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Summary for July 14 - July 18, 2008:

Monday, July 14, 2008 

We’re back – again!

From now on, you should receive Pacific Fishing’s Fish Wrap each weekday. You’ll find we are different from other services. Rather than relying on a mindless web crawler to find and spit out whatever information that’s handy, we have real human eyes finding the pertinent news and presenting it to you.

Not only that, but we actually know something about commercial fishing in the North Pacific.

We began this project in March of 2007. Although we knew something about commercial fishing, we didn’t know a hell of a lot about the business of sending out large numbers of e-mails. Now we do, if only through trial and error – some of which has been a trial for you. Sorry.

Now, we hope we’ve found the right combination. As always, if you wish to opt out, there should be a link telling you how to do so easily. If you want anything else, short of pizza delivery in Naknek, get in touch with me directly: 206-709-1840 or

Don McManman


Bristol Bay: Fish still coming, some limits gone

While some processors buying Bristol Bay reds have eliminated or reduced individual fishing limits, others remain.
Meanwhile, the run looks to be on track for a near record year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
With escapement all but assured, some districts have nearly continuous fishing. Naknek, for example, was open every tide for the drift fleet. However, processors there still had limits.
Fishing effort on the later-running Togiak district is at an all-time low, perhaps because of fuel prices, according to ADF&G.


Palin too look for more Bay processing capacity

JUNEAU – Gov. Sarah Palin said she'll look at ways to bring more fish processors to Bristol Bay, where many commercial salmon gillnetters are upset that overwhelmed processors have imposed catch limits.

Palin's husband, Todd, is among the angry fishermen. He fishes from shore sites near Dillingham, and his processing company has placed him on tight limits this season, Gov. Palin said.

She questioned whether processors were honest in a capacity survey the state conducted over the winter to see if the companies could handle the full sockeye run, which is large this season.

"Despite what they told the state – that they could handle it, that they had the capacity -- they do not," Palin said.

One possible solution is to allow foreign processing ships to come into the bay next year to buy excess fish.

The established processors historically have fought that, and two of Palin's predecessors, Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles, declined to grant permission for foreign ships to operate in state waters.

"I have a much more open mind about foreign processors than prior administrations did," Palin said. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing in the Anchorage Daily News


Fuel prices drive Japanese fishing strike

TOKYO – Japanese fishermen, up in arms over rising oil prices, will stage their first nationwide strike on Tuesday – a worrisome prospect in this nation of seafood eaters.

Leading the nation's 200,000 active fishing boats, from mackerel vessels to tuna trawlers, are the country's squid fishermen, who say they can no longer afford to fuel the giant lamps they use to lure the creatures from the deep.

It is bad news in Japan, where the average citizen ate 58 kilograms (128 pounds) of seafood in 2006 -- the most in the industrialized world, and roughly three times the global average. —Wall Street Journal


To the editor: Alaska should boycott Exxon

After witnessing the crime of the century where a murderer is found not guilty, we should, I suppose, be prepared for any number of grievous public injustices.

Isn’t it time yet, that we as a resource-rich state, refuse any future business with Exxon and turn Point Thomson leases over to a company that we feel we can trust to at least regard Alaskans with some degree of respect?

There are those who may not believe it, but the survival of our state economy does not depend on Exxon,  and some of us believe they should lose the privilege of continuing business as usual.

The 33,000 plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez lawsuit will now never be fairly compensated, but their loss could be a contribution toward ensuring that huge corporations who cannot be trusted to bear the responsibilities of their actions are not welcome in Alaska any longer. – Brad Ames, writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Southeast: Slow, slow, slow

Predictions that this would be an off year for fishermen in Southeast Alaska are looking to be accurate.

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as of last weekend. The first number is the catch. The second is the total catch during the 2007 season:

Chinook: 116,000 / 359,000
Sockeye: 110,000 / 1,905,000
Coho: 74,000 / 2,063,000
Pink: 98,000 / 44,885,000
Chum: 1,737,000 / 9,415,000

B.C. fishermen see bad season ahead
Despite having sent a letter to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn more than three weeks ago regarding the West Coast fisheries crisis, the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union is yet to receive a response from the federal department.

