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Summary for July 28 - August 1, 2008:
Monday, July 28, 2008

Bristol Bay harvest below predictions

It looks like a less-than-stellar harvest for Bristol Bay sockeye fishermen. On Friday, July 25, the fleet had reported 27,782,000 reds.

Managers had estimated there would be a harvest of 31.4 million fish, out of a total run of 40.3 million.

Fishing effort was reported as minimal last week, with many fishermen on the water only to catch their home packs.

Earlier this year, processors had said they would be able to handle 36.3 million sockeye, depending on the flow of the fish. Reports indicated there were several periods when fishermen were on catch limits this year.

Read the next issue of Pacific Fishing for more details on the limits.


Columbia gillnetters to face legal extinction

A Willamette Valley lawmaker is drafting a bill Columbia River gillnetters have been anxiously anticipating for the past year.

"A proposal to bring back the fish," is how state Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, described the legislation he plans to float next session.

The four-part plan takes aim at sea lions and cormorants, two predators with voracious appetites for salmon, and outlines hatchery reforms to bolster salmon production and survival.

Girod's fourth and final strategy for saving the salmon is to eliminate commercial gillnets from the Columbia River mainstem.

"The fish runs have gotten so low, and gillnets are pretty indiscriminate, as far as what gets in the net," Girod said in an interview last week. "I think we have to make a tough decision."

The proposal surfaced amid a mass exodus of sport-fishing representatives from a bi-state negotiation process designed to find common ground between recreational and commercial fishing interests on the Columbia River. Every two years, Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions must decide how the two groups will split a meager allowance of impacts to wild salmon. The allocation decision determines how much hatchery fish each group will be allowed to catch.

Many suspected legislation was in the works last month when six of the eight sport-fishing groups in state-sponsored negotiations refused to discuss a long-term allocation agreement.

Girod said his bill won't outlaw commercial fishing on the river, but it would force gillnetters to switch to hook-and-line fishing methods, which he favors because they would allow fishermen to quickly release wild salmon caught in the process of targeting hatchery stocks.

"The nice thing about hook-and-line is you can release (fish) real easily," he said. "The kill rate is not so high."

His plans will include some sort of buy out offer for around 150 existing commercial gillnet license holders along with reimbursements for fishermen who switch to hook-and-line gear.

Hobe Kytr, administrator of the Astoria-based gillnetting group Salmon for All, said his group has been expecting a move to ban gillnets ever since the Coastal Conservation Association set up its Pacific Northwest chapter last year. – Pacific Fishing columnist Cassandra Marie Profita writing in The Daily Astorian


Fish cops active on Bristol Bay

KODIAK -- The Bristol Bay fishery trooper patrol boat has been kept busy this summer.
The Alaska Department of Public Safety is reporting a wide range of enforcement activity in Bristol Bay. Enforcement activity in the Egegik, Ugashik and Naknek/Kvichnak districts included 55 cases.

Troopers say 146 commercial fishing vessels were boarded. A total of 36 commercial fish warnings and 57 citations were issued for commercial fishing offenses. One person was arrested.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Paul Fussey says the reported enforcement activity yielded no unusual surprises. – Anchorage Daily News


Fish cops raid Washington state crabber

LA CONNER, Wash. – Fish and Wildlife agents seized 100 crab pots, a commercial crab fishing boat and two trucks from an Anacortes man they suspect of illegally catching and selling thousands of pounds of crab since January.

Officials served search warrants at an Anacortes house and a vessel and equipment locker at Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes.  Investigators believe the man conspired with local wholesalers to illegally catch and sell the crab after his commercial fishing license was revoked in January for failing to pay child support. 

Agents also confiscated some illegally caught shrimp.  Mullins says at least three crab wholesalers in the Anacortes area were involved with selling the illegal catch. – KAPS, Anacortes, Wash.


Aleutian CDA buys crab shares

The Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA) announced that its wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, APICDA Joint Ventures, Inc. (AJV), purchased processor quota shares from UniSea, Inc., Royal Aleutian Seafoods, Inc., and Westward Seafoods.

The purchased shares include western Aleutian Islands golden king crab. Through the course of negotiations, APICDA also assisted the Atxam Corp. – the Native village corporation encompassing the community of Atka – in its purchase of additional western Aleutian Islands golden king crab processor quota shares.

