Monday, May 12, 2008
Oregon trollers: Casting a broader net
CHARLESTON, Ore. So long, salmon. Steve Wilson is refitting his 51-foot troller to fish for the future. No longer will he cast for the conflicted symbol of Northwest abundance and bitterness. No more fishing for a myth.
His new pursuit?
“Prawns,” said Mr. Wilson, nearly bursting out laughing because, here in Salmon Nation, he could not quite believe things had come to this. “It’s what you call a ‘developmental fishery.’ We don’t know if we’ll make any money in it, but we figured we could either go broke sitting still or we could go broke working.”
With most of Oregon and California’s commercial salmon fishery shut down because of sharp declines in the number of the fish returning to the Sacramento River to spawn, Mr. Wilson and many other fishermen are looking for almost any alternative, trying to diversify along with the rest of the regional economy. In some cases, they are investing money they received from the federal government because of a partial shutdown of salmon fishing in 2006.
This year, the governors of the three West Coast states, citing what they say will be a $290 million economic loss, have asked Congress to again provide disaster relief.
Mr. Wilson said he would spend at least $15,000 to convert his boats. If the pursuit of prawns lacks the local lore of hooking Chinook salmon, at least it might pay. Prawns, Mr. Wilson noted, are something of an upper-crust crustacean, “for the high-end market, high-end restaurants.”
That just happens to be the same market that is slowly making tourism and retirees as important as fishing and logging once were on the Oregon coast, even here on the remote and misty southwestern shore.
“You can’t even find these around here,” Mr. Wilson said as he and two crew members carried newly delivered traps out to his boat. “I’ve been talking to Canadian fishermen, been looking on the Internet. We’ve gone from not knowing anything about prawns to probably knowing more about prawns than anybody else on the southwest coast.”
With the shutdown this year, a slow year in 2007 and the partial closing in 2006, salmon fishermen in Oregon and California are facing the third straight year of trying to find other ways to make a living in the summer. Some have gotten out of fishing altogether, while others have tried to stretch out the winter crab season or go after typically less reliable and profitable black cod or tuna. Farther up the coast, in Newport, Ore., some plan to plow north to near the Washington border, where a very limited salmon season has just opened. Still others say they will head to Alaska.
In a strong season, a top-performing salmon fisherman might gross as much as $100,000. But the forecast for next year is dim, too, and questions over ocean temperatures, the health of Northwest rivers, environmental restrictions and disputes over water rights make some fishermen and economists question what kind of future commercial salmon fishing has here.
While recreational fishing has held relatively steady, the number of commercial salmon boats bringing in significant catches has shrunk. Of the 1,200 or so boats licensed to fish for salmon in Oregon, only about 150 have caught more than $30,000 worth of salmon each year in the decade before 2006, according to Hans Radtke, an economist who analyzes commercial fishing in Oregon. New York Times
Coast Guard looking for Kodiak oil spill info
The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking information to help find who is responsible for dumping oil in an area between Long Island and Woody Island.
Last week, a local pilot spotted and reported a mile-long oil slick. A Coast Guard helicopter on training was diverted to investigate, but spotted no boats in the vicinity of the spill.
Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Lee with the Kodiak Marine Safety Detachment said they’ve been seeing these types of incidents more frequently during the last few months, especially after a heavy rain.
“It’s hard for me to believe that someone would pollute the very waters that so many rely on for their livelihoods and subsistence,” Lee said in an e-mail. Kodiak Daily Mirror
KOCHI, India Nothing fishy about it. Scientists at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) here have developed technology to make Ice creams and noodles from fish.
The traditional concepts about fish are changing. Fish is not for making curry, cutlets, fish fries and soups alone, says Dr K Devadasan, Director of the CIFT, a government of India institution functioning under Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
The ice cream under name “Maricream” has been developed by the scientists here. Cooked cuttle fish is the main ingredient in the ice cream.
Water, Sugar, Butter, Egg while flavouring substances, stabilisers and emulsifiers are also added. This mixture is whipped and pasteurised to form a rigid foamy substance and finally frozen at minus 20 degree Celsius. Since this is deodorised, Ice cream is free from fish flavour, Dr Devadasan said in a press release here.
