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Summary for June 2 - June 6, 2008:

Monday, June 2, 2008 

Oddity: Pink salmon caught in England

What is believed to be the first record of a pink Pacific salmon being caught in England on rod and line is being investigated by the Environment Agency.

 The 4 lb fish, with its distinctive humpback, was landed by a local angler, Ivan Harris, on the River Camel near Wadebridge.

 Mr Harris, from Bodmin, photographed his unusual-looking catch with his mobile phone before returning it to the water.

 He said: "I thought the fish looked a bit weird and it wasn't until afterwards that I released what I'd caught. I showed my photo to some angling friends who took it to the Environment Agency who officially identified it as a Pacific 'Humpback' salmon. I was gob-smacked."

 The fish was coloured and coming into full breeding condition. Its humpback and extended jaw or kype indicated it was a male.

 Simon Toms of the Environment Agency said: "This is the first record of a rod-caught Pacific pink salmon in Cornwall and probably for England. From its shape and markings it was instantly identifiable as a Pacific pink or 'Humpback' salmon."

 The River Camel fish is thought to be Oncorhynchus gorbuscha – one of five distinct species of Pacific pink salmon. It is normally found off the coast of North California, Canada across to Siberia and Korea.

 In Alaska, the Humpback is also known as the 'Bread and Butter' fish because of its importance to commercial fisheries and the local economy. In Britain, most people will have seen it on the shelves of their local supermarket as canned pink salmon.

Quite how this salmon found its way into British waters is a mystery fisheries scientists are trying to unravel. There is a record of a Pacific pink salmon netted off Montrose in 1990 and this year, there have been unconfirmed reports of two 'Humpbacks' caught on the Tweed in Scotland.

 One theory is that the Cornish fish is from Russia. In recent years Russia has embarked on a major salmon-stocking programme in the White Sea where tens of thousands of fish have been introduced into surrounding rivers to support the local fishing industry. Some of these Humpbacks have started breeding in Norwegian rivers. – The Telegraph, U.K.

Letter: Time to help Bornstein

Bornstein Seafoods has worked with the Port of Astoria to build a world-class seafood processing plant.  I recently had the opportunity to tour the plant while crab, shrimp and Dover sole were processed simultaneously, all with a comfortable clean efficiency.

This is a laudable contribution to this area's economy. Skilled workers make a substantial wage and those new to seafood handling have a chance to work their way up. Meanwhile, local fishermen have a reliable choice to consider when marketing their catch.

At first, I was skeptical that tourists would find this interesting. Now I'm a believer. The Fish Factory concept that the Bornsteins have developed is an excellent plan that should be encouraged and facilitated.

Visitors will enjoy watching the top-notch processing operation, and they will learn about commercial fishing and the marine life of the Pacific Ocean off the Northwest. Fish and fishing will benefit from this exposure. It will naturally help to encourage consumption of Oregon's safe and sustainable seafood. That translates into dollars for coastal fishing towns.

The Port should follow through and help the Fish Factory to enjoy its full potential. -- Peter Huhtala, writing to the Daily Astorian

Trident fined $133 a gallon for diesel spill

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state Department of Ecology has fined Seattle-based Trident Seafoods $12,000 for causing an oil spill in a Tacoma waterway.

 Last summer, Trident crew was refueling one of its ships and opened two tanks already full, causing an overflow and spilling 90 gallons of diesel oil into the water off Commencement Bay.

 The department of Ecology says oil spills are especially harmful in heavy industrial areas such as the Tacoma waterfront, where the environment is sensitive.

 Trident Seafoods has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Sport anglers said to like new salmon treaty

Last week’s salmon fishing agreement between the United States and Canada is good news for Puget Sound recreational anglers.

 The new 10-year agreement is no guarantee for more or expanded fishing seasons. But officials estimate 1 million more wild and hatchery Chinook could return to Washington waters over the life of the agreement.

 The proposed change to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, announced a week ago by the Pacific Salmon Commission, calls for reductions in Chinook salmon catches in southeast Alaska and Canada.

  “We’re making a down payment on saving these fish. We’re going to put more fish on the spawning grounds, fish we normally could not have gotten under the current system. It’s a great opportunity,” said Jeff Koenings, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Koenings also is the chairman of the salmon commission and heads the U.S. negotiating team. – Tacoma News Tribune

(Editor’s note: In the next Pacific Fishing magazine we ask this question: With trollers off the water, will those 1 million extra fish even make it home to spawn?)