The Atxam Corp. and AJV also formed a new company, named the Aleutian Crab Company, L.L.C., which will custom process the crab in Atka. Under the current crab quota for Aleutian Islands golden king crab the acquisition by both entities is in excess of 600,000 pounds. The crab will be processed in Atka, initially on a floating processing vessel, but ultimately shoreside at the local Atka Pride Seafoods facility.

Atka Pride Seafoods is a joint venture owned equally by AJV and the Atka Fishermen’s Association. The company buys and processes halibut and sablefish harvested by local Atka residents. Fully 100 percent of the workforce at Atka Pride Seafoods are local residents.

“All of this crab should be viewed as an Atka community asset,” said APICDA CEO Larry Cotter. “Long term, this will provide greater opportunity for local residents to participate in these fisheries and greater economic stability for Atka. As a CDQ corporation dedicated to developing stable local economies in our communities, we are proud to be able to bring these assets to Atka.”

Lawrence Prokopeuff, chairman of the Atxam Board of Directors and the mayor of Atka, said, “This is a great opportunity for our community and our shareholders. It will open doors for our young people and provide an economic base for their future. In the short term, we expect the quotas to generate over $90,000 per year in fish taxes to our community – and that revenue is desperately needed right now.” – Press release

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

‘Subsistence’ fishermen guilty of sales

ANCHORAGE – United States Attorney Nelson P. Cohen announced that three Sitka residents, Jesse Rivera, age 43, Mario Rivera, age 41, and Artimeo Rivera, age 36, plead guilty in federal court to violations of the Lacey Act for illegally selling and shipping to Seattle halibut caught under the Sitka Sound Subsistence Halibut program.

Jesse Rivera’s plea agreement requires that he serve a sentence of six months imprisonment and pay a fine of $40,000. Mario Rivera’s plea agreement requires that he serve one month imprisonment, pay a fine in the amount of $10,000 and forfeit to the United States a 20-foot Boston Whaler, along with the engines and other equipment. Artimeo Rivera’s plea agreement requires that he serve one month in a half-way house and pay a $5,000 fine. Each plea agreement requires that each defendant serve three years probation with a special condition, which prohibits any commercial or subsistence fishing.

The guilty pleas came about as a result of an investigation conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Division of Law Enforcement and was based on evidence obtained from fisheries observers and interviews which provided legal grounds for the execution of search warrants on a Seattle seafood wholesaler in 2004.

As a result of that search, NMFS investigators found checks and other records, which established that during the summer of 2003, the Riveras shipped more than 10,000 pounds of subsistence-caught halibut to the seafood wholesaler in Seattle. In exchange for the halibut, the Riveras were paid more than $50,000.

Mr. Cohen stated, “Our wild waters cover vast distances, making enforcement of the laws that preserve and protect our precious wild resources a daunting task. Most Alaskans respect and follow these important laws. To those who would break our laws: know there will be consequences.”

“These actions are a total abuse of a carefully planned and managed subsistence fishery designed to assist Alaskans truly in need of subsistence halibut,” according to NMFS Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Passer. “The public should know that we will not stand by and let a token few manipulate and abuse this system for financial gain. These plea agreements ensure that the defendants do not profit from their crimes, but are instead justly punished.”

Mr. Cohen commended NMFS who conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of the Riveras. – From Wesley Loy’s Anchorage Daily News blog

To the editor: Thanks to Exxon Valdez leader

I have felt for some time that we, the plaintiffs of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill litigation, owe a debt of gratitude to Matt Jamin and his team for the splendid work they did over nearly 20 years, seeking justice through the courts for our benefit. Justice was denied by the Supreme Court. No one could have worked harder or done a better job on our behalf than Matt and the many fine people who worked with him. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you and your team.

The Supreme Court, without doubt, was stacked against us with business interests, when half the justices hearing the case voted to let Exxon free without meaningful punitive damages. That is really astonishing! The democratic process has been dealt a severe blow. The people have been pushed aside in favor of a big corporation. The compromise, which reduced the award to barely 10 percent of the original figure determined by the jurors, did nothing to heal the wounds. Exxon is now pouring salt into those wounds by seeking to avoid paying even the interest on such a small amount.

Shame on you Exxon! It is time to ask Exxon to leave Alaska! – Geneneiva (Deedie) Pearson, writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak OKs boat lift contract

The Kodiak City Council awarded a contract for the St. Herman boat lift project in a mood of optimism.

