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Summary for August 4 - August 8, 2008:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Southeast troll fishery rebounding

Regional coho salmon catch rates dropped two weeks ago, most likely due to stormy weather, but rebounded last week to match the 20-year average. Though based on few landings so far, catch rates were above average in the northern inside, central outside area and central inside areas. Southern outside catch rates are improving, yet still below average. Northern outside catch rates are confidential, pending additional landings.

A second assessment of coho run strength will be made this week and a news release will be issued, announcing dates for the coho closure and second king salmon retention period, which will target approximately 28,000 kings. A closure can be expected to begin early the third week of August.

Coho size and price are above average and increasing, with an average weight of 6.7 pounds and an average price of $1.83 for last week. This year’s coho are often described as big, beautiful fish.

Trollers have harvested 59,600 king salmon, 280,200 coho salmon this summer. Effort appears to be similar to last summer, with 823 permits participating. – Alaska Department of Fish and Game


At least one Bristol Bay fisherman disappointed

Steve Fite expects he’ll return to Dillingham from his Yakima, Wash., home after next winter to fish for reds in Bristol Bay waters, but it won’t be for the money. He estimates his net haul last year was $8,800, and this year he thinks it will be less.

“This is my third season, and this is the worst year we’ve had,” Fite said. But fishing, he says, has got in his blood. That’s why he’ll return.

Tim Sands, fish biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said commercial fishermen have no reason to be too down on the season. This year’s harvest might seem meager in comparison to the record-setting seasons of recent years, but it’s nothing to shake a fish at.

“This was the seventh-largest harvest since 1893 for Nushagak,” Sands said. “But 2007 was the No. 2 harvest, and 2006 was No. 1, so compared to the last few years it was a lot less.”

But still, he said, it’s hard to beat No. 7 in 115 years.

The season came late this year. Typically the Fourth of July marks the height of the run, but this year things were barely getting started at that time. Cold weather was blamed for the tardy salmon, and Sands pointed to an inordinate number of storms to explain what some say was odd fish behavior.

“The impression I got was it ended precipitously,” Sands said. “The back shoulder of the run was a much steeper decline than normal. I think there were so many stormy days that pushed the fish through fast.”

Robert Lebovic, a commercial fisherman who winters in Asheville, N.C., said he’s been fishing for kings and reds here 27 years, and he can’t remember ever going home so early. He was among a few stragglers in the Dillingham boatyard on Tuesday, July 22, who hadn’t flown home yet.

Many of the fishermen had started migrating to their winter homes the previous week and weekend, and the last batch were generally headed out early in the week of Sunday, July 20. – Bristol Bay Times


Today is Coast Guard Day

Today is Coast Guard Day, which commemorates the 1790 beginnings of the U.S. Coast Guard as the Revenue Cutter Service.

As the celebration approached, the commanding officers of Air Station Kodiak and Integrated Support Command Kodiak agree that it has been a successful year for Coast Guard operations and they are optimistic about the near future.

“It’s been a great year, a busy and challenging year, and the future’s going to be bright,” Capt. Andy Berghorn of Air Station Kodiak said.

Berghorn cited the Alaska Ranger rescue in March and other rescue missions throughout the year as evidence of a successful period for the Coast Guard.

He also noted the ongoing Arctic Domain Awareness flights from Kodiak and an Arctic awareness deployment planned for Barrow in anticipation of the Coast Guard’s increasing role in the Arctic. – Kodiak Daily Mirror

B.C. looks at closed-containment fish farming

Giant tanks, looking as if they were spawned from a liaison between a hot tub and an ice-breaker, could be the answer to escapes of farmed salmon.

The provincial and federal governments want to explore closed containment tanks for salmon farms, but so far, research has failed to find any viable, cost-effective closed system.

As runs of wild salmon shrink, there are increasing fears that farms in critical wild salmon areas will push wild populations to extinction. Conservation groups say the escape this week of 30,000 Atlantic salmon from a Marine Harvest Canada farm north of Campbell River means more farm fish will be competing for food and habitat with wild fish.