What's the deal with all those Alaska jellyfish?

A new study helps explain a cyclic increase and decrease of jellyfish populations, which transformed parts of the Bering Sea--one of the U.S.'s most productive fisheries--into veritable jellytoriums during the 1990s.

 The study shows that the availability of food for jellyfish may cap the potential size of the Bering Sea's jellyfish population, even while other factors, such as rising temperatures, may encourage its continued growth.

 These results indicate that "anticipated temperature increases in the Bering Sea will not necessarily further increase its jellyfish populations," says Lorenzo Ciannelli of Oregon State University, a co-author of the study. By contrast, in warmer latitudes, jellyfish frequently multiple as temperatures rise.

 The study provides potentially good news for the Bering Sea's fishing industry, which has been damaged by jellyfish blooms. Nicknamed "America's fish basket," the Bering Sea produces more than half of the U.S.'s entire catch of fish and shellfish.

 Described in the May 29, 2008 online issue of Progress in Oceanography and summarized online in Nature, the study was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

 During the 1990s, the Bering Sea's jellyfish reproduced with such wild abandon that by about 2000, they were about 40 times more abundant than they had been in 1982, according to analyses of collections from fishing trawls made in the Bering Sea by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

 In addition, starting in 1991, Bering Sea jellyfish expanded their ranges by fanning out north and west of the Alaskan Peninsula.

 Because of these changes, one area north of the Alaskan Peninsula--always famous for its jellyfish--became so jellified that fishermen nicknamed it "Slime Bank" and began avoiding it altogether for fear of filling their nets with jellyfish. Other fisheries were damaged as well.

 The Bering Sea's jellyfish population peaked in 2000, and then eventually stabilized at moderate levels between those of the bloom years of the 1990s and the less populated years of the 1980s. The post-2000 population decreases occurred while water temperatures dramatically increased--even though increasing temperatures have been associated with increasing jellyfish numbers in lab studies and in other waters, such as Narragansett Bay.

 What is causing this apparent incongruity in the Bering Sea? "We think that once the Bering Sea's jellyfish population outsized the available food supply, the jellyfish population probably shrunk," says Ciannelli. – National Science Foundation

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 

Might ammonia be cause of Chinook crash?

SACRAMENTO -- Ammonia created as a byproduct of human waste may be causing significant damage to the ecosystem around Sacramento, Calif., scientists say.

San Francisco University oceanographer Richard Dugdale said the ammonia likely is from human urine and feces treated at the city's regional sewage treatment plant, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee reported Sunday.

Working with researchers at the university's Romberg Tiburon marine laboratory, Dugdale said initial evidence points toward ammonia being a vital factor in the collapse of Delta fish populations.

"We're not going out on the edge to say this is the whole answer," Dugdale said. "But we think it's part of the reason for the decline in (ecological) productivity."

It would cost the city as much as $1 billion to adequately remove the ammonia from Sacramento's wastewater, Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District officials say.

The Bee said to facilitate the cost of such precautionary methods, residents in the Sacramento region would be facing a 300 percent increase in their monthly sewer bills. – UPI

Juneau's electric utility disaster nearly over

Juneau’s hydroelectric power has been restored. The city is no longer running on diesel.

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. spokesman Scott Willis said the power was restored at 9:17 p.m. Sunday.

 That’s on the early side of last week’s estimate that the line would be repaired early to midweek this week, and much earlier than the company’s original late-July estimate.

But keep those lights flipped off. High electric rates covering the cost of the diesel that’s been powering the city will stand until the rate is recalculated.

 Willis said the utility is waiting for final invoices from diesel suppliers and will submit a new rate to regulators before June 16.

 He estimated the new rate would be around 15 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s the usual summer rate of 8 cents plus a 7 cent cost of power adjustment for the diesel. – Juneau Empire

United Airlines to leave Anchorage market

ANCHORAGE -- United Airlines plans to discontinue all Alaska flights in September.

 The decision was spurred by record fuel prices and a sagging U.S. economy, according to Jeff Kovick, a spokesman for the Chicago-based company.

 Kovick said the elimination of Alaska flights is part of the company's plan announced in April to cut domestic flights by 9 percent and reduce its fleet by 30 aircraft.