The winning bid came from Pacific Pile and Marine L.P. of Seattle, at slightly more than $9.8 million. – Kodiak Daily Mirror

Turns out, some farmed fish not as healthy

Just when you thought you were doing a great job eating fish twice a week to keep your heart healthy, a study popped up that hints that not all fish are created equal. In fact, some fish may be more harmful than helpful for heart health.

A quick background on fish and the heart: Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids – an essential fatty acid. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids has been found to reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, prevent further heart attacks and perhaps prevent people from having heart attacks in the first place. In addition, omega-3s have been found to decrease stiffness and inflammation from arthritis, and probably also help in preventing depression.

Omega-3s are important because they balance out omega-6 fats – the other essential fatty acid that humans need in their diets. Omega-6 fats, however, are overly abundant in our diets – especially in the form of harmful trans-fats in baked goods and processed foods. The recommended dietary intake of the two fats is a diet that contains at most a 4-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.

Unfortunately, we typically eat 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3s.

So, how much fish must you eat to get enough omega-3s to protect your heart? The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week. Those with heart disease should get about 1 1/2 ounces of fish per day. Examples of fatty fish include anchovies, bluefish, carp, catfish, halibut, herring, lake trout, mackerel, pompano, salmon, striped sea bass, tuna (albacore), and whitefish.

Unfortunately, the July 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that two of the most commonly ingested fish – farmed tilapia and catfish – may actually be more harmful than healthful.

Why? It appears that these farmed fish varieties may contain more omega-6 than omega-3 fats. This is probably because these farmed fish were raised on commercial feeds that were high in omega-6 fats (wild fish feed on algae, among other things, which is high in omega-3s). Farmed trout and Atlantic salmon had relatively good concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, however. – Sacramento Bee


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stevens indictment rarely mentions fishing

(This comes from Wesley Loy, a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and a columnist for Pacific Fishing magazine. You can find his blog – The Highliner – at You’ll also find some serious anti-Stevens gloating from several fishermen at the blog..)

Tuesday’s indictment of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska is obviously a thunderclap for the commercial fishing world.

After all, the man’s name is on the nation’s foremost ocean fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

I’ve spent a few minutes studying the seven-count, 28-page indictment and have found only one apparent reference to fish or fishing.

It’s part of the subject of Count 4. Here are the relevant parts:

STEVENS' 2003 Senate Financial Disclosure Form
60. On or about May 17, 2004, STEVENS filed and caused to be filed a signed document titled "United States Senate Public Financial Disclosure Report For Annual and Termination Reports" (hereinafter "2003 Financial Disclosure Form"). The 2003 Financial Disclosure Form was a document required by rule to be submitted to and filed with the Secretary of the Senate, an office within the legislative branch of the United States Government. The 2003 Financial Disclosure Form was signed by STEVENS and hand-dated "May 17, 2004."

61. The 2003 Financial Disclosure Form required STEVENS to identify and report his receipt of gifts, with an aggregate value of greater than $285.00 from any single source, received by STEVENS, his spouse, and his dependent children during calendar year 2003.

64. On or about May 17, 2004, ... STEVENS falsely reported and caused to be reported on his 2003 Financial Disclosure Form and attachments thereto, which he then certified, signed, filed and caused to be filed with the Secretary of the Senate, that (1) during calendar year 2003 he received a gift, valued at $250.00, from the Fishing Association in recognition of STEVENS' public service, when STEVENS in fact and in truth knew that the gift was actually given to him by PERSON B, and had a value of greater than $285.00 ...


State may give computers to commercial fishermen

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing new rules to protect fisheries while reducing paperwork for commercial anglers.

The new regulations would have commercial fisheries use DNR-issued computers to make daily electronic fish-catch reports. Jeff Bodin is owner of Bodin Fisheries in Bayfield. He likes the new rules.

“They’re cutting down paper reporting. There was fleet reporting so families could report under one license instead of four different reports. There are also changes to the wholesale fish dealers. They’re working with inventory now to follow the inventory of fish.” –, Minnesota


B.C. fishing industry moving toward certification

Salmon being processed in Port Simpson will be some of the first in British Columbia to carry a new Marine Stewardship Council stamp of approval before they reach the local and international marketplace.