UFAWU Northern Representative Joy Thorkelson says fishing on the Nass River has been the worst she has ever seen, and that based on the most recent escapement numbers the Skeena fishery "doesn't look good either."

In 2007, the fishery only opened for a total of seven days, and even with significantly fewer boats planning to fish the North Coast this year, the commercial fleet will undoubtedly be taking even fewer fish this season.

"There are only 200 boats up here, the smallest fleet we've ever had," said Thorkelson.

"I'd guess the peak last year was 350, the normal fleet size we've had over the last four years has been 450 boats, and there are just over 650 licenses for the North Coast. So because of the price of fuel, among other things, the rest of the guys are desperate. They're trying to find another job or they're on welfare, and our problem is that their boats aren't being maintained, because next year should be a decent year." – Prince Rupert Daily News

Marketing: Fishermen selling shares, not fish

PORT CLYDE, Maine – Using community-supported agriculture as a model, fishermen are selling shares of their catches to restaurants and the public in what is being called the state's first community-supported fisheries venture.

In agriculture, shareholders pay an upfront amount to farmers in return for a portion of the harvest. In the commercial fishing model, shareholders pay a set amount in return for a share of fresh catches of haddock, cod, flounder, shrimp and other seafood caught by four boats that fish out of Port Clyde, a fishing port in the town of St. George.

The plan is to eventually expand the program outside of Maine, said Laura Kramar, Port Clyde Marketing Cooperative coordinator for the Rockland-based Island Institute, which is collaborating on the initiative with the Midcoast Fishermen's Cooperative. Besides giving fishermen upfront financial support, the initiative allows consumers to get high-quality seafood and participate directly in food production. -- Foster's Daily Democrat, N.H.

No FEMA aid for Oregon fishermen

The federal government has rejected a request for disaster relief for Oregon's coastal communities hit hard by a nearly complete closure of the ocean salmon fishing season.

But that's not the end of the story, said a spokeswoman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who made the relief request to the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Still pending, said Anna Richter Taylor, is a request for $170 million in direct cash payments to those who make their livings fishing for salmon on the coast. That request has been approved by Congress but still awaits President Bush's signature.

Washington and California – both hit by the troll closure – elected not to seek FEMA aid. – The Oregonian

Think you have it tough?

Where were you on Good Friday, March 27, 1964?

Jerry Tilley remembers quite vividly. He was fighting for his life aboard a fishing vessel as tsunamis roiled the Gulf of Alaska following the great Alaska earthquake.

Phenomena that might have gone unnoticed at sea turned into killer waves on the coasts – like Kodiak, where Jerry’s boat was tied up.

Read about Jerry’s experiences in Pacific Fishing’s “The Life” section. Click on the link below, and then click on “Tsunami!”


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bristol Bay: Still fishing, still limits

With escapement levels met, fishing has turned into a round-the-clock affair, at least in Ugashik. The fleet went to work at 7:30 this morning (Wednesday) and can stay at it until July 25.

But that’s not great comfort to the folks in there.

Here’s Victoria Briggs: “All fishermen have been on limits a good portion of the season, and in Ugashik River, the lack of buyers, especially for setnetters, has caused a major issue.

“The assurance of the large processors that they can handle the volume is not sitting well with most here, and this winter could really heat up into some confrontations!”

Fishing in the Naknek/Kvichak district is still on nine- or 11-hour openings.

On the west side of the bay, the Nushagak opened to round-the-clock fishing on Monday. In the Togiak district, fishing opened on Monday and will remain open through Friday.

Quarter-million Japanese fishermen protest fuel price

TOKYO – Japan's 250,000 commercial fishermen staged the biggest strike of its kind Tuesday demanding the government help ease the cost of running their boats in this nation of seafood eaters.

About 4,000 people rallied in Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo within earshot of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s office.