 United flies between Anchorage and Chicago, Denver and San Francisco. Alaska Airlines also provides service between Anchorage and those cities.

 Seattle-based Alaska Airlines doesn't plan to cut any service in Alaska. The company could end up adjusting its schedule if United's decision raises demand for additional flights, said Bill MacKay, the company's senior vice president based in Anchorage. – Juneau Empire

To the editor: Crab ratz - it's up to Duncan Fields

This coming week in Kodiak the NPFMC will vote on two motions — one gives the fishermen a share just like the owners got theirs, the other is a fiction dreamed up by the owners in which the fishermen have to buy their own individual fishing quotas.

 A complete bio on each of the 11 NPFMC members would be nice, but that’s too many words. Suffice to say, each has his history. Some have long records of working for the people while others think that wealth should be put in a very few tidy piles. Most of the votes of the two groups can be predicted. A prediction for this week stacks up in the strangest manner, almost Biblical.

 In the share the wealth column we have Bill Tweit (the populist Washington governor’s guy), Denby Loyd (working-class hero), Sam Cotton (respected speaker of the Alaska House, years ago), Jim Balsinger (Alaskan to the core), and Ed Dersham (who earned his stripes on the Board of Fish). In the corner of the wealth department there’s Jerry Merrigan (a perfect reflection of John Winther), Dave Benson (who’ll vote to keep his job at Trident), John Bundy (godfather of the factory trawler fleet), Eric Olson (Robin Samuelson’s go-to-guy), and Roy Hyder (Gary Painter’s go-to-guy?).

 It’s 5 to 5! The 11th member and tie-breaker is of course our own Duncan Fields. Fields made an unfortunate assumption years ago that the fishermen would be shut out completely. He went to work for community development quotas. In his time on the council he’s been very friendly with fishermen, as he led them down the primrose path. It’s not too late to do the right thing, Duncan.

 Bering Sea crab ratz is built on sand. The law is very plain, the split of the resource must be fair and equitable. A nation that doesn’t obey its own laws is lost. The fishermen have 40 percent coming and they better get it, for their sake and ours. – John Finley, writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror

European fishermen protest fuel price

Protests against spiralling fuel costs have spread to several parts of Europe as fishermen, truckers and farmers marched on government offices, blocked ports and oil depots and even handed out free fish to attract public sympathy for their plight.

 Demonstrations that began two weeks ago in France and closed a London highway last week spread to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Ireland, and continued over the weekend. Nationwide strikes brought the Spanish and Portuguese commercial fishing industries to a virtual standstill.

 Thousands of demonstrators, some carrying banners and some using fishing boats to blockade ports, protested bitterly against fuel prices that have more than tripled in the past five years, and have risen 30 to 50 per cent to record levels in recent months. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said last week that the European Union should cut some fuel taxes. On Friday he and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, visited a Paris supermarket and mingled with shoppers. Mr Sarkozy was taken aback by the prices he encountered. "Everything is really too expensive," he said to a florist.– Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

Wednesday, June 4, 2008 

Southeast Alaska troll fishery slim

During the first three weeks of the spring fishery, approximately 4,100 Chinook salmon have been harvested by 235 permit holders.

 Spring areas with the largest cumulative harvests are, in descending order, Sitka Sound, Chatham Strait, Biorka Island and Port Althorp. Due to a high percentage of Alaska hatchery fish in the catch, openings in the Salisbury Sound and Tebenkof Bay spring troll areas were extended this week by 24 hours.

 The average price for all spring troll fisheries is currently $8.17 per pound. Nearly 400 fish have been harvested in the District 8 Directed Stikine River Chinook salmon troll fishery.

The 2008 catch is approximately one-half of the 2007 catch at this time with the overall Alaska hatchery percentage being very similar at approximately 26%. Catches have been reported from 16 of the 23 Spring areas being managed based on Alaska hatchery component (not including Dist. 8).

The winter troll fishery harvested a total of 21,692 Chinook salmon at an average price of $8.62 per pound. Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Charters worried over one-halibut rule

PETERSBURG – Southeast Alaska’s charter boat operators will face a lower bag limit for their customers this season after they received news Thursday that the U. S. Secretary of Commerce had limited their customers to one fish per day, effective June 1.