Last week, Environment Ministry Barry Penner said a $100,000 commitment from the province would further the process of getting B.C.'s seafood industry renowned as best in the world.

"British Columbians are becoming leaders in the global drive for fisheries sustainability," said Penner.

"Credible eco-labelling is increasingly important for our industry to succeed in competitive markets, and it's an important part of our government's strategy to promote B.C. seafood."

Bob Jongewaard, general manager of the Coast Tsimshian Fish Plant said he applied for the MSE certification over a year ago, and the plant finally received their certificate of approval last month.

"I think it makes us one of, if not the first ones to have the certification in the province," said Jongewaard.

After hearing about the government plan to use $100,000 to help processing plants across the province receive the standard, Jongewaard wonders if they will be able to receive some retroactive financial assistance, as it cost nearly $20,000 to finally become certified after they applied for it June 2007.

His facility was built in the '70s, which makes the plant relatively new by industry standards, Jongewaard said. The MSC auditors were impressed with the facility's clean, bright, and large setting and modern equipment.

"It cost a fortune with the travel back and forth, and getting audited by the MSE people," said Jongewaard. "The certificated is valid for three years, and they audit you every year. That's in addition to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency audit we have every year."

"So now, we have two agencies that govern us, and there will probably be some more around sooner or later," said Jongewaard.

With the Marine Stewardship Council certification, the MSC logo can now be carried on all Alaskan salmon products processed for Bear's Choice Seafood at the Coast Tsimshian Fish Plant.

The MSC logo is becoming recognized as the premier in sustainable seafood standards throughout the world, and some of the world's largest consumers of British Columbia/Alaska seafood are looking for that stamp of approval. – Prince Rupert Daily News


Price of fish rising around the world

Prices for whitefish are going up worldwide, thanks to an international shortage of Alaskan pollock and other white-fleshed fish. That’s coupled with increasing demand from Europe.

Some researchers think the shortages are due to over-harvesting in some parts of the world and changes in the ocean because of warming temperatures.

Pollock prices have swung from 10 to 15 cents per pound in recent years, before jumping to as high as 25 cents a pound in recent months. Pacific whiting prices also have doubled, from 3 cents per pound to 6 or 7 cents.

Oregon commercial fishermen say they have seen some benefits but say they are still pulling in less for their product than their Canadian counterparts, thanks to a lack of processing options. – Coos Bay World


Microbe killing Northwest oysters

An invisible microbe that thrives in warm ocean water has undermined the Pacific Northwest's prized oyster supply, killing billions of young larvae that mature into the succulent shellfish known across the world.

The bacterium, Vibrio tubiashii, is related to another species that can sicken people who eat raw shellfish. This one doesn't bother people — it kills shellfish in their larval stage, before they latch onto rocks to grow.

An explosion of the microbe late last summer shut down an Oregon shellfish hatchery that is one of the largest on the West Coast, supplying larvae to about 70 oyster growers the way seed companies provide crop seed to farmers.

The microbe also is the likely culprit in the disappearance of recent generations of wild oysters from usually prolific estuaries such as Willapa Bay on the southern Washington coast.

"We're in a state of panic," said Robin Downey, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, based in Olympia. "There is no other word for it."

Scientists have rushed to devise filters that can strain the lethal bacterium out of water flowing through hatcheries.

Researchers say the rise of bacteria might be tied to the same unusual ocean conditions — possibly connected to global climate change — causing the suffocating "dead zones" that have appeared off the Oregon coast in recent summers. – Seattle Times

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sockeye shortage shuts down the Kenai

A faltering return of Kenai River red salmon that shut down commercial fishing in much of Upper Cook Inlet earlier this month escalated into the first significant in-river restriction on sport fishing Wednesday.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists said they are closing the river downstream from the sonar that counts salmon at river Mile 19.

Given that the dipnet fishery was expected to end and that very little angling takes place in the lowest stretch of the river, biologists said little impact on the Kenai sport fishery is expected.

But, regional sport fisheries manager Tom Vania warned that further closures upriver on the Kenai could be coming.

