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Summary for August 25 - August 29, 2008:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weak runs in Kodiak and Southeast

Here’s a summary of reports from ADF&G.

KODIAK: Pink salmon harvests appear to be weaker than average. The cumulative pink salmon harvest to date is below the recent 10-year average and is tracking under the 2008 forecast. Chum salmon returns appear to be strong with daily harvest tracking above the recent 10-year average. Overall, sockeye is down, but meeting preseason estimates in some districts:

SOUTHEAST TROLL: In the final opening of the summer Chinook season, trollers reported moderate success. Dock price was about $6.25, or 79 percent over last year. The coho harvest was lower than last year, with the dock price at $2.12.

SOUTHEAST PINKS: Cumulative harvest of pink salmon through Aug. 19 was 9.4 million. Escapements have been highly variable between districts. NMFS had forecast a harvest of 16.1 million. “It is doubtful that the forecast levels for this season will be reached, and recently available pink sex ratios indicate a declining run. This year’s harvest may be compared with the 2006 seine harvest of 10.1 million which was the lowest since harvests of 7.0 million in 1987 and 8.8 million in 1988. The most recent 10-year average harvest (1998-2007) has been 43.3 million.”

We scoop the New York Times

Editor’s note: It is with no small gloating that we bring you the article below. It appeared in the New York Times on Friday, Aug. 22. The issue of Pacific Fishing with the girls’ report was mailed a week earlier.

Many New York sushi restaurants and seafood markets are playing a game of bait and switch, say two high school students turned high-tech sleuths.

In a tale of teenagers, sushi and science, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, who graduated this year from the Trinity School in Manhattan, took on a freelance science project in which they checked 60 samples of seafood using a simplified genetic fingerprinting technique to see whether the fish New Yorkers buy is what they think they are getting.

They found that one-fourth of the fish samples with identifiable DNA were mislabeled. A piece of sushi sold as the luxury treat white tuna turned out to be Mozambique tilapia, a much cheaper fish that is often raised by farming. Roe supposedly from flying fish was actually from smelt. Seven of nine samples that were called red snapper were mislabeled, and they turned out to be anything from Atlantic cod to Acadian redfish, an endangered species.

What may be most impressive about the experiment is the ease with which the students accomplished it.  Although the testing technique is at the forefront of research, the fact that anyone can take advantage of it by sending samples off to a laboratory meant the kind of investigative tools once restricted to Ph.D.’s and crime labs can move into the hands of curious diners and amateur scientists everywhere.

The project began, appropriately, over dinner about a year ago. Ms. Stoeckle’s father, Mark, is a scientist and early proponent of the use of DNA bar coding, a technique that greatly simplifies the process of identifying species. Instead of sequencing the entire genome, bar coders — who have been developing their field only since 2003 — examine a single gene. Dr. Stoeckle’s specialty is birds, and he admits that he tends to talk shop at the dinner table.

One evening at a sushi restaurant, Ms. Stoeckle recalled asking her father, “Could you bar code sushi?”

Dr. Stoeckle replied, “Yeah, I think you could — and if you did that, I think you’d be the first ones.”

Ms. Stoeckle, who is now 19, was intrigued. She enlisted Ms. Strauss, who is now 18.

Their field technique was simple, Ms. Stoeckle said. “We ate a lot of sushi.”

Or, as Dr. Stoeckle put it, “It involved shopping and eating, in which they were already fluent.”
They hit 4 restaurants and 10 grocery stores in Manhattan. Once the samples were home, whether in doggie bags or shopping bags, they cut away a small piece and preserved it in alcohol. They sent those off to the University of Guelph in Ontario, where the Barcode of Life Database project began.

A graduate student there, Eugene Wong, works on the Fish Barcode of Life (dubbed, inevitably, Fish-BOL) and agreed to do the genetic analysis. He compared the teenagers’ samples with the global library of 30,562 bar codes representing nearly 5,500 fish species. (Commercial labs will also perform the analysis for a fee.)
Three hundred dollars’ worth of meals later, the young researchers had their data back from Guelph: 2 of the 4 restaurants and 6 of the 10 grocery stores had sold mislabeled fish.

Dr. Stoeckle said he was excited to see a technology used in a new way. “The smaller and cheaper you make something,” he said, “the more uses it has.” He compared bar coding to another high-tech wonder turned everyday gadget, GPS.