 The ruling follows a recommendation by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, who made it clear they wanted to reduce the impact of the charter industry on halibut stocks in Southeast Alaska. Their worries came from a study performed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, who devised a new mathematical formula last year that showed halibut migrating from the area at a much earlier age than previously thought. That meant fewer mature fish in Southeast waters, which has already led to a 27% reduction in commercial halibut fishing quotas.

Last year, charter boats were allowed to haul in two fish per person a day, but the limit has now been set at one. Additionally, only six lines will be allowed in the water at once, and captain and crew will not be allowed to fish while paying customers are on board.

  “We’re disappointed with the position the agency took,” said Henry Mitchell, Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Guides Organization, an advocacy group for charter company owners. “We feel there wasn’t a substantial reason to change regulations.”

Mitchell said he had recently toured many Southeast communities and reported that the economic concern was palpable. “There is a lot of concern that we’ll lose business to other parts of Alaska or British Colombia. I’ve spoken to a lot of clients and this combined with the reduction in king salmon ... there’s really not much else to fish for early in the season. It’s disappointing because their rational was that people could participate in the harvesting of other species, but I can’t really think of any others that would attract charter customers.” – Petersburg Pilot

Young women thinking big for B.C. fish company

Two incongruent images are at the heart of how Mariner Seafoods International, a 32-year-old B.C. fishing company, is saving itself.

 The first is a family of five sisters, young women all in their 20s, down-to-earth and warm, but well-spoken and confident.

 The other is a vessel that is basically one massive factory-freezer that hauls and instantly "heads, tails and guts" hundreds of tons of fish before freezing them at sea in big blocks.

 In 2006 and 2007, Mariner Seafoods exported some 12,000 tons of Pacific hake gathered from B.C. waters to processing companies in Qingdao and Dalian, China. That's an astounding 24 containers of raw fish every few weeks that goes on to be hand-sliced, trimmed and repackaged in China for sale as barbecue fillets, fish-fingers and the like back in North America and Europe.

 Mariner is mum on a dollar value for these sales, except to say, "we're not small." Whatever the number, it is obvious that the sheer volume of its product to China has completely transformed the company.

 In 1976, Ron and Hetty Mann, a husband-and-wife team, started building this fishing business and raising a family of five girls in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island.

 For decades, it was much the same. Two or three little boats from French Creek Harbour fished and sold salmon, black cod, Pacific ocean perch and sole. The couple hawked wet and fresh product in comparatively measly quantities, around 100,000 pounds, to brokers in Port Alberni, Ucluelet and sometimes Vancouver.

 In 2003, Sheryl Mann, daughter number four, was taking a break from her prerequisite business courses at the University of Victoria when her parents asked her to do some market research.

 Their essential question: What could they fish in much larger quantities that would fetch prices to support a radically new way of doing things? Her short answer: Hake. And so they began amassing quotas for this metallic silver-gray species.

 In 2005, the family took the next step of buying the Osprey No. 1, an almost 60-metre, 2,000-ton, Denmark-built vessel replete with an on-board processing and freezing plant.

 "It's the biggest fishing boat in B.C.," said Alban Lo, Vancouver-based general manager of trade finance at Scotiabank. "It's a mobile factory on the sea."

 Instead of heading back to shore every few days to drop off small quantities of fish that had to be sold quickly, the Osprey stays out for 21 days at a time. Working around the clock, crew reel in hake that gets gutted by automated machinery. Within two hours of being caught, fish are assembly-lined into a giant freezer, ready for offloading in Vancouver and shipping to China.

 She said that because this land-frozen product is so popular in Eastern European markets like the Ukraine and Russia, Mariner Seafoods is mostly focused on taking its sea-frozen product to China, sending more than 95 per cent of its sales there.

 Before long, the other sisters got involved too. Now, Debbie oversees shipping terms and contracts. Renee and Stephanie cook and manage crew on the Osprey. They also help Shannon with administration. – Victoria Times Colonist

Coastie gets prison for tipping off fishing firm

NORFOLK, Va. – A Coast Guard petty officer has been sentenced to nine months in prison for passing confidential information to the owner of a Hampton Roads fishing fleet.

Prosecutors say Morris Wade Hughes provided the information to his mistress, Michelle Peabody, whose family runs Peabody Corp. The commercial fishing company is based in Newport News.

 Judge Raymond A. Jackson also imposed a $2,000 fine and 150 days of home confinement once Hughes has served his prison term.

According to the government, Hughes passed confidential information to Peabody about the location of competing vessels as well as other information. – Daily Press, Va.