The sockeye salmon management goal for the Kenai is 750,000 to 950,000 reds past the sonar by the time the run starts to end in mid-August. To date, only 400,000 fish have made it past the sonar, and even with commercial fishing shut down, far fewer fish than desired are entering the river. – Anchorage Daily News

Expensive white fish? We spoke too soon

On Wednesday, we presented an article out of Coos Bay that said the price of white fish was going up worldwide because of a shortage of Alaskan pollock and other white-fleshed fish. The reasons included climate change, over-fishing, and a reduction in pollock quota on Alaska waters.

We should have spoken to Pacific Fishing’s correspondent in Dutch Harbor first. Here is the word from Ann Touza:

The assertion is overstated. In one of my pollock news items, I quoted one fishermen, saying that price for pollock product is at an all time high, but that ex-vessel prices have not kept pace. It's a hard figure to nail down, as there are roe/production/profit-sharing bonuses.

Yes, of course, the pollock quota has been reduced significantly, so one would expect less product and higher prices. But MANY would dispute the over-fishing and global warming connection. Pollock quota has been very high for years, but this is certainly not the lowest point.

Canada closes sockeye sport fishing

VANCOUVER — A decline in the return of sockeye salmon to British Columbia's Fraser River has prompted federal fisheries officials to close a recreational fishery for the salmon, as well as the commercial fishery.

The decision averted a possible showdown between the anglers and First Nations, who were angry that sport fishermen were on the water when the number of salmon returning to the river in the early run is so low.

"The sport fishery does not enjoy any special status or legal protection," Chief Clarence Pennier, of the Sto:lo First Nation, wrote in a letter to the regional director general of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"The aboriginal fishery... enjoys a constitutionally protected status that comes second only to conservation, but ahead of the industrial and sport fisheries."

The commercial fishery has already been closed due to the poor returns. Pennier said estimates for the early run have dropped from 500,000 to 400,000 and the forecast for the mid-summer run has gone from 1.8 million to 1.1 million. – Canadian Press

Florence fishermen making own ice

A stocked ice machine is key to bringing back commercial and sport fishers and buyers, says commissioner.

Members of the Siuslaw Fisherman’s Association showcased their “new” ice machine to out-of-town visitors and Florence area residents who stopped by on Saturday at Florence Marine Construction to get an inside view of the features of the rebuilt machine. The machine is planned for an eventual home at the Old Town wharf, situated by Mo’s and ICM.

SFA members envision a lively port with the return of a commercial fishing fleet, and busy charter boats leaving the docks to take tourists out for a once-in-a-lifetime catch.

According to the fishers, if the ice machine were up and running today, although there is a salmon closure, there is still plenty of tuna, rock fish and black cod to keep everyone happy.

“Our harbor doesn’t have any close-in reefs,” explained Bud Saulsgiver, 77, who has commercially fished for 35 years. “That is why the ice is so important. We have to fish out at least to the (Heceta) banks about 30 miles or so from here, which comes to a four or five hour run.”

With fuel costs making it expensive to run in and out of port, and the need to anchor out in the fishing grounds, a dry hold (without ice) is a major inconvenience. Once caught, to maintain high quality, fish must be iced as soon as possible.

Port of Siuslaw Commissioner Bob Thorp said the machine is a “linch pin” for revitalization of the port.

He said ice will bring commercial and sport fishers and buyers to the area. With more tonnage crossing the Siuslaw River bar, dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will gain higher priority, as will the preservation of vital services, such as those provided by the U.S. Coast Guard. – Siuslaw News

Time to plan for coastal waters

The ocean is vast compared to the small piece considered as Oregon’s territorial sea, which extends from the state’s coastline to three nautical miles offshore. Suggestions for making use of those waters and beyond are growing exponentially: marine reserves, ocean observatories, wind energy farms, gas and oil drilling, open ocean aquaculture, and wave energy.

The possibilities are as seemingly endless as the ocean itself.

Now is the time to think big and think long-term, says Onno Husing, director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA), among others. “We have been given an historic opportunity,” Husing noted in the June 2008 edition of “Oregon Coastal Notes,” OCZMA’s newsletter.

“Local ocean resource planning groups have a window of time to develop spatially-explicit ocean plans to protect their interests. If you are a fisherman (recreational or commercial), get involved. Share your knowledge of the ocean. Few people know Oregon’s ocean like ocean users. This process will work only if you participate. If we don’t develop these plans, someone else will.”

