alaska, B.C., Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho)”

 The award winner will be announced on Sept. 13.

 Nomination forms and information about past nominees and winners are available on our website at  For more information, contact Michelle Hori at 360-275-2763 or


Friday, February 22, 2008

Useless California dams still killing fish

Two old dams on the lower Yuba River don't make electricity, provide a water supply or prevent floods.

 They do, however, stand in the way of spawning salmon.

 The Daguerre Point and Englebright dams upstream of Marysville were designed to capture sediment washed out of the Sierra Nevada by hydraulic gold mining in the early 1900s.

 But modern efforts to help endangered fish coexist with the dams have not gone well, according to environmental groups who last week sued the federal government and the Yuba County Water Agency.

 They claim inaction has contributed to the decline of three species, all listed as threatened under federal law: spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and green sturgeon.

 The South Yuba River Citizens League and Friends of the River claim the agencies violated the federal Endangered Species Act by ignoring their own plans to improve fish spawning. The plaintiffs also claim these plans were inadequate in the first place.

 "The Yuba has long been identified as the best opportunity for recovering spring-run Chinook," said Jason Rainey, executive director of the citizens league. "There's no hope for recovery without expanded habitat."

 Only 242 spring-run salmon returned to the Yuba River to spawn in 2007, he said, compared to about 400 in 2006. The total Central Valley spring run was about 12,500 fish in 2006.

 Like other Sacramento River tributaries, the Yuba last year suffered a decline in fall-run Chinook that may lead to a drastic fishing cutback this year. The fall run is not protected under endangered species laws.

 Neither dam provides adequate fish ladders. The Daguerre Point Dam, built in 1906, has a pair of antiquated ladders that often fill up with debris or provide poor water flow. Englebright, built in 1941, has no ladders.

 Rainey wants studies to find the best way to move fish around Englebright. He wants Daguerre Point Dam removed. It is a diversion point for the Yuba County Water Agency, but that could be accommodated another way, he said.

 These two changes, he said, could open more than 100 miles of additional spawning habitat. – Sacramento Bee

Russian council want total ban on Pacific crab catch

The Russian Far Eastern Research and Fishing Council at a recent meeting in Vladivostok recommended a complete halt of authorized crab catching in the country’s Far East, thus exposing illegal crabs appearing in neighboring Asian fish markets.

The suggestion aims to finally put a stop to massive crab poaching in Far Eastern waters.

Along with the crab halt plan, the participants of the meeting proposed about 90 revisions to the fishing regulations in the Russian Far East, with the majority being approved.

Among the suggestions were projects to revise the standard and legal basis for distributing fishing quotas. The participants also worked out the list of sea products for which quotas are mandatory.

  In 2007, the fish catches in the Far Eastern waters totaled 2.15 million metric tons, showing a 6 percent increase compared to 2006. The Russian Far East’s share is 84 percent of the country’s aggregate amount of fish caught. – Vladivostok News

Another Exxon Valdez hangover explained

Scientist John Incardona reported on a previously unrecognized threat to human health from a ubiquitous class of air pollutants in a recent symposium.

Incardona's presentation delves into how one type of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, a compound found in oil, damaged the developing hearts of Pacific herring and pink salmon embryos after the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.

 Certain PAHs were recognized as carcinogenic more than a century ago, but a class of PAHs with a different structure was ruled out as a carcinogen and was largely ignored. What Incardona learned was that this class of PAHs, also found in oil, is toxic to the developing hearts of fish.

 This same class of PAHs is found in emissions from the burning of gasoline and other petroleum products; emissions that are ubiquitous in urban air.

 "There is now an emerging link between ambient urban air and human heart diseases," Incardona said. "Our analysis indicates that these airborne contaminants are likely to be toxic to the human heart when inhaled and should be considered prime suspects in the cardiovascular impacts of urban air." – Science Daily

King crab cousin feared invading Antarctica

An army of voracious giant king crabs is on the brink of invading the shallow seas off Antarctica, where an array of unique, almost prehistoric sea life has evolved for millions of years without any predators.

 (A new fishery for the king crab fleet? See the April issue of Pacific Fishing.)

 Scientists warned that global warming was raising the temperature of the seas, allowing the crabs to creep ever higher up the slope leading to the continental shelf.

 These waters, whose temperature is about freezing point, are home to fish with anti-freeze proteins in their blood along with brittle stars, giant sea spiders, sea snails and other invertebrates. Some, like the snails, have lost their protective armor and spines.

They would be defenseless against the bone-crushing claws of the invading crustaceans.

 The crabs are prevented from venturing into waters that are much colder than 1 (c), because it causes levels of toxic magnesium to build up in their bodies. But, as temperatures rise, magnesium poisoning will become less of a barrier to them.

 In the past 50 years, sea surface temperatures off the western Antarctic Peninsula rose by 1 degree, double the global average, letting the crabs move to the edge of the continental shelf.

 Dr Sven Thatje, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, gave a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Boston. – The Scotsman

Sea bird protection I: New Zealand

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton announced a suite of measures to protect seabirds from being accidentally caught when commercial vessels are fishing.

 These are measures that will be put in place while longer term solutions to the problem of seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries are developed.

 Seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels are attracted to fishing vessels by the bait that is put on longlines and also by the offal and fish trimmings that are discharged from the vessels when they process their catch. The birds can dive down under the water and take longline baits, become hooked and drown, or can be distracted by feeding on offal discharge and get hit by the heavy steel cables that tow trawl nets.

 The measures that will be put in place will require longliners and trawlers to take steps to help avoid catching seabirds. – Press release

Nominees sought for Salmon Hall of Fame

Seabird protection II: Alaska

Seabird mortality has been a hot topic for several years, and in December 2007 the National Marine Fisheries Service adopted new measures they said strengthen seabird avoidance regulations and eliminate unnecessary rules.

 The new measures went into effect Jan. 17.

 “Research has allowed us to refine our regulations in a way that makes life easier for some fishermen while still protecting seabirds,” Jim Balsiger, then administrator for the Alaska Region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, said in a press release.

 “We’re finding that the endangered short-tailed albatross and other pelagic seabirds are rarely observed in the nearshore waters of south-central and Southeastern Alaska, so we are relaxing regulations in those areas.”

 By doing so they hope to remove some of the economic burdens placed on fishermen in earlier regulations.

 He said that at the same time, in areas those birds commonly visit, they are strengthening standards.

 The press release stated that Ed Melvin of the Washington Sea Grant program and other researchers provided the scientific background that led to the new regulations.

 To align with the new federal measures, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game enacted emergency regulations in January.

 “(Fish and Game) didn’t want longliners doing one thing in state waters and doing something else in federal waters,” westward region shellfish/groundfish management coordinator for Fish and Game Wayne Donaldson said. – Kodiak Daily Mirror