Thursday, June 5, 2008 

Judge says no to halibut charter bid

A federal judge declined to grant an emergency restraining Wednesday against new NMFS regulations limiting the Southeast Alaska charter fleet to one fish per paying guest.

However, a hearing to consider an injunction sought by the Charter Halibut Task will be held next week.

The new charter restriction went in effect on Sunday. The suit was filed against the U.S. Commerce Department, under which NMFS operates.

SBA loans available for Mid-Coast trollers

The California district of the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that low-interest loans are available to small businesses that have suffered financial losses because of the closure of the commercial salmon fishing season on the southern Oregon and California coasts.

 A disaster declaration action makes low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans available immediately to help meet financial needs caused by the closure of the 2008 salmon fishing season that began April 10. The action comes after a May 28 request by California's Office of Emergency Services.

 The declaration covers Curry and Josephine counties in Oregon and 28 counties in California.

 The SBA is offering working capital loans of up to $1.5 million at an interest rate of 4 percent with terms up to 30 years. The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can't be paid because of the fishery closure.

 Eligible business owners include small businesses engaged in salmon fishing in the waters affected by the closure, and small businesses dependent on the catching or sale of salmon -- including suppliers of fishing gear and fuel, docks, boatyards, processors, wholesalers, shippers and retailers. Employees or crew members are not eligible because they are not small businesses.

 Business owners may obtain loan information by calling SBA's customer service center at 800-659-2955. The application deadline is March 3, 2009. – The Oregonian

Florence fishermen finally get ice

After an often turbulent journey, Florence’s ice machine is coming home.

Four years since the Port of Siuslaw lost its last operational ice machine, the Siuslaw Fisherman’s Association (SFA) can finally look forward to the fruits of its labor.

The upper container arrived at the shipyard of Florence Marine Construction on the morning of Saturday, May 31.

The lower container should arrive in Florence by the end of this week, according to SFA President Mark Lull. The complete ice house could be operational this month, in time for tuna season.

Despite fighting last-minute red tape, coordinating shipping needs and handling unexpected electrical costs, the SFA is determined to see this last leg through.

“I’m not making any guarantees other than we will not quit. It will get here,” said Lull.

The fishermen originally believed the ice house would arrive in Florence in February. Now the SFA is making solid plans nearly four months later. That makes it four years since this small but tenacious group of commercial fishermen banded around the idea that a state-of-the-art ice house could revive Florence fishing. – Siuslaw News, Oregon

 Letter: Crab ratz change not on NPFMC agenda

John Finley’s letter to the editor in the May 30 Mirror was well intended. Mr. Finley’s constant reminder that crew have not been recognized as stakeholders in rationalized Alaska fisheries is a source of much concern to many fishermen.

 However, his understanding that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, this week in Kodiak, will be voting on two motions — “One gives the fishermen a share just like the owners got theirs; the other is a fiction dreamed up by the owners in which the fishermen have to buy their own individual fishing quotas,” is not accurate.

 The NPFMC will address one crab issue relating to the crab loan program and it will receive a report from the crab committee. The committee report addresses some concerns about crew shares but doesn’t offer a crew share proposal for the council’s consideration.

 The NPFMC is in the middle of a review process of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab rationalization program with the next report expected in October. The review is looking at many aspects of the crab plan including the 90/10 split, leasing rates, fleet consolidation, as well as crew impacts.

 Currently, the council has a draft motion to provide structure to crab rationalization discussions. The motion is expected to be modified and revised several times as more review information becomes available.

 The current motion has at least two provisions relative to crew. The first is a possible right of first refusal for some portion of all share sales. The second is a potential increase, up to 25 percent, in the amount of C (crew) shares. Neither option, at this point in the motion, gifts additional quota shares to crew. Finley and other advocates for crew should continue to work toward additional elements and options for the council’s inclusion in their evolving motion.

 A substantial number of crewmen with residence in Kodiak lost their jobs due to crab rationalization. It’s very important that the negative impacts from the crab plan on Kodiak and other Alaska coastal communities be understood and addressed — especially by those who have received great benefit from crab rationalization. This is one of the major reasons for the programmatic review.

 Solutions are more difficult. For example, gifting crab shares to crew, many of whom no longer have jobs, creates issues about whether these will actually be fished and if not, what good will they do crewmen in the long term. Those involved with the council process know there are many issues related to protecting Bering Sea crab crews.