“These plans” refers to Oregon’s Ocean Plan, which currently lacks comprehensive guidelines for the location and scale of wave energy development or marine reserves within the state’s territorial sea. OCZMA’s newsletter provides a special report on wave energy development off Oregon’s shores, but the process has taken many turns, and events unfold more quickly than a wind-driven wave rolling toward the shore.

“Wave energy development, coupled with calls for marine reserves, has created anxiety in coastal communities on the Oregon coast,” stated Husing.

Several wave energy projects varying in scope from a 10-buoy demonstration site off Reedsport to a mammoth 200-buoy commercial wave park off Coos Bay proposed in March by Ocean Power Technologies have folks worried about an economic tsunami and its potential consequences, good, bad, or indifferent.

But Husing and many others consider all of this “an enormous opportunity” to work together to develop a new Territorial Sea Management Plan for the Oregon coast, especially in the wake of a memorandum of understanding between the state and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that oversees wave energy projects, signed March 26.

In it, the two government entities recognize the need to coordinate state and federal regulatory activities pertaining to wave energy, and to delay commercial-scale projects until demonstration projects yield additional information. It also requires the state to prepare a comprehensive plan for wave energy development and siting in Oregon’s territorial sea. – Newport News-Times

(Find out more at  


Friday, August 1, 2008

Commercial fishermen protest Cook Inlet dipnetters

Many commercial drift net fishermen took to the water Monday to fish the Kasilof River terminal fishery. But John McCombs, Steve Vanek and Brenda Jackinsky stayed on dry land.

Armed with two big signs, "No escapement, no fishing, no dipping," and "Dipnetting should be closed for conservation," McCombs, Vanek and Jackinsky stood at the entrance to the Kenai City Dock protesting the continuing sport and dipnet fishery, despite a lagging sockeye salmon run to the Kenai River.

"We're protesting the fact that conservation isn't shared," said McCombs, a drift net commercial fisherman who's fished the Kenai River since 1976.

Commercial fishing for the Kenai River drift net fleet and east side setnetters was closed Monday because of the lagging salmon run, said Jeff Fox, commercial fisheries biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

It would take a significant increase in the number of fish returning to the Kenai to open the fishery.

According to Fox, 19,164 sockeye reached the sonar site about 19 miles upstream from the Kenai River mouth, bringing the season total to 378,000. More than 3 million sockeyes were expected to return to the Kenai River this year, but so far the season total is about 200,000 fish below the minimum in-season goal. Fox estimates that if 20,000 fish a day swim up the river it would take about 10 days to reach that goal.

"Every other run in the inlet is doing pretty well," he said, adding that even the Susitna River is nearing its escapement goal. "Every other goal in the inlet is being achieved, so this is a Kenai thing." – Peninsula Clarion, Kenai

Pesticides may harm salmon sense of smell

VANCOUVER -- Pesticides in B.C.'s rivers may be partly to blame for declining salmon stocks because the chemicals are screwing up the fish's delicate sense of smell, according to a new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University.

The ability to smell is vitally important for salmon, for everything from sensing predators in the water to being able to identify the proper stream to return to for spawning.

Scientists have known for some time that pesticides can damage a fish's olfactory system, but most studies looked at the impact of a single chemical in high concentrations.

So researchers at SFU, working with Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, decided to look at what impact a real-world mix of chemicals would have on the species.

First, they tested the water on a stretch of the Nicomekl River in south Surrey, finding a mixture of several different types of pesticides.

 Then, they recreated that mixture in the lab and exposed juvenile rainbow trout -- a salmon species also known as steelhead -- to the polluted water for 96 hours.

To test the fish's sense of smell, they exposed them to L-serine -- an amino acid given off by predators, like bears -- then used electrodes that measured activity in the fishes' olfactory neurons.

 What they found is that the mixture led to a 20 percent decline in the fish's sense of smell.

 "The bottom line is that, looking at concentrations similar to that in the river, they could not smell as well," said Keith Tierney, lead author of the study.

 Tierney, who is now at the University of Windsor, said it's hard to know what impact such a decline might have on fish behaviour -- for example, whether it's enough to impact salmon's ability to find their home stream -- but he said it's definitely cause for concern.

 "It alters something that's critically important to their life," he said.

 "They use it to differentiate their siblings from predators, for smelling food, for imprinting to their stream, for returning to that stream. ... I like to say a salmon that can't smell is dead."

Tierney said he's now working on trying to determine exactly what impact pesticide concentrations are having on salmon behaviour.