Maricream is bacteria-free as it is prepared with precautionary measures taken at all stages of processing. As the fish protein provides all essential amino acids, Maricream prepared from it was a highly nutritious dessert, he said.
Fish noodles have also been developed by the CIFT scientists. The fish powder used in this is rich in protein, calcium and phosphorous. Noodles are prepared by incorporating edible fish powder made from small bony fishes using commercial noodle making machines. Economic Times, India
Kodiak looks back to when crab was king
A new, 52-part radio series will detail the rise and fall of one of Kodiak’s most prolific fisheries, that of Kodiak king crab.
King crab first appeared in Kodiak in the 1940s and disappeared in the 1970s. However, before the fishery officially closed in 1982, the king crab harvest buoyed Kodiak from a small fishing town to one of the busiest ports in Alaska.
The radio series, “When Crab Was King: The Rise and Fall of the Kodiak King Crab Fishery,” kicked off the first week of May, according to a press release. It is produced by the Kodiak Maritime Museum through a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum. The oral history interviews from which the shows’ material comes were conducted by award-winning journalist Maggie Wall who also produces the LegHead Report, a daily radio program about the Alaska Legislature and how it works.
“It’s really cool that the Kodiak Maritime Museum was able to get this grant and do this project,” Wall said. “I came here at the tail end of the fishery and remember all the lights of the crab boats out on the water at night. I was in the Coast Guard so I have memories of all these fishermen chattering on the radios all night long and talking in funny codes so no one would know their secret fishing spot.”
For more information on the project, call the museum, 486-0384 or visit kodiakmaritimemuseum.org. Kodiak DailyMirror
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
OCEANSIDE The search for a missing Oceanside couple ended a day after their empty fishing boat washed ashore near Rosarito, Mexico, Coast Guard officials said.
Josh Hartman, 28, and his fiancee, Ana Martin, left Oceanside Harbor at 7:30 a.m. Thursday on their 32-foot fishing boat, the Pelican, and were supposed to return by 3 p.m., authorities said. Family members reported them missing that evening.
Coast Guard aircraft scanned the Southern California shoreline and more than 6,400 square miles offshore Thursday night and Friday. The Mexican navy joined the search after the discovery of the boat, said Cmdr. Danny LeBlanc, the Coast Guard sector commander.
Hartman, who has fished commercially from his boat for the past two years, was supposed to sell a load of slime eels to a buyer at the dock when he returned that afternoon, family friend Andy Bodjanac said.
Martin, 30, often helps out on fishing trips.
Hartman called his family by cell phone that afternoon to say they were headed back to land, but no one has heard from or seen the couple since. -- San Diego Union Tribune
Troll ban hurting charter boats
WINCHESTER BAY -- When Scott Howard was a boy, his dad ran charter boats out of Winchester Bay, tapping his only son first as a fish cleaner and, from age 15 on, as a deckhand all summer long.
His mom ran the Salmon Harbor Cafe on the waterfront, steps from the docks and the metal tables where long lines of tourists and sport anglers waited to clean their haul.
When he was older, Howard decided to run charter boats, too. Now he has three of them, worth $160,000 total. But this year, he has almost no salmon to catch.
The closure of nearly all ocean salmon fishing this year is the biggest hit to Oregon's coastal sport fishing in at least 15 years. Salmon are largely off limits for charter operators such as Howard -- and for sport anglers who bring their boats to the coast by the thousands, pumping millions of dollars into local businesses, from motels to taverns to tackle shops.
All told, the state projects $22 million in losses to businesses that support recreational fishing, mostly in coastal towns. And that's on top of $23 million in projected commercial fishing losses.
Howard, 44, feels the effects. "I'm still getting some calls and traffic," he says. "But I'm way down. And the bills keep coming."