 Nevertheless, I look forward to working with Mr. Finley and those concerned about protecting crab crewmen and improving their relative position in the Bering Sea crab fisheries.

 One final note: Council votes on contentious issues are always hard to predict. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be a swing vote on crew share issues or any other council motion. I do know, however, that I will vote to keep working fishermen tied to a working waterfront with viable options to feed their families from fishing income and to live in Alaska’s fisheries dependent coastal communities. -- Kodiakan Duncan Fields, a commercial fisherman and a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Opinion: Marine parks will hurt all fishermen

When National Public Radio recently reported the Bush Administration is thinking of turning huge portions of U.S. territorial waters into marine protective areas (MPAs) -- little more than watery national parks in which, short of just looking at them, nothing can be done -- it didn't take long for recreational fishing interests to take note.

 The first correspondence I received regarding all this came from Phil Morlock, the director of environmental affairs for Shimano Canada Ltd. and Shimano American Corp.

 Shimano is one of the major players in worldwide fishing rod and reel sales. Morlock wrote, "Looks like the coastal angling community is going to be sandbagged by the [Bush] administration."

 Indeed, if the president decides to protect large water areas from "fishing, oil exploration and other forms of commercial development," sport fishing could be greatly affected because there are fears that such MPAs would turn radical environmentalists' dreams into reality and sport anglers' hopes into nightmares.

 Bush might create the biggest marine protective zones in the world -- far larger than any of our land-bound national parks -- and the White House Council on Environmental Quality confirmed the administration is thinking about something along those lines, but firm decisions have yet to be made. – Gene Mueller, writing in The Washington Post

Friday, June 6, 2008 

S. Oregon fishmongers drive far to find product

Visitors to the Port of Gold Beach can get fresh Oregon salmon at Fisherman's Direct, but some might be surprised at where that salmon was caught. Local Salmon Commission Coordinator Jeff Werner, and an employee of Fisherman's Direct, recently made the trip to Astoria to buy the salmon the fishery is currently selling.

 The price, after increased dock prices in Astoria and fuel costs – $9 a pound. A full $2.50 more than the price at the end of last summer.

 Fisherman trolling north of Cape Falcon, which is around 30 miles south of the Columbia River, are observing a restricted season. They can fish between Saturday and Tuesday, and are allowed 50 fish a week. The local season was cancelled after a dwindling salmon population on the Sacramento River, for which approximately 50 percent of the salmon caught off the Curry County coast come from, prompted officials to take the action.

"It really hurts local businesses, not just the fisherman," said Werner.

 "They [tourists] come here to fish, but they end up spending money all over town."

 Werner had one of those scares over the Memorial Day weekend, that Saturday morning he pulled out onto Highway 101 to head to work, and saw no cars on the road in either direction. Saturday afternoon and Sunday proved to be an OK weekend for the business, but the moment still sticks out in his mind. – Curry County Reporter

LNG backers say project to help salmon

Backers of a controversial plan to build an import terminal for liquefied natural gas on the lower Columbia River claim their project would actually boost salmon survival rates while helping the region meet growing energy demands.

 Houston-based NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. has proposed building a $700 million terminal at Bradwood Landing to offload tankers of supercooled natural gas, rewarm the condensed liquid and ship the resulting gas to market via pipeline. The company delivered a 3,700-page biological assessment of the project to federal regulators on Wednesday.

 The environmental analysis is part of a multifront push by NorthernStar to win regulatory approval for the project. The company is also trying to make the case that the terminal and associated pipelines would deliver an economic benefit to gas users. Proponents contend that imported gas will be a crucial piece of the region's future energy supply.

 A study released last month by the Oregon Department of Energy, on the other hand, concluded that the state could meet its needs more economically and with less pollution by importing more domestic gas from Wyoming.

 The company doesn't assume the terminal would be environmentally harmless. But it has proposed a number of offsetting measures on- and off-site, including a voluntary $59 million initiative to improve salmon habitat in the estuary. It assumes that federal agencies would match that spending at least 3-to-1, with the net result that an extra 1.77 million juvenile salmon would reach ocean waters each year. -- The Oregonian

Sea otter protected sites on the way

Move over Steller sea lions, Alaska sea otters are moving in.

 That’s the word from Douglas Burn, wildlife biologist with the Marine Mammals Management Office.