But he said he's confident it's having some kind of negative impact.

 "I would say, unequivocally, it's part of the problem. Pesticides are definitely affecting their behaviour," he said.

 "I don't think it's the whole reason why salmon are having problems right now. But it certainly looks like it's part of the reason."

Tierney's study appeared in this month's issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. -- Times Colonist, Victoria

Electronics help find albacore

State-of-the-art electronics have changed the face of tuna fishing as we know it today. With the GPS/SST cocktail, the good old days of tuna fishing are happening right now.
"Chart plotters on GPS units have really zeroed people in on staying with the fish once they find them," says Wayne Butler from Prowler Charters in Bandon. "It's a big ocean out there, and there's no land in sight in any direction, but you can always turn around and go right back over your tracks, staying in the area in your zone."

But what's really made all the difference in the world in finding albacore is a product called Terrafin (

Terrafin is software created by Jeff Gammon. His invention enables charter and recreational vessels to locate tuna the day before their albie-quest by using sea surface temperatures (SST) in combination with chlorophyll readings.

Chlorophyll determines the amount of plankton available in a certain area. More chlorophyll means higher readings, and greener water. The less chlorophyll with corresponding lower readings means blue water.

What Gammon found out was that ideal, 62-degree tuna water doesn't necessarily spell T-U-N-A. Gammon says one of the most common things people do is overrun tuna when they should be fishing the edge of the chlorophyll readings in 58 degree water, but only under certain circumstances, like those found on July 26.

"If I find 56- to 58-degree water, I'll start putting out my tuna clones," says Tim Coakley, who slew 31 albacore in the upper 50-degree water on Saturday. "But I'll only put out my gear if that 58-degree water has 62-degrees or higher water connected with it."

In other words, if 58-degree water has a cold-water edge on the other side, don't bother putting out your gear.

However, if that 58-degree water is adjoining 59-, 60-, 61- and 62-degree water, and even hotter, by all means put out your Zukers, Cedar Plugs and clones, especially if there is an edge where green water meets the blue water.

More often than not, the tuna found on the edges of green and blue water are larger specimens, like the ones Coakley, aboard the Olive Oil and Wood, who skippered the Sea Doc found on July 26.

"Where the green water meets the blue water is more likely to produce," says Gammon.
Gammon says it was the Northern California commercial crew that pushed him to find a correlation between chlorophyll readings and tuna.

"After about a year or two we found the chlorophyll charts to be like gold," noted Gammon, who said they are probably the most under-utilized of all the charts.

"They really show you where that blue water is," explained Gammon. "We also found that for the salmon, it was the reverse. You want to find the water with the highest chlorophyll concentration. So the salmon guys would look for yellows and oranges, which would be the most off-color, most nutrient-rich water."

But you should still look for 62-degree water. If it should happen to meet the edges of a chlorophyll break, get out the canner.

Other vessels running in the same group that also found tuna were the Blue Water, Dragon Bait and Hoppy.—Curry County (Ore.) Pilot

Wall Street Journal looks at Gov. Palin’s ‘Troopergate’

ANCHORAGE -- When Sarah Palin was elected governor as a Republican outsider in 2006, she didn't just take on an incumbent from her own party. She took on Alaska's Republican establishment.

Ms. Palin vowed to clean up a long-cozy political system that had been sullied by an FBI corruption investigation. She endeared herself to Alaskans by making good on her reform promises and showing homey touches, like driving herself to work.

Now, one of the bright new stars in the Republican Party has suddenly become tarnished. The state legislature voted to hire an independent investigator to see whether Ms. Palin abused her office by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as an Alaska state trooper.

"This is a governor who was almost impervious to error," says Hollis French, a Democratic state senator. "Now she could face impeachment, in a worst-case scenario."

The allegations against Ms. Palin are less serious than -- and entirely separate from -- those that have been leveled against a number of Alaska's most prominent politicians since 2006, when a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into influence peddling by oil-field contractor VECO Corp. came to light.

Since then, five state legislators have been sentenced to prison or face prosecution on corruption charges. On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens was indicted on criminal charges related to the case. Mr. Stevens says he is innocent.