"When I heard about it, the first thing that went through my mind was, 'They won't escape from our system,' " said Richard Buchanan of Agri-Marine, a Campbell River company heading a closed containment pilot project.

The company abandoned initial plans for aluminum tanks -- which had problems with anchoring and corrosion in salt water -- in favour of laminate tanks with foam-filled Fiberglas walls, Buchanan said.

"They combine strength and flotation, similar to ships in ice," he said.

The first of four floating tanks, secured to pilings, will be in place in Middle Bay in September, and the remaining tanks will be installed within six months, he said.
The four tanks, each measuring up to 30 metres across, will contain a total 400,000

The $8-million pilot project has received a $2.36-million grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a not-for-profit federal foundation; a matching grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco, which funds projects conserving wild salmon; and $200,000 from the provincially funded Coast Sustainability Trust.

Marine biologist Alexandra Morton, who has studied the effect of fish farms and sea lice on salmon in the Broughton Archipelago, believes the government must force salmon farmers to move to closed pens.

"They are the only farmers in the world that don't have to shovel manure. Do we really want to sacrifice our wild fish for one industry?" she said. – Nanaimo Daily News


Oregon narrowing sites for marine reserves

This summer, the state is asking Oregonians to recommend specific sites to be considered for marine reserves.

The state of Oregon is considering establishing marine reserves to aid in the research and management of ocean habitats and marine plants and animals. Reserves would be areas within Oregon's Territorial Sea (0-3 nautical miles from shore) protected from all extractive and development activities.

Residents are being asked to recommend up to nine areas to be further evaluated for their suitability as marine reserves.

Proposal packets, information resources (such as maps), and more detail about Oregon's process to develop marine reserves are available on the Oregon Marine Reserves website, – Newport News-Times


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Port wants to buy Fred Wahl shipyard

After nearly two hours of discussion and deliberation, including a 22-minute executive session, the Port of Toledo Board of Commissioners narrowly approved a motion to pursue a $3 million general obligation bond to fund the purchase of the Fred Wahl shipyard, plus some of the needed improvements.

Port Manager Bud Shoemake said the port -- in keeping with its mission “to develop, promote, and sustain” the area's economic base, and support the maritime industry -- is looking to retain the shipyard as a service and repair site for commercial and private shipping and boating needs.

 Wahl, 60, who said he has spent 45 years “crawling around in bilges and fixing boats,” has tried to sell the Toledo facility for some time now as part of scaling back his Oregon coast operations.

In February, Wahl announced he would simply shut down the satellite repair and haul-out site on the Yaquina River by the end of December. He plans to keep his main facility at Reedsport active for another five years or so, but wants to concentrate primarily on building new boats, with “a limited amount” of maintenance work for a few of his long-time customers, especially emergency repairs.

The property consists of 20 acres of land on four parcels, of which just 8.43 acres are “actually flat and usable,” said consultant John Nelson in outlining a conceptual yard development plan for the port commissioners. – Newport News-Times

Fishing ended on Fraser sockeye

This year's Fraser River sockeye salmon run has been drastically downgraded, ruling out any further sport or commercial fishing.

Only aboriginal fisheries for food, social or ceremonial purposes will still proceed and the bands that depend on salmon will get just a fraction of what they had been promised.

"It's a pretty somber mood," said Mike Lapointe, chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Commission. "I think we're ready to call the season to a halt."

The 2008 sockeye run was already expected to be low – just 2.9 million salmon were forecast versus more than 10 million in a good year.

Early returns looked promising, but the incoming salmon have suddenly dwindled.
The run size is now estimated at just 1.6 million.

Brief openings for commercial and sport fishing have been cut off.

Lapointe said there's no clear reason why the salmon have come in far below expectations, except that they returned unusually early.

The poor returns were concentrated heavily in the Chilko River run, a tributary that made up the bulk of the Fraser's expected summer-run sockeye.