Eventually, he predicted, the process will become more automatic, cheaper and smaller so that a handheld device could perform a quick analysis and connect to the database remotely. What his daughter did, he said, is like dropping film off at the supermarket for developing. The next generation could be more like a digital camera that displays the results on the spot.

The results of Ms. Strauss and Ms. Stoeckle’s research are being published in Pacific Fishing magazine, a publication for commercial fishermen. The sample size is too small to serve as an indictment of all New York fishmongers and restaurateurs, but the results are unlikely to be a mere statistical fluke.

The experiment does serve as a general caveat emptor for fish lovers, particularly because the students, their parents and their academic mentor all declined to give the names of the vendors, citing fear of lawsuits. Besides, they noted, mislabeling could occur at any stage of the process. – New York Times

Increased use of frozen fish promoted by restaurants, vendors

In this era of globalization, restaurant menus from New York to San Francisco boast fresh fish with distant origins: blackfin tuna from Tobago, mahi-mahi from Hawaii and black grouper from the Bahamas.

But a group of chefs and food service vendors, aware that such jet-setting comes at a heavy environmental cost, is promoting a radical shift in practice: Increase the amount of fish that is frozen at sea so it can be transported by ship or truck instead.

Culinary leaders who care about reducing greenhouse gases linked to global warming need ''to get people to understand that frozen is fresher than raw'' most of the time, according to Food Network host Alton Brown. ''What we need is more trains,'' he added. ``There needs to be a fish train.''

Brown is making a serious point: Bon Appetit Management, which operates 400 cafes nationwide, estimates that shipping seafood by air generates 10 times as much greenhouse gas as transferring it by container ship and five times as much as shipping by truck.

''If it's frozen at sea and handled right, properly, we can live with it. There's not a difference,'' said the company's chief executive, Fedele Bauccio, addressing a crowd at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions 2008 sustainable-foods conference in May. ``We have to get consumers behind us, to make a difference in what we eat.''

Transporting what we eat accounts for 80 percent of the U.S. food system's greenhouse gas emissions, according to scientific studies, and the average American's eating habits account for 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, compared with the 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide the same person generates by driving.

Traditionally, frozen-at-sea products have served the commodity market. Producers who operate floating factories have caught, processed and frozen such species as pollock to make fish sticks and other inexpensive items.

But with technological advances, high-end frozen products, either processed on a boat or frozen on the dock within a few hours of being caught, are making their way onto menus at white-tablecloth restaurants. – Miami Herald

Central Coast groundfish fishery experiments with ways to boost catch

The stern of the commercial fishing boat Morning Light moored in Morro Bay is stacked with gleaming galvanized metal tubs laden with fishing lines and hooks. Fisherman Bill Blue is busy getting the boat ready for a day of fishing for black cod and thornyheads in the deep waters off the Central Coast.

The Morning Light is one of three Morro Bay commercial fishing boats that have taken to the water in recent weeks as part of an innovative community-based fisheries management program. The fishermen are using a new fishing permit issued by federal fisheries regulators that allows them to experiment with traps and hooks and line to catch bottom-dwelling species that have historically been caught by trawlers.

Obtaining the exempted fishing permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service is part of a cooperative effort by fishermen, harbor officials and environmentalists to rebuild the Central Coast’s commercial fishing fleet using less-disruptive harvest methods than those traditionally used.

The area’s commercial fishing fleet has been nearly destroyed in recent years by closures and ever-increasing regulations intended to protect a handful of deep-dwelling fish species, which are considered to be depleted.

“I’m willing to try something new and hope it works,” Blue said. “We’ve been fighting a losing battle for the past 10 to 15 years.”
If successful, the model could be adopted by fishing communities in other parts of the country, said Rod Fujita, a scientist with Environmental Defense, one of the environmental groups involved in the effort.

“It will provide the Pacific Fisheries Management Council with the real on-the-water experience they will need to develop new ways to fix the long-suffering West Coast groundfish fishery,” he said.

When Blue takes to the sea over the weekend, he will string lines of thousands of baited hooks along the ocean floor. He is mainly targeting black cod. Long-lining for black cod has some distinct environmental advantages over the traditional method of trawling. But long-lining also has some economic disadvantages that have, until now, made it unattractive, Blue said.

One of the goals of the cooperative fishing program is to experiment with ways to make long lines and traps more economical while preserving their environmental advantages.

“This will help secure what remains of California’s fishing heritage and working harbors, promote a variety of improved fishing methods and ensure supplies of sustainably harvested seafood for consumers,” said Rick Algert