Surging fuel prices are another blow to an industry already losing its market share to imports. Japan is the second-biggest consumer of seafood in the industrialized world after Iceland, and the biggest tuna-eating country. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The feds need to listen

ASTORIA – There are few if any government processes that generate more intense local interest than the determination of fishing seasons and rules by the National Marine Fisheries Service. So NMFS's plan to ax many public comment periods from 45 days to 14 should excite substantial adverse reaction.

A series of public gatherings, hearings and documentation are now required so NMFS can comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. This all is a sort of old-fashioned town hall meeting that extends up and down the fishing communities of the West Coast and the rest of the nation. Sometimes raucous and untidy affairs, it's easy to imagine how they might wear on the patience of federal officials.

These officials need to continue to live with it. It is absurd to think that fishermen and the public at large might have as little as two weeks to absorb NMFS proposals and formulate coherent written responses. This is particularly true of commercial ocean fishermen, who may easily be at sea for two weeks or longer.

Sharply curtailed comment periods are one of several troubling deficiencies embedded in agency rule-setting updates. A broad review was mandated by Congress when it rewrote the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, signed into law last year by President Bush. This law was in need of modernization, but original author U.S. Sen. Warren "Maggie" Magnuson, D-Wash., would be flabbergasted to see fishermen so robbed of power over their own livelihoods.

Maggie played a key role in convincing President Richard Nixon to sign NEPA into law in 1970 and would also be aghast about how NMFS is toying with this premier environmental-protection law. The agency wants to delegate far more final power to regional fisheries management councils and duck public oversight by lumping crucial decisions together. This "frameworking" process could place an umbrella over superficially similar actions, allowing fishery managers to define their way out of NEPA requirements.

Public engagement in rulemaking is a painful reality of democracy. But in a nation where all too many people aren't all that interested in participation, NMFS ought to be grateful to have lots of avidly engaged stakeholders. It should scrap this set of revisions and revisit the subject with a view to preserving the public's opportunities to comment. Under no circumstances should we permit NEPA to be eroded by the bad precedent NMFS is advocating.

There is considerable congressional opposition to these new rules, in the form of a letter demanding changes. Citizens also can speak on this matter. Comments may be made until Aug. 12 by e-mailing The subject line must read "MSA Environmental Review Procedures." – The Daily Astorian

Exxon says it doesn’t owe interest

JUNEAU -- Exxon Mobil Corp. is fighting to avoid paying interest on the $507.5 million judgment the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to pay for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Lawyers for the Texas-based energy giant on Tuesday submitted a nine-page brief to the high court opposing the application of interest, which could bring the total punitive damages Exxon owes for the 1989 spill to nearly $1 billion.

Exxon argues "there is no good reason" for the court to add interest.

"Exxon does not agree that there is any sound basis to award plaintiffs what they seek -- approximately $488 million over and above the $507.5 million that this Court determined was the legally proper amount to punish and deter," according to Exxon's filing.

Lawyers for commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs last week asked the Supreme Court to clarify whether interest would apply. The question came up after the court decided the long-running case on June 25, cutting the amount of damages from $2.5 billion to $507.5 million without mentioning interest. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing in the Anchorage Daily News

BC salmon not so sustainable?

The David Suzuki Foundation has labeled wild Pacific salmon as a cautionary seafood, saying returns may be the lowest in 50 years.

The foundation has listed wild Pacific salmon as "yellow", which means there are some concerns about its sustainability, following a report by SeaChoice. The organization uses a "traffic light system" to rank seafood options.

Consumers are advised to eat yellow-listed fish sparingly and to learn more about the source of the fish.

The foundation has identified Nass River sockeye as a "better choice" than other "yellow" B.C. wild salmon species for 2008, but says Fraser River and Skeena River sockeye salmon face "serious challenges this year."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the organization's message is based on solid evidence.
"I think the assessment is quite accurate for 2008," said Brian Riddell, the division head for salmon stock assessment said.

"There was a very poor survival rate for juveniles that went out in 2005; we did not see as many adults come back."  