Enough fish are expected to make it upriver to fully meet spawning requirements. But 94 native bands along the Fraser River and two dozen more on Vancouver Island – representing half B.C.'s aboriginal population – won't have as much salmon stockpiled for the winter.

It's a disaster for the more than 65,000 First Nations people in those communities, said Sto:lo fisheries advisor Ernie Crey.

"The numbers paint a picture of a lot of disappointment, hardship and heartbreak," he said.

The bands had been promised more than a million sockeye through the food fishery. – BC Local News

Brown slime coating nets in Strait of Georgia

A strange brown slime attributed to some kind of plankton bloom is coating nets on fishing grounds in the Strait of Georgia, which made it near-impossible for many local fishermen to get their share of this year's Fraser River sockeye salmon run.

Gillnet fishermen catch their quarry in long, floating curtains of monofilament that don't work if migrating fish can see them. If the brown stuff doesn't clear out in the weeks ahead, other salmon fisheries may also be affected.

Fishermen expect a certain amount of debris to accumulate on their nets, but this year is different. Fishers who set their nets during the opening that ended July 31 had little to show for their efforts.

There was no immediate information on what kind of organism is causing the problem. It is likely due to this year's unusual weather conditions, with late, heavy snowfall in the mountains feeding a steady runoff into local rivers, pumping nutrients into the sea.

The stuff could be heterosigma, a type of brown algae that can kill fish, especially those confined in net pens at salmon farms. During outbreaks in past years, heterosigma has been blamed for the loss of millions of dollars' worth of fish in the region's salmon farms.

But Rose Ann Cattolico, a heterosigma expert at the University of Washington, said the phenomenon fishermen were describing sounded more like a diatom bloom, since diatoms are more prone to stick to nets. – Bellingham Herald

Jellyfish winning race to survival

BARCELONA, Spain -- Burgeoning jellyfish populations in coastal waters around the world is proof oceans are being impacted by global warming and overfishing, Spanish experts say.

Many coastal waters in Spain, New York, Australia, Japan and Hawaii are filled with more jellyfish now than ever before, The New York Times reported.

"These jellyfish near shore are a message the sea is sending us saying, 'Look how badly you are treating me,'" said Dr. Josep-María Gili of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona, Spain.

Overfishing of predators such as tuna, sharks and swordfish has resulted in increased numbers of jellyfish, the Times said.

Scientists say because jellyfish survive best in damaged habitats, pollution and global warming are also contributing to their increase.

"Human-caused stresses, including global warming and overfishing, are encouraging jellyfish surpluses in many tourist destinations and productive fisheries," the U.S. National Science Foundation said. – UPI

Japanese fleet cuts back tuna fishing

About 230 Japanese vessels will stop fishing for periods totaling more than two months over the next two years.

Tuna stocks globally have fallen dramatically in recent years as more people opt to eat sushi and sashimi in an effort to be more healthy.

The suspension is expected to cut Japan's catch of tuna by 5 percent.

"The main reason for our suspension is sluggish fishing offshore," the co-operative said in its website.

The suspension will mean that almost two-thirds of Japan's longline tuna vessels will stay ashore for short periods at a time over the next two years.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says that in itself will not be enough to restore stock levels, but Japan says coordinating the action with similar bodies in China, South Korea and Taiwan will maximize its impact.

Japan has by far the largest tuna fleet in the world and the Japanese are the world's biggest consumers of fish.  – BBC

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Northwest pesticide-fish lawsuit settled

SEATTLE – A coalition of fishing and environmental groups have settled a lawsuit with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency charged with protecting threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

The settlement requires NMFS to examine the impacts that 37 pesticides commonly used in the Pacific Northwest and California have on the protected salmon and steelhead. NMFS must also design permanent measures to help pesticide users minimize the harmful effects of those pesticides.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that the 37 toxic pesticides at issue in the settlement may harm protected salmon and steelhead. Most of the pesticides have been detected in major salmon and steelhead rivers in the Pacific Northwest and California. Scientists have found that, even at low levels, toxic pesticides can harm salmon and steelhead by causing abnormal sexual development, impairing swimming ability, and reducing growth rates. – Press release

Pebble Mine developer has checkered record

A London-based mining company comprising half the partnership hoping to develop the Pebble site north of Iliamna has a poor track record when it comes to environment protection, worker safety and human rights, according to a study commissioned by a group opposed to the mine.