Last year, the state estimates, salmon accounted for less than a quarter of the sport catch in Garibaldi, Newport and Brookings, the other big recreational salmon ports in the closure area. With salmon counts low, the main catch was reef-dwelling rockfish, also known as red snapper, along with halibut and albacore.
The challenge for Winchester Bay, like Astoria and nearby Florence, is that its rocky reefs are mostly farther out in the ocean, beyond a 40-fathom line that is the cutoff for rockfish restrictions. Regulators began to limit the rockfish catch in the late 1990s because of concern about over-fishing and depleted stocks in deeper water. Last year, Newport's sport anglers landed about 8,500 salmon and nearly 70,000 rockfish. Winchester Bay's landed about 10,000 salmon, the state estimates -- and fewer than 100 rockfish. The rockfish number is probably an underestimate, Howard says, but it's a fair indication of the disparity. The Oregonian
VANCOUVER, B.C. Salmon don't hit the headlines as often out here on the West Coast as they did in the 1980s and '90s, when they were being overfished.
They ought to again, though, given what's now happening out in the Pacific Ocean and this region's rivers.
Chances are you probably haven't heard about it yet, but we're in another salmon crisis, one that's devastating the coast from California all the way up to Vancouver -- and beyond.
The fish simply aren't swimming back in the hoped-for numbers and the shortages are historic.
For the first time in 150 years, California and Oregon shut down the $300-million chinook salmon fishery. Washington state has all but followed suit. U.S. fishermen are now seeking disaster relief.
Off our own shores, things aren't much better. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has told 94 native bands that they will have to ration their catch of Fraser River sockeye this year, another first.
The commercial sockeye fishery won't likely happen this year on the Fraser, either.
Watching all of this with much trepidation is Alex Rose, a local writer who once worked in DFO as a communications strategist. He's just finished writing Who Killed the Grand Banks? (His answer is greedy East Coast fishermen, DFO mismanagement, botched science and the industrialized fishing fleet).
After two years of researching, talking to the world's fisheries experts, he believes the Pacific salmon fishery may very well go the way of the Grand Banks cod.
A generation ago, there were so many salmon to be had in Vancouver's bay there was an annual salmon derby. "You know, the City of Vancouver even put salmon on its first coat of arms. But in a generation we've gone from unbelievable abundance to a crisis. We take our salmon for granted."
It's hard not to agree with Rose's attempt to link our shrinking salmon fishery with the East Coast cod collapse. We seem to be heading in the same direction: The value of the landed catch of West Coast salmon, once one of B.C.'s major industries, has decreased to $60 million. There's clearly something drastic happening.
What Rose tells us in his book, which spends a number of chapters outlining the West Coast salmon crisis, is that a combination of habitat destruction and climate change, now believed by many scientists to be affecting ocean and river temperatures, are devastating the species.
Equally bad news is that scientists' attempts to repopulate the rivers and ocean with hatchery fish, once seen as the way to save the salmon, aren't the answer, either, contends Rose.
He believes that hatchery programs have been an overall failure because the "man-made" fish go out to sea and compete against wild stocks for food. In many cases, the hatchery fish never make it back anyway.
He recalls this forgotten piece of history: "In order to offer Vancouver's Expo 86 visitors the fishing experience of a lifetime, [DFO] cranked up its coho hatchery capacity and released 10 million juveniles. Trouble was, the fish didn't cooperate and many simply disappeared in what scientists refer to as the black box of the Pacific Ocean."
The statistics are in and they are grim, particularly for the body of water closest to our communities, the Strait of Georgia. In 1988, sports fishermen hooked a remarkable one million coho salmon. By the turn of the century, that catch had plummeted to about 10,000 fish. That's starting to look like a collapse. Miro Cernetig. Writing in the Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Kodiak to fix public showers at harbor
At last week’s City Council meeting, councilman Tom Walters said he loved the smell of fish in the morning.
However, not everyone does, especially when that fish is a week old and covered in dirt and grime.
For most Kodiakans, a simple shower is the solution after a day’s work. For many fisherman living on fishing boats, there isn’t a simple solution, especially since the downtown laundry and public showers closed in November.