 Riddell says salmon aren't reaching maturity because environmental trends – such as food, temperature and predation - are fluctuating more than ever before. – Vancouver Sun


Thursday, July 17, 2008    

Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet winding down    

Fishing on Bristol Bay and Lower Cook Inlet is coming to a close, while fishing on the fall run of Yukon chum has yet to begin.

Bristol Bay:
In Egegik, weekday fishing continues, with the fall schedule beginning on Monday, July 28.
Naknek/Kvichak District will remain open until the fall schedule begins on July 25.
Ugashik remains open until the fall schedule, which begins on July 28.
The Nushagak District is open until further notice.
The Togiak has been fished solidly since last Saturday. A closure has been announced for Friday.

Cook Inlet:
Lower Inlet districts are seeing continual fishing or days-long openings.
Upper Inlet still has slot openings.

Managers continue to predict fall chum runs of up to 1.2 million fish, but not enough fish are now available for an opening.

A hole in Klamath River dams’ future?

The owner of several hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River has pulled a crucial California water quality permit application, saying it hopes to facilitate a long-term settlement for the project.

Pacificorp wrote to the State Water Resources Control Board Friday, withdrawing its application for water quality certification necessary to have the hydroelectric project relicensed. The decision comes during discussions with state and federal resources agencies about the future of the dams.

Some dam removal advocates see the decision as a sign that the utility and the agencies are close to reaching an agreement that would be aired to the public.

The water board was set to begin open meetings on the matter, and serious concerns about how the reservoirs behind Pacificorp's dams brew heavy algae and intensify water quality problems had led some to believe California water quality regulators might put heavy demands on the project.

Other groups interested in the removal of the dams worry that the public water quality certification process -- outside Pacificorp's control -- provided leverage during discussions.

A Pacificorp spokesman declined to comment further than the Friday letter.

A tenuous, but still-holding, settlement agreement on a host of other water, fisheries and agriculture issues among more than two dozen tribes, environmental groups, farmers and fishing organizations was presented earlier this year. Other groups have withheld
signing off, citing a lack of water guarantees for fish. Also missing is Pacificorp and a deal to remove the dams that block hundreds of miles of spawning grounds for salmon.

But the California Resources Agency has twice asked the water board to put off beginning the environmental document needed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can issue Pacificorp another 30- to 50-year license for the project.

“These discussions have been useful,” wrote Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman in early June, asking the water board to postpone the permitting process.

Other parties, like the Karuk Tribe, had asked that the process move forward, saying the certification would provide an incentive toward settlement.

On Tuesday, Karuk Tribe Klamath Campaign Coordinator Craig Tucker said that if Pacificorp and the state and federal agencies are indeed coming up with a settlement proposal, it ought to be consistent with getting the dams out by 2015 and with the overarching settlement proposal for other issues.

“I don't know what the deal is,” Tucker said, “but it better be good or we'll reject it.”

What such an agreement might look like is difficult to say, and when one might be proposed is unclear as well. The retirement of key federal personnel involved in Klamath issues, the end of the Bush administration, the upcoming election and the ability for the settlement group to remain committed all will play a role in the coming year.

FERC has already released a draft environmental document that considers keeping the four dams at issue in place. But Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service have signaled that they will require fish ladders to be built to get salmon above the dams and into historical spawning areas. That would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, which would be passed on to Pacificorp's ratepayers.

The California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior last year estimated the cost of removing the dams could be $32 to $286 million less expensive than leaving them in place with the fish ladder and other provisions.