Anglo American PLC, which joined the Canadian corporation Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. in 2007 to form the Pebble Partnership, has a century-long long history of managing major mining operations, mostly in Africa, but also in other places including Ireland and the United States.

The report, "Anglo American's Track Record: Rhetoric or Reality," was written by corporate researcher Philip Mattera and commissioned by a group representing Native corporations, commercial fishing companies, sportsmen, conservation interests and businesses committed to the protection of the Bristol Bay watershed, as well as the Renewable Resources Coalition.

The study reports "a series of problems with regard to environmental protection, worker safety, community impacts and human rights" around the world. Among the specific examples of Anglo's problems included in the study were:

  • Sulfur dioxide emissions, numerous spills and accidental discharges at platinum operations in South Africa;
  • Acid runoff at a Zimbabwe mine owned by Anglo until 2003, polluting groundwater and the Yellow Jacket River;
  • During ownership by Anglo American subsidiary AngloGold, which began in 1998, a Nevada mine at Jerritt Canyon near Elko was determined by the EPA to be the single largest source of mercury air pollution in the United States;
  • School children near an Anglo-American zinc, lead and copper mine in South Africa have elevated levels of lead in their blood;
  • Bitter conflicts with subsistence communities and farmers in Ghana, South Africa and Mali, displacing villagers to make way for mining operations;
  • Polluted river sediments at Anglo zinc mining operations in Ireland led to fishing closures; and
  • The deaths of more than 220 mine workers at Anglo mining operations in the past five years.

To read the entire report, go to -- Kenai Peninsula Clarion

California boat arrested for fishing in marine reserve

A 58-foot fishing boat in the Carrington Point Marine Reserve off Santa Rosa Island has been apprehended for illegally catching 907 pounds of sardines and 89,831 pounds of market squid.

The fish sold for $31,450, which is being held by the California Department of Fish and Game Preservation Fund until legal proceedings have concluded.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin and California Department of Fish and Game terminated the voyage of the vessel on Friday and escorted the craft to Ventura Harbor.

A vessel is allowed transit through a marine reserve with catch on board, however, fishing gear is not supposed to be deployed in the water while moving through a state marine reserve, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

It is also unlawful to take marine species in a marine reserve for any purpose, including recreation or commercial fishing, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release. – Ventura County Star

Floods worry interior Alaska fishermen

FAIRBANKS -- Interior Alaska fisherman are worried that recent flooding will harm king salmon eggs deposited in rivers.

Female salmon dig holes called redds in gravel river bottoms to lay eggs before male fish fertilize them.

Virgil Umphenour, owner of Alaska Interior Fish Processors Inc. in Fairbanks, said eggs may be affected by flooding.

"If you have high water and super fast current, the eggs will just go down the river as she's laying them," Umphenour said.

State fisheries biologists do not know what effect flooding will have on king salmon spawning in the Chena and Salcha rivers. The flood coincided with the peak of spawning.
"Most times when we've had floods, they happened later on, after the fish were done spawning," said Dan Bergstrom, Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor for the Yukon River. "This year is different because it's right on top of when they should be spawning." – Juneau Empire

Bering Sea parcel off limits to bottom draggers

Nearly 180,000 square miles of the northern and western Bering Sea will be closed to bottom trawling starting on Aug. 25. The new regulation enacted by the National Marine Fisheries Service protects areas that have not previously been affected by the fishing method.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that bottom trawlers have negative impacts on seafloor habitats, destroying corals and sponges.