It’s a problem that has even reached the noses of the City Council members, who discussed the problem at their last two work sessions.
“I’m getting feedback from that core level of our fishing industry making a request for showers,” councilman Jack Maker said. “For someone living on a boat down there, it’s a quality-of-life issue.”
The council may have reached a solution, especially if the FY09 budget is passed at the second reading during the council’s next regular session in June.
In the budget is a $200,000 provision to study what renovations are necessary to return the showers at the Harbormasters Office to working order.
Freed said that the money should be enough to renovate the showers, as well.
“I think it will benefit a lot of people that live on boats and our transit population,” Maker said.
When the Harbormasters Office was first built, it had shower stalls. But it has been so long since they’ve been used, the council isn’t even sure how many are there, or the last time they were used. Kodiak Daily Mirror
Sports fishermen get into trouble, one dies
SEATTLE -- Six men were rescued and one died after one vessel capsized and one began taking on water 25 miles northwest of La Push, Wash., Tuesday.
At 8:56 a.m., the master of a 22-foot pleasure craft contacted Coast Guard Group/Air Station Port Angeles, Wash. on VHF channel 16 to request assistance after his boat began to take on water 28 miles west of La Push.
An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Port Angeles, a 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Station Quillayute River, Wash., and a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter crew from Canadian Forces Base Comox, British Columbia were launched to assist.
At 10:19 a.m. the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew lowered a dewatering pump to the vessel My Wife to control flooding. After the vessel was dewatered and stabilized, the 47-foot motor lifeboat crew took the vessel in tow.
None of the four people aboard the vessel reported any injuries.
At 9:47 a.m., the master of another pleasure craft contacted Group/Air Station Port Angeles to report that his vessel was taking on water but was unable to give a location before his boat capsized.
Minutes later, two nearby charter fishing vessels, the Fury and Ultimate, contacted Group/Air Station Port Angeles on VHF channel 16 to report that they had pulled three men, in life jackets, from the water. Resuscitation efforts were started aboard the vessel Ultimate when one of the men, 71 years old, was found to be unresponsive.
An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Astoria, Ore., a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Quillayute River and a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter were diverted to assist.
Two of the men were transported to the Forks Hospital in Forks, Wash., by the HH-60 helicopter crew, the third man, who was unresponsive, was transported to the hospital by the Canadian CH-149 Cormorant crew. The unresponsive man was pronounced dead at the Forks Hospital.
At 10:10 a.m., The master of a 26-foot pleasure craft contacted the Coast Guard to report that his primary engine failed and the vessel was being powered by a backup engine. A 47-foot motor lifeboat crew from Station Quillayute River was diverted to tow the vessel to La Push. U.S. Coast Guard
VANCOUVER When British Columbia's hake fleet sets off to trawl the deep ocean off the West Coast later this month, the crews will be on alert for a strange, voracious squid that is invading the north Pacific.
The Humboldt, or jumbo squid, is usually found off Mexico, but there is a heightened alert on the B.C. fishing grounds this year because the species has been making its way up the coast of North America, devastating hake stocks as it goes.
“I don't know much about them but they sound like quite a predator,” said Brian Mose, director of the Deep Sea Trawlers Association of British Columbia.
Mr. Mose is sending a message to all fleet members, asking them to report any encounters they have with the large squid, which has been expanding its range both north and south.
Last year, researchers reported a breeding population had become established off the coast of central California, where it has been linked to a crash in hake stocks.
Off the coast of Chile, where prior to 2002 it was seldom seen, the squid is now supporting a commercial harvest of about 200,000 tonnes annually.
The range expansion of jumbo squid, he said, appears linked to warming ocean temperatures and it could have both good and bad side effects.
On the positive end, if enough squid move into the north Pacific, it could launch a lucrative commercial fishery, as it did in Chile.
But at the same time there are concerns about the impact it will have on hake, and possibly on stocks of wild salmon. Globe and Mail, Toronto
JUNEAU -- Exxon Mobil Corp. asked that Alaska pay $800 million in damages, claiming the state breached a deal when it revoked gas and oil leases on a North Slope oil field.