Still, hundreds of millions to remove the dams would have to come from state and federal governments, as well as years of commitment to funding restoration on the river. – Eureka Times-Standard

George Bush and off-shore drilling

Here’s what President Bush said concerning off-shore drilling during a news conference on Tuesday, as provided by the White House.
I think you can't help but notice there is some volatility in price in the (petroleum) marketplace, which obviously there are some people in the -- buying and selling on a daily basis. On the other hand, the fundamentals are what's really driving the long-term price of oil, and that is, demand for oil has increased, and supply has not kept up with it. And so part of our strategy in our country has got to be to say, okay, here are some suspected reserves and that we ought to go after them in an environmentally friendly way.
A buddy of mine said, well, what about the reefs? So I'm concerned about the reefs. I'm a fisherman, I like to fish, reefs are important for fisheries. But the technology is such that you can protect the reefs. You don't have to drill on top of a reef. You can drill away from a reef and then have a horizontal hole to help you explore a reservoir.
It's like in Alaska. You know, in the old days, you would have had to have -- if you ever go out to West Texas, you'll see, there's like a rig every 20 acres, depending upon the formation. In Alaska you can have one pad with a lot of horizontal drilling, which enables you to exploit the resources in a way that doesn't damage the environment. These are new technologies that have come to be, and yet we've got an old energy policy that hasn't recognized how the industry has changed. And now is the time to get people to recognize how the industry has changed.

High fuel prices spawn engine replacements

WARRENTON -- The 54-foot Home Brew left the Warrenton Marina Saturday with a brand-new engine that glistened like the sapphire sea in summer.

 Commercial fisherman Gary Sjostrom, who captains the boat, plunked down $50,000 this year to replace his puttering old engine with a sleek, computer-controlled Isuzu.

This week, he's taking it out for the first time to troll for tuna and to test its fuel efficiency against his bottom line.

With fuel prices doubling over the past year and fish prices barely budging, the cost of commuting hundreds of miles to work at sea threatens to sink commercial fishing businesses.

To save on fuel, North Coast fishermen are running their boats at lower speeds, fishing closer to shore and choosing their grounds with care.

When that doesn't cut it -- or the moment their old engines need maintenance -- more and more fishermen are buying into better fuel efficiency with new, high-tech engines.

Buying the newest engine models can provide a 30 percent to 50 percent boost in fuel efficiency and save fishermen thousands of dollars per trip.

At that rate, Astoria fisherman Dennis Rankin figures it won't take long for the new engines in his two drag boats, the 64-foot Ashlyne and the 80-foot Steve C., to pay for themselves.

While Rankin was planning to repower his bigger boat to save on fuel, a stroke of what seemed to be bad luck landed his smaller boat at the shipyard with an engine problem earlier this year. Rather than pay for any repairs, he decided to replace both engines with new, fuel-efficient models.

The two new engines, with installation costs, will set him back more than $150,000. But with fuel prices likely to continue climbing, he said, “We can't afford not to do it."

Already, he's saving 100 gallons a day on the Ashlyne, which used to guzzle 300 to 350 gallons in 24 hours.

Bob Zimmerling, owner of Coast Diesel, an engine service and repair shop in Astoria, said a constant stream of new-engine orders for fishing boats has kept him busy this year. The two most fuel-efficient models from Isuzu and John Deere are flying off the shelves.

Unfortunately, the growing trend toward engine replacements means Zimmerling isn't making as much on engine repairs and rebuilds.

"They aren't overhauling what's old, they're putting in new and trying to save fuel," said Zimmerling. "It just doesn't make sense anymore to put money into an old, obsolete engine. If they don't get more efficient, I think a lot of guys will go out of business." – Pacific Fishing columnist Cassandra Marie Profita, writing in The Daily Astorian

Farm salmon escape scorecard

So far, Marine Harvest has recovered about 400 of 30,000 farmed Atlantic salmon that escaped on Canada Day (July 1).

Marine Harvest has a seine boat searching for salmon around Fredrick Arm northeast of Campbell River, where the fish escaped after the corner of a farm’s net pen sunk partially into the water.

“We’ll keep the boat out there as long as they’re getting some Atlantics back,” said Clare Backman, Marine Harvest Canada’s environment and compliance manager.

But Backman didn’t think it was likely many more fish would be recovered.

“The typical behaviour of Atlantic salmon is they don’t hold a school – they tend to disperse,” he said. – North(Vancover) Island Gazette


Friday, July 18, 2008

Dutch the top tonnage fishing port – again

Commercial fishermen unloaded 777.2 million pounds of fish, primarily Alaskan pollock, at the port of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, making it the country’s top port for landings in 2007, NOAA’s Fisheries Service announced.