The new regulations will not affect the pollock fleet. Most blackfish and cod quotas are already filled in open fishing grounds, so the new regulations should not affect those fisheries either. – KIAL

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Salmon season for Unalaska

UNALASKA – Unalaska's commercial salmon season opened over the weekend with four fishing vessels seeking pinks in Unalaska and Makushin bays. The area has opened to commercial salmon fishing every year since the early 1980s, but Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist Forrest Bowers says it's not always fished.

"There's been about two roughly five year periods since 1982 when we haven't had a fishery," he explains. "And that wasn't necessarily because the fishery was closed, that's just because people didn't come out to the area to fish."

He says usually the purse seiners make the long trek to the region if fishing is slow elsewhere on the southern Alaska Peninsula.

Last year, the two vessels fishing in the area caught over 1 million pinks. The number of vessels peaked at 10 in 1994.

Future openings will depend on escapement into McLees Lake and aerial surveys.

"Once we reach escapement goals, the fishery will be open on nearly a continuous basis," Bowers says. "But typically with pink salmon, as the run diminishes or the fish move into the more near shore areas, the quality of the fish decreases."

This year, the boats will sell to Westward, Trident, and Peter Pan. – KIAL

Kenai River sockeye escapement low

KENAI RIVER -- For the second time in less than a week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has tightened restrictions on Kenai River's sport fishing waters.

The number of harvested red salmon will be reduced to one per day and one in possession starting at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, upstream of the sonar that counts salmon on Mile 19. The sonar is located approximately two river miles downstream of the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna.

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. As of Sunday, fewer than 500,000 had made it past the sonar, even with Fish and Game's reduction in commercial fishing. – Anchorage Daily News

Direct Marketing: Telling your story

Take a look at a press release from a family operation on the Oregon Coast.

Energy help one step closer for Alaskans

JUNEAU -- The Alaska House of Representatives late Tuesday passed a nearly $1 billion spending bill that includes funding for a potential $1,200 "resource rebate" for Alaskans plus preparations toward a natural gas pipeline.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which must act on it before the special legislative session ends tonight.

The bill that passed Tuesday night on a 34-3 vote is an appropriations bill and doesn't necessarily mean the $1,200 rebate is assured.

The full Legislature first will need to pass separate energy relief legislation that includes the rebate, and right now lawmakers in the House and Senate are far apart on their ideas for how to help Alaskans struggling with high fuel and other energy costs.

Some lawmakers don't support subsidies and a $1,200 rebate, the amount Gov. Sarah Palin originally proposed. During a hearing in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, Fairbanks Republican Rep. Mike Kelly called such aid "morphine and welfare payments."

Handouts don't build "self-reliance and character," Kelly said, they just let people sleep in and put off energy problems for another day. He argued the state ought to spend its money on projects such as the Susitna hydroelectric dam or a road to Nome. – Anchorage Daily News

Skeena sockeye numbers improving

Sockeye numbers in the Skeena River have been better than was feared earlier this summer, as the daily limit for sockeye salmon among North Coast sport anglers has increased.

The daily limit for sockeye increased to four fish per day in the mainstream waters of the Skeena River from the mouth upstream to the confluence with the Kispiox River. – Prince Rupert Daily News


Friday, August 8, 2008

35 Southeast seiners accept buyout

The consolidation trend continues in Alaska’s commercial fishing fleets.

The Highliner has confirmed that 35 permit holders in the Southeast Alaska purse seine salmon fishery have been selected for a buyout using nearly $2.9 million in federal grant funding.

The 35 permits represent 8.4 percent of the 415 permits eligible for the consolidation program. The average amount going to those selling out is $82,020.

A second, larger buyout for Southeast seiners might be conducted before next summer’s salmon season, said Rob Zuanich, a buyout organizer.

The goal of the buyout is to reduce the fleet’s size, strengthening the potential for profitable fishing among the remaining permit holders.