The Irving, Texas-based company also filed a separate request for reconsideration of a gas field development proposal that was rejected by state Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin last month.
Both filings were submitted to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources by Exxon Mobil on behalf of itself and its lease partners over the revocation of Point Thomson oil and gas leases.
Development of the field is considered vital to a successful natural gas pipeline project under consideration by the state. Point Thomson holds nearly one-fourth of the 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves that the state and the industry hope one day to ship in a gas line to Midwestern markets.
Exxon Mobil officials could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. A spokesman for lease partner BP said the state's move to hold up the development proposal is counterproductive.
"The proposal called for real production on a real schedule, and it set the stage for the gas line," said Steve Rinehart, spokesman for BP's Anchorage-based offices. "Now, it could delay for years any gas line coming from the North Slope." Anchorage Daily News
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Legislators have added $170 million to the U.S. Farm Bill to aid families and businesses in California, Oregon and Washington affected by the biggest and most devastating Pacific salmon season closure in American history.
The House passed the final version of the Farm Bill on Wednesday by a veto-proof margin and the Senate is expected to follow suit.
"This funding is desperately needed by the communities and families who rely on salmon fishing, many of whom face losing their businesses and homes due to two years of no fishing," said North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Calif., in a statement.
In response, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared the salmon season a federal fisheries disaster, which authorizes Congress to provide aid to affected communities. Thompson and other members of the California, Oregon and Washington delegations asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help find disaster aid so communities could get aid as quickly as possible.
Communities on the Pacific Coast that would receive this aid are still recovering from the 2006 salmon season closure, which was due to historically low salmon stocks in the Klamath River Basin. In 2007, Thompson secured $60.4 million in aid for California and Oregon fishers and related businesses affected by that closure. However, this year's closure will have a much larger economic impact because the Sacramento River salmon are considered the driver of Pacific Coast salmon stocks. For the first time, the recreational salmon fishing season will be closed. Portland Business Journal
How will disaster funds be distributed?
CHARLESTON State money, federal money. Charter boats and commercial salmon boats. Crew funds? Funding tied to permits or boats?
It’s all up in the air for now, but businesses, vessel owners and crewmen staring into a future devoid of salmon are banking on getting federal disaster money. More than 30 of them met with Oregon Salmon Commission member Jeff Reeves and commercial salmon troller Paul Heikkila to brainstorm ways the funds should be distributed.
Commercial fleets reviewed the process that took place in 2007, when fishing on the South Coast was closed in 2006 due to poor returns of Klamath River fall Chinook. This year, most Chinook fishing was closed in Oregon, California and Washington thanks to low runs on most rivers, primarily the Sacramento.
The federal government formally declared the fishery a failure on May 1. Now it’s up to Congress to appropriate the money and funnel it to the fishing industry.
“The failure only covers commercials but we’re arguing for charters,” Heikkila told the group.
It’s an easy argument to make. The National Marine Fisheries Service already acknowledged that when it released an economic analysis of the West Coast salmon fishery on May 1.
“While the charter fleet and other recreational fisheries are not considered to be commercial fisheries within the definition of the (Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) … they are nonetheless important coastal businesses contributing significantly to the income of fishing communities,” the agency wrote.
On Wednesday, Rep. Thompson, D-Calif., said he was able to include $170 million in disaster funding in the Farm Bill. The bill is expected to pass the House and Senate this week, Thompson said in a press release, but there may be some technical issues with the bill that may take longer to work out.
Furthermore, $170 million is less than what all three West Coast governors submitted as prospective losses. In an April 21 letter to Congress, they estimated about $290 million in direct revenue impacts: $208.6 million for California, $44.9 million for Oregon and $36.2 million for Washington.
On Monday, Bandon commercial troller James Moore pointed out there may be a problem with attaching funds to the Farm Bill. Funding likely would have to go through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said, rather than the U.S. Department of Commerce, under which the National Marine Fisheries Service is just one agency.
