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Summary for May 19 - May 23, 2008:

Friday, May 23, 2008 

Pacific Salmon Commission OKs new treaty

This press release was issued Thursday afternoon by the Pacific Salmon Commission. Not surprisingly, commission members think the recommended treaty between Canada and the U.S. is just groovy. We have a suspicion that some fishermen will think otherwise. We’re working on an analysis for the next Pacific Fishing magazine.

 The Pacific Salmon Commission is pleased to announce that it has recommended a new bilateral agreement for the conservation and harvest sharing of Pacific salmon to the Governments of Canada and the United States

 The product of nearly 18 months of negotiations, the agreement represents a major step forward in science-based conservation and sustainable harvest sharing of the salmon resource between Canada and the United States of America.

 If approved by the respective governments, the new fishing regimes would be in place from the beginning of 2009 through the end of 2018.

 The new agreement will contribute to the long term conservation and sustainable harvest of salmon stocks originating in Canada and the United States. It covers fisheries occurring along more than 1,000 miles of coastline and inland waters, ranging from central Oregon in the south to southeast Alaska to the north.

 These fisheries provide the livelihood for many fishermen, are the life blood of many coastal communities, and have been integral to the cultures of First Nations and Indian Tribes for centuries.

 The agreement is intended to ensure the conservation and fair harvest sharing of five species of salmon comprised of thousands of separate stocks that range from healthy and abundant to threatened and declining.

 Coordinating the management of the fisheries among numerous management authorities spanning two countries, one province, one territory, four states, and dozens of First Nations and Indian Tribes presents one of the most complex fishery management challenges in the world.

 Pursuant to the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the agreement will now be transmitted to the governments of Canada and the United States of America with a recommendation for its formal approval.

 The approval process in Canada will involve consultations with First Nations, and other stakeholders. Because some of the affected salmon stocks are listed under the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA) approval by the United States is contingent on satisfying the legal requirements of that law.

 The final step in the approval process involves the exchange of diplomatic notes between Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and the United States’ secretary of state. The intent is that this step will be concluded prior to the end of the year.

 Each country’s domestic management authorities would then implement the agreement beginning in 2009. – News release

Chinook smolt die in hatchery delivery truck

REDDING, Calif.—About 75,000 young Chinook salmon have died while being hauled in tanker trucks from a federal fish hatchery in Anderson to San Pablo Bay near Vallejo.

 The hatchery's manager suspects an oxygen level problem killed about 40 percent of the 180,000 fish in the tankers.

 The delivery was the first of 18 planned in the next several weeks as part of an effort to revive the state's salmon population, which has suffered a severe decline in recent years.

 Officials hope more salmon will survive by being trucked to the ocean instead of trying to reach it by navigating the delta, where they must survive the state's water pumps.

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Alexandra Pitts says scientists plan to perform autopsies on some of the dead Chinook salmon smolts to determine the cause of death. – Mercury-News San Jose

Glacier Fish finds Japanese partner, buys Alaska Ocean

Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. of Tokyo, the second-largest marine products firm in Japan, is taking a 25 percent stake in Glacier Fish Co. of Seattle, which in turn is acquiring a smaller company.

 In joint news release, the companies said Glacier is acquiring Alaska Ocean Seafood of Anacortes, owned partly by the Japanese company's subsidiary, Nippon Suisan (USA) Inc. Nippon Suisan is contributing its share in Alaska Ocean to Glacier Fish along with an equity investment to reach the 25 percent stake. Financial terms were not disclosed.

 The deal will make Glacier Fish the third-largest at-sea harvester-processor of Alaska pollock and U.S. West Coast whiting, the companies said.

 Under the deal, projected 2008 revenues for Glacier Fish are expected to reach $100 million with employment exceeding 400 people.

 Both boards of directors have approved the transaction, which remains subject to approval by U.S. regulators. Officials of the two companies expect the deal to close in early June.

 Alaska Ocean Seafood owns the 376-foot Alaska Ocean, the largest and most advanced catcher-processor ship for pollock in the United States with a hold capacity of 5 million pounds. Glacier has five boats: three catcher-processors and two freezer long-liners.