 Burn was in Kodiak this week to talk to Kodiak residents and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on where the Marine Mammals Management Office is in the process to designate critical habitat for sea otters by an Oct. 1, 2009, court-ordered deadline.

 The sea otter was placed on the threatened species list Aug. 9, 2005, marking the second time in their history sea otters have been threatened with extinction.

 The first time was around the turn of the 20th century, when they were nearly hunted out of existence by fur hunters. The otters made a comeback after the International Fur Seal Treaty was signed in 1911.

 Over the course of the 20th century, the sea otter population soared to several hundred thousand, but during the last several decades, the population has once again been dwindling and is now estimated at around 10,000.

 An article published in the 1998 issue of Science Magazine, by Jim Estes, M.T. Tinker, T.M. Williams and D.F. Doak, said, “We first detected this decline through population surveys at Adak Island in the central Aleutian archipelago, which indicated that the otter population decreased (approximately) 25 percent per year though the 1990s, resulting in nearly an order-of-magnitude overall reduction by 1997.”

 Although there are several theories, the most widely accepted theory was put forth by Estes.

 “Increased killer whale predation is the likely cause of these declines,” Estes wrote. “Although killer whales and sea otters have been observed in close proximity for decades, the first attack on a sea otter was seen in 1991. Subsequently, nine more attacks have been reported.” – Kodiak Daily Mirror

European fishermen's fuel protest turns violent

Protests by fishers against high fuel prices turned violent when they clashed with police outside the EU headquarters in Brussels.

 Fishers hurled flares, rocks and firecrackers at riot police, who responded with water cannon and baton charges.

 The protesters broke windows in EU buildings, overturning at least one car and setting dustbins on fire.

 Some 400 fishers from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal besieged the EU's landmark Berlaymont headquarters for several hours before the violence broke out.

 "To have a sustainable fishery, we need to have cheaper fuel prices," Pierre D'Acunto, a fishers' representative from the southern French port town of Sete, on the Mediterranean coast. "It's impossible to work with these prices." – The Guardian, UK

Editorial: Time's running out for oceans

Five years have elapsed since the Pew Oceans Commission’s seminal report urging prompt action to arrest the alarming decline of this country’s ocean resources. Four years have elapsed since a blue-ribbon presidential commission said much the same thing, urging special attention to problems like overfishing and the deterioration of coastal wetlands and estuaries. Despite an occasional burst of energy, however, the Bush administration and Congress have left much to be done. And time is running out.

 As is true with many environmental issues — climate change comes immediately to mind — the states have done a better job. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have either passed legislation or established a regulatory structure to better manage their coastal waters (states control the first three miles, the federal government controls the rest until international waters begin 200 miles offshore). California, always at the leading edge, has begun setting up a network of fully protected zones where fish can flourish with minimal commercial intrusion.

 These actions show that progress is possible and challenge the White House and Congress to do better.

 President Bush has expressed interest in leaving a positive “blue legacy.” Last year, he created one of the biggest protected marine reserves in the world — 138,000 square miles of largely unspoiled reefs and shoals near Hawaii. He should create at least one and possibly more such reserves elsewhere in American waters before he leaves office — and should persuade other world leaders to do the same.

 The president must also give teeth to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the basic law governing fishing in federal waters. Congress reauthorized and strengthened the law in 2006, establishing more ambitious timetables for rebuilding depleted fish species and giving scientists greater say over how many fish can be taken from the sea. Everything depends on whether the National Marine Fisheries Service buttresses good law with strong rules and does not let the commercial fisherman hijack the process.

 For its part, Congress must give ocean issues greater priority, in part by reorganizing the way the federal government deals with them. America’s waters are managed under 140 different laws spread across 20 different government agencies. A bill known as Oceans 21 seeks to bring order out of chaos and give ocean protection the prominence it deserves. The bill is slowly gaining traction in the House but could use a strong push from Senate Democrats and the White House.

 Many experts believe that the biggest long-term threat to the oceans may be global warming, which could disrupt ocean chemistry in ways that cause havoc with the food chain. The science on this issue is still unclear, however, and in any case, global warming is best addressed in broad legislation like the climate change bill now before the Senate.

 In the meantime, there is much that Washington can do to strengthen the resilience of the ocean and its inhabitants so they can withstand whatever stresses the future may bring. – New York Times