Here’s  a summary of the seiner buyout including the list of people surrendering their permits. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Last First Residency
Ancich, Jr. Peter CA
Anderson Norman WA
Babich Randall WA
Bozanich Tony WA
Burdett-Gross Jared AK
Buttle Teddy WA
Cresswell Bruce WA
Dontos Larry WA
Engblom Larry WA
Gilbert Daniel WA
Hanson Audrey WA
Hisaw Edmond WA
Hooper George WA
Jacobs Mary AK
Janovich Doris WA
Kjarstad Arnie WA
Krigbaum Gilbert L. WA
Koyle James WA
Lovrovich Pauline WA
Lovrovich Tom WA
Manos William CA
Maricich Roy WA
McVicker Lee Ann AK
Meiners Jr. Herman M. AK
Menten Erik WA
Quarterman Robert WA
Ranniger Royce AK
Riggs Darrell AK
Schonberg Paul WA
Stager Frederick AK
Stroup Rex WA
Vitalich Janet WA
Wartman Sharon WA
Wells Douglas WA


Farmed fish no better for you than a doughnut?

Fish has become a go-to staple for Canadians who want to have a healthy diet. So it may come as a surprise to learn that eating farmed tilapia, a widely consumed fish that has been steadily growing in popularity, may be no better than dining on bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts.

New U.S. research has found that farmed tilapia have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids - and surprisingly high levels of potentially detrimental omega-6 fatty acids.

It is a finding that could have serious implications for people who suffer from arthritis, asthma and other illnesses or allergies because the omega-6 fatty acids may cause inflammation, which can damage blood vessels and vital organ tissue, according to the findings, published in last month's Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered to be essential and must be obtained through diet because they can't be produced by the body.

But consuming too much omega-6 can contribute to cancer, asthma, depression and heart disease, among other ailments.

Excessive consumption of omega-6 is common in many Western diets, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

By contrast, omega-3 fatty acids are considered good for health because they help to lower the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also known as "bad" cholesterol, in the blood.

Tilapia, a lean white fish with a mild taste, is the second-most cultivated fish in the world, after carp, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. While China is the world's leading producer of tilapia, British Columbia and Nova Scotia also produce it on a commercial scale. The department said Toronto is North America's largest market for live tilapia, and the World Aquaculture Society predicts that production will rise steadily because of increased demand for the fish.

"For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice," according to the study, conducted by researchers from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

The study singled out tilapia raised on fish farms as having high levels of the potentially dangerous omega-6 fatty acids. Although researchers didn't compare farmed tilapia with wild tilapia, they noted significant discrepancies between farmed tilapia and other types of farmed fish.

For instance, they found that farmed tilapia contained less than half a gram of omega-3 fatty acids per 100 grams, while farmed salmon and trout had nearly three and four grams per 100 grams, respectively. At the same time, farmed tilapia contained significantly larger amounts of omega-6 acids -- higher than the levels found in doughnuts, pork bacon and hamburgers made with 80-per-cent lean ground beef. – Globe and Mail, Toronto

Tilapia escaping from Northwest fish farms

For whatever reason, it's a good year for tilapia in the Snake River.  Jason Arneson of Boise caught a new state record tilapia on Monday, breaking the previous record set in March.

Arneson's fish weighed 4.71 pounds, and measured 16 inches long with a girth of 16 inches. He caught it above Swan Falls Dam.

Tilapia are a non-native fish that are grown in commercial hatcheries near the Snake River, and some escape into the river.

Jeff Dillon, fish biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Nampa office, said F&G and Idaho Power biologists occasionally find tilapia in the Snake River when they're doing fish surveys.

Tilapia are a tropical fish that can survive in the Snake River near hot springs or other sources of warm water, but it's unlikely they could ever start a self-sustaining population in the river, Dillon said. Tilapia can't survive in water colder than 40 degrees, Dillon said. – Idaho Stateman

Managers should be smart when protecting loggerheads

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Efforts to reduce the number of loggerhead turtles killed as bycatch by commercial fisheries should focus on protecting those with the highest “reproductive values,” according to the authors of a newly published study.

This new holistic look at the ecology of sea turtles acknowledges not only the issue of protecting the species, the authors point out, but the importance of prioritizing research and management efforts to reduce the mortality rates that have the largest impact on the population. Those efforts can include gear modifications to reduce turtle mortality while maintaining productive fisheries.