The port of New Bedford, Mass., claimed the top spot for value of landings, primarily due to sea scallops, bringing in $268 million in 2007. The total domestic commercial landings for 2007 were 9.2 billion pounds, valued at $4.1 billion.

Dutch Harbor-Unalaska netted the top landings slot for the 19th consecutive year, according to NOAA's Fisheries Service.

Reedville, Va., ranked as the number two port for quantity of landings in 2007 with 421.0 million pounds. Empire-Venice, La., was third at 323.1 million. The major fish product landed in both Reedville and Empire-Venice was menhaden, which often is used for fish meal and as feed in the aquaculture industry.

Kodiak came in fourth.

New Bedford was ranked number one for value of landings for the eighth year in a row, even though the port’s total landing value was down $13.4 million from 2006. Dutch Harbor-Unalaska was ranked second in value of landings at $174.1 million, which was up $8.9 million from 2006.

Here are the top 10. We’ll have a list of the top 50 in a coming issue of Pacific Fishing.

Top 10 U.S. fishing ports, based on pounds and price, for 2006-07, as released Thursday by NOAA.

Port Quantity
  2006 2007
Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, AK 911.3 777.2
Reedville, VA 372.5 421.0
Empire-Venice, LA 285.7 323.1
Kodiak, AK 332.8 320.0
Intercoastal City, LA 400.7 299.7
Pascagoula-Moss Point, MS 212.1 216.3
Cameron, LA 8.1 211.1
Astoria, OR 164.2 161.8
New Bedford, MA 168.3 149.5
Los Angeles, CA 164.5 141.2

Figures in Millions of Dollars

Port Quantity
  2006 2007
New Bedford, MA. 281.4 268.0
Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, AK 165.2 174.1
Kodiak, AK 101.4 126.0
Empire-Venice, LA 41.1 73.5
Hampton Roads area, VA 51.0 70.2
Honolulu, HI 54.6 64.3
Naknek-King Salmon, AK 51.4 61.8
Cape May-Wildwood, NJ 37.6 58.8
Seward, AK 51.0 57.0
Sitka, AK 53.2 50.8

Note: To avoid disclosure of private enterprise certain ports have not been included.

REGION: Reseach continues without offshore possibility

California Senate asks Congress for fishermen health care

The California State Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 31, a measure by North Coast Senator Pat Wiggins that urges Congress to pass federal legislation to address the health care crisis facing fishing men and women.

According to a press release from Senator Wiggins’ office, the fishing fleet “provides an essential component of California’s economy by creating employment and economic activity in our coastal communities while serving as a valuable trade commodity.” – Redwood Times

(Editor’s note: Such memorials to Congress by state legislatures rarely influence what happens on Capital Hill.)

Fishing group endorses Ted Stevens

Senator Ted Stevens accepted the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association’s
endorsement of his 2008 campaign. The organization has been representing fishing
interests for more than 30 years.

The Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association is a member organization comprised of
approximately 40 small trawl vessels that fish out of Kodiak who are committed to
sustainable fishing and preserving the long-term health of Alaska’s fisheries and marine

Al Burch is the executive director. – Press release

Eruption causes Unalaska flight cancellations

UNALASKA – About a dozen flights in and out of Dutch Harbor airport have been cancelled because of ash from the Okmok volcano, which started erupting on Saturday around noon.

"If there's a heavy cloud cover and we have to fly through lots of clouds, we're more likely to cancel the flight because you can't see the ash when it's embedded in the clouds, said PenAir President Danny Seybert. – KIAL

Gold Beach gets funds for dock improvement

The Port of Gold Beach is in line to receive $200,000 from the federal government to begin rebuilding its commercial fishing dock. The dock provides the foundation for water-dependent and water-related commercial and retail activities at the port. 

The money is part of a package of $143 million funding for transportation, housing and urban development projects in Oregon, according to a press release from Oregon’s congressional delegation. – Coos Bay World