 Two fishing boats that are owned by other entities and operated by Alaska Ocean are not part of the deal.

 Nippon Suisan is an international conglomerate whose U.S. holdings include Gorton's, King & Prince Seafood, FW Bryce and UniSea. – Seattle Times

Hake fleet back on the water

CRESCENT CITY – A detectable fishy smell has returned to Crescent City Harbor as large boats hauling thousands of pounds of Pacific whiting fish unload in the local port.

 Fishermen are working day and night to catch the schooling ocean fish before the poundage quota for California is met. Processors, in turn, must work just as quickly to keep up with the landings.

 "It's like a derby," said Wayne Gavin, general manager of Alber Seafoods in the harbor. "We work around the clock to get as much fish as we can."

 Crescent City is used to leading the rest of Northern California's ports in the dollars brought in through commercial fishing. But that's mostly due to the Dungeness crab caught here. The most recent crab season was weak, which makes the current flurry of activity a welcome site.

 The Pacific whiting action in the harbor will be over soon as fishermen approach the roughly 10.6-million-pound quota for California. Whiting, also called hake, is a migratory fish that travels up the coast from the state's southern reaches.

 California gets an early season until its quota is reached, then fishing for hake opens June 15 off the coast of Oregon and Washington as the fish migrate north.

 This year's burst of fishing activity is probably due in part to the health and success of the hake fishery. Price per pound has gone up, and there is demand worldwide for the white fish filets, heads and guts. Nearly 10 large boats are catching hake off the California coast and unloading in Crescent City and Eureka.

 It won't take many days to reach the quota, processors said. Some large fishing vessels have pulled in more than 200,000 pounds after just a day of fishing.

 In Crescent City Harbor, several seafood processing companies are unloading hake from boats into semi-trucks, where the fish will be transported to processing plants. Alber Seafoods is the only company that unloads and processes hake in the harbor.

 This year, hake can be trucked outside of California for processing, a change from previous years, processors said. This has put more companies at the docks and additional semi trucks on the highways, they said.

 The change has been frustrating for processing companies such as Pacific Choice Seafood in Eureka. It has become more of a race among companies to unload hake this year, now that the catch can leave California for processing, said General Manager Rick Harris.

 "(There are) probably 30 trucks a day on the road hauling (hake) from California to Oregon and Washington," Harris said, adding that in past seasons, it took about 50 days to reach California's quota, allowing his company to employ seasonal workers for a longer, more stable period. "It's pretty frustrating for someone who's a local job provider," he added.

 "You just come and go 'til it's over," said Walt Henderson, captain of Miss Sue, an 80-foot boat from Newport, Ore. The boat pulled into the harbor around 6 a.m. Friday, and crews had unloaded about 153,000 pounds of hake within a few hours. – Crescent City Triplicate

Crewmembers to receive state aid

Boston -- Crew members of groundfish boats are slated to get nearly 10 percent of the $13.4 million federal aid package for the state’s fishing industry.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries approved the final plan for the distribution of the funds last week, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry said he expects federal regulators will adopt the state plan. Most of the money will go directly to fishing vessel owners.

An initial proposal only included $375,000 to help subsidize health insurance for crew members, but Division of Marine Fisheries director Paul Diodati raised that amount to $500,000 and included $750,000 in direct financial grants for crew members.

Diodati made the changes last week based on comments from industry advocates that crew members would be unfairly left out of the original distribution plan.

Jim Kendall, an industry consultant in New Bedford, said some boat captains would distribute money among regular crew members, but many other fishermen would be left with nothing.

“Their pain is real,” Kendall said. “They’re going through some unbelievably tough times. ... It’s absolutely vital to maintain some of these people so we can have crews if and when we get the boats back out fishing.”

The aid package was passed by Congress last year after the Bush administration denied Gov. Deval Patrick’s request to declare that the state’s fishing industry is in an economic disaster because of a new set of fishing regulations. Those rules, which are known as “Framework 42” and took effect in 2006, more than halved the days at sea for many Massachusetts fishermen, allowing many of them only 24 days of fishing a year. – Wicked Local Gloucester, Mass.