The study was just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

“There are a lot of things that kill sea turtles and fisheries bycatch is just one of them,” said Selina Heppell, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study. “Different fisheries catch different sizes and numbers of turtles, so they have different impacts. Instead of harping on a particular fishery at a particular time, it is important to look at the issue of population declines more holistically and figure out the best ways of protecting the species, not just the individuals.”

Loggerhead turtles are hard-shelled, slow-growing sea turtles found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. The Pacific populations originate from nesting beaches on Japanese islands, and travel across the ocean to feed off Baja. They rarely range far to the north because of the cold water, though one turtle was found off Oregon last November and died despite efforts to resuscitate it.

 Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the loggerhead turtle faces threats from the loss of nesting habitat as well as bycatch. The building of new seawalls in Japan, to protect against encroachment from rising sea levels, has resulted in significant beach erosion that has destroyed prime nesting grounds for Pacific populations, Heppell pointed out.

The biggest contributor to juvenile and adult mortality, however, is from incidental bycatch by commercial fisheries. Turtles get tangled up in drift and trawl nets and are trapped underwater, where they drown. Other fishing methods also catch a lot of turtles but can be less lethal, the authors say, such as long lines with hooks that allow turtles to swim to the surface and breathe.

“The use of circle hooks by fishermen has decreased the mortality as well,” Heppell said, “because the turtles tend to get hooked in the mouth instead of the gut so when they’re hauled on board, they don’t get ripped up. A lot of fishing boats in the U.S. and Canada are carrying shank cutters to cut the circle hooks so the turtles can be released more easily back into the water.

“We’re trying to get the use of ‘J-hooks’ discontinued because when they’re swallowed they’re much more likely to be fatal,” she added. “But circle hooks are not a panacea – they can get stuck in the roof of the mouth and the turtles can be stressed – but they seem to be helping and mortality is down.”

What the authors really advocate for turtles and other long-lived species is more effort aimed at protecting individuals that have the highest reproductive values – adult breeders and sub-adults that are approaching maturity. Reproductive value provides a “currency” to compare the impacts of fisheries that catch turtles of different ages, Heppell pointed out. For example, protecting 100 adult females of breeding age or 100 large juveniles that are nearly mature is more important than protecting 100 small juveniles that only have a one in 30 chance of surviving until breeding age.

Loggerheads grow slowly and don’t reach maturity until roughly 25 years of age – so the loss of breeding-age adults to bycatch is particularly damaging. Analysis of where these breeding adults feed and migrate is critical to reducing the spatial overlap between the turtles and the fishing fleets that may be in those areas.

The authors’ research suggests that more loggerheads with high reproductive values were caught in trawl gear than in long lines – a probable reflection of the overlap between those fisheries operations and the habitat use by the turtles.

“If we can establish where the animals with the highest reproductive values are and limit their interaction with gill and drift nets, while continuing to reduce lethal interactions with long-lines, trawls and other gear, we may be able to find effective compromises,” Heppell said. “It would be nice to save all of the turtles. But we also need to have sustainable fisheries. – Oregon State University

New cold storage opens in Westport

A grand opening ceremony gave the public its first look at a 95,000-square-foot cold storage facility built by Ocean Cold, a subsidiary of Ocean Gold Seafoods, on Firecracker Point in the Marina district in Westport, Wash.

The facility will allow commercial fishermen to time the sale of their catch to the most beneficial market conditions instead of sales being dictated by the rush to get fresh product on the market, or by the capacity of fish processing plants. The new plant will freeze and store seafood products that will be shipped all over the world.

Crab, whiting, sardines and groundfish will make up the majority of the products in the facility. Other products will include tuna and a small amount of Alaskan salmon and halibut.
The $9 million facility is being financed with industrial revenue bonds issued by the Washington Economic Development Finance Authority and underwritten by Wells Fargo Bank. No governmental funds were used, but the bonds carry a lower interest rate. – The Daily World, Aberdeen