This is the first real chink in the armor of Alaska's first woman governor, whose popularity soared above 80% as she enacted an ethics bill, shelved pork-barrel projects by fellow Republicans and jump-started a campaign by her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, to unseat veteran U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska. Mr. Young has fallen under the FBI probe, too. Mr. Young, who didn't return a call seeking comment, has previously declined to comment on the matter.

Ms. Palin has shown similar boldness in going after Big Oil, whose money has long dominated the state and helped fund its Republican machine. In a snub to the oil majors, she has proposed TransCanada Corp., a Calgary energy company, be given the primary contract to lead the $30 billion job to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope.

The state legislature is now meeting in special session to consider the TransCanada deal. The state's major producers, BP PLC and ConocoPhillips, have come up with their own pipeline proposal.

Although Alaska has only about 700,000 residents, the state contains some of the richest mineral resources in the world.

Ms. Palin -- a 44-year-old mother of five and former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 8,500), and winner of the Miss Wasilla pageant -- has gained national acclaim. She has been featured in a photo spread in Vogue. Some pundits have touted the antiabortion conservative as a potential running mate to Republican presidential contender John McCain.

A spokesman for the Arizona senator said he admires Ms. Palin but is still reviewing running mates.

"People see her as the symbol of purity in an atmosphere of corruption," says Anchorage pollster Marc Hellenthal. "She is almost Saint Sarah."

A native of Idaho who grew up in Alaska hunting and fishing, Ms. Palin made an early stand on ethics. In 2004, she resigned as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party to a seat on her commission while allowing him to keep his partisan post.

"Someone has to take a stand and change some things," Ms. Palin said in a June interview in her 17th-floor office in downtown Anchorage, whose decor includes a grizzly-bear skin.

When she ran against Mr. Murkowski in 2006, Ms. Palin says, she got a call from Ben Stevens, then president of the Republican-run Alaska Senate and son of Sen. Stevens.

"He told me, "You're not just running against Murkowski. You're running against me, my dad, the whole state Republican party,'" Ms. Palin said.

Ben Stevens, who remains under the FBI investigation, didn't return calls for comment.

Ms. Palin, whose husband, Todd Palin, is employed as an oil-field worker and fisherman, set an earthier style in office than her predecessors. She sold the jet Mr. Murkowski used to get around Alaska, relying instead on commercial airlines, her family's Volkswagen Jetta or a state-issued black Suburban. "I love to drive," she explained.

That penchant for independence -- and driving -- has occasionally caused problems. On June 18, she blamed her half-hour delay in arriving to a tourism-bill ceremony in Kenai on road construction.

"Todd kept reminding me to bite my tongue, saying, 'Good roads are comin'! Good roads are comin'!' "Ms. Palin said to laughter from a small crowd in a converted fish cannery.

Ms. Palin said afterward that she had ducked down to keep state troopers from seeing her as the family negotiated roadwork on the 160-mile drive from Anchorage to Kenai. "I knew they would wave me through," said Ms. Palin, as her husband, a four-time winner of Alaska's Tesoro Iron Dog snow-machine race, held their baby, Trig.

The controversy now surrounding Ms. Palin stems from a messy divorce between state trooper Mike Wooten and his wife, Molly McCann, who is Ms. Palin's younger sister.
In 2005, Ms. Palin alleged to Mr. Wooten's supervisors that he had threatened to harm her sister and father and had engaged in numerous instances of misconduct, including using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson, according to state documents.

In one instance, she told state investigators, she overheard him on the telephone threatening her sister: "I'm gonna f-kin" shoot your dad. He's gonna get a lead bullet."

Mr. Wooten told investigators he tested a Taser stun gun on the boy at his request but never threatened the Palins. An internal police investigation substantiated the stun-gun incident and some other charges but threw out most of the rest. Mr. Wooten was suspended for five days in 2006.

Through a spokesman with the Public Safety Employees Association, he declined to comment.

On July 11 of this year, Ms. Palin fired Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Mr. Monegan then complained that she and her husband had pressured him to fire Mr. Wooten.

Ms. Palin, in a statement, denied that, saying she had removed the commissioner she had appointed 18 months earlier because she wanted "a new direction."
She said she will cooperate with the legislative probe, which is expected to be completed by November.

Ms. Palin's supporters dismiss the so-called Troopergate incident as trouble stoked by her enemies.

"Many of those who had been in positions of power and authority have been very envious over the past year and a half, with Ms. Palin's great popularity," says Soldotna Mayor David Carey.