If that’s the case, Heikkila said, the administrative cost to distribute funds may be more than it was last year, when disaster funds were administered by NMFS and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
It wasn’t long into the discussion that some angry crewmembers interrupted Reeves and Heikkila.
Funding related to the 2006 Klamath River fishery failure, eventually distributed in 2007, was primarily given to boat owners or salmon permit owners. Some captains paid a portion of their disaster funds to their crews, some didn’t.
Reeves acknowledged the crewmen’s issue.
“A lot of captains have come up to me, requesting crew shares,” he said, noting that the Salmon Commission would be considering that and other ideas shared at this and other Oregon meetings.
Moore said there also could be an issue with late entrants into the commercial salmon fishery. Those fishermen have little fishing history on which to base potential funding requests. At the same time, the fleet is getting older. Regulations and relatively sparse opportunity make it difficult for young fishermen to get a toehold and make a living.
“We don’t want to lose these people,” Moore said.
He also suggested a higher individual baseline amount could be a solution to keeping more of the lower producers and new entrants afloat for a little longer.
Reeves asked some of the representatives from local businesses Mark Fleck from Englund Marine Supply and Brian Skallerud of Skallerud Marine if their businesses could use disaster assistance.
Fleck said Englund Marine, with stores in several West Coast ports, did not participate in disaster funding last time but rather appreciated fishermen spending their disaster money in Englund stores. Other gear stores also benefited from trollers receiving money, too, as fishermen spent funds on equipment and maintenance products.
Skallerud said he’s not completely dependent on salmon trollers for his income, but he is concerned. A few boats take advantage of the service he provides.
His concern is more long-term.
“It’s a tragedy when you start closing seasons down,” Skallerud said. “I’m worried about the future of commercial salmon fishermen.” Coos Bay World
There are probably few people who haven't seen or heard about the Discovery Channel's "The Deadliest Catch," the show depicting the Bering Sea crab fishery off Alaska.
But is that really the most dangerous fishery in the United States? Despite the show's hype, the answer is a resounding "no." According to a study recently released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the most dangerous fishery in the country is the Dungeness crab fishery that takes place off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and northern California.
And in the years between 2000 and 2006, while Alaska fatalities have declined, Oregon's crab fishery has been the deadliest of them all.
What's the reason? In Alaska, the state requires each vessel to have a preseason safety inspection by the Coast Guard, before it will issue a commercial fishery permit. In addition, several fisheries in Alaska, including the Bering Sea crab fishery, are now managed by individual quotas, which allocate to vessel owners a certain number of pounds to catch and a window of opportunity to do so, eliminating the race for fish.
So why the high rate of fatalities in Oregon? First, there is no requirement by our state that vessels obtain a Coast Guard safety inspection prior to the issuance of a crab fishing permit. There is no requirement that vessels have insurance, even when taking men to sea in the most dangerous of conditions. Third, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has repeatedly refused to implement an individual quota system for Dungeness crab, despite evidence elsewhere that it eliminates the race for fish and reduces the inherent danger of 30-foot boats trying to compete with 100-foot boats, crossing the same dangerous bars, when the gun goes off in December to start the season.
According to the NIOSH report, from 2000 to 2006, 43 deaths off the coast of Oregon, Washington and California resulted from the loss of 23 vessels. Only three of the 23 vessels that were lost at sea had a current decal from a U.S. Coast Guard voluntary dockside inspection.
I know from personal experience that regulations are not a panacea to what is an inherently dangerous business. In December 2001, our oldest son, Ben Eder, 21, died at sea along with three other of our crewmen -- Rob Thompson, Steve Langlot and Jared Hamrick -- when our vessel, the Nesika, capsized while setting crab pots. The Nesika had a voluntary Coast Guard inspection and a dockside inspection and was insured.
But until Fish and Wildlife acts to require insurance and vessel safety inspections as a condition of the issuance of a limited-entry crab permit, and implements an individual quota system for crab, it is likely that the Oregon Dungeness crab will remain "The Deadliest Catch." -- Michele Longo Eder is an attorney in Newport, writing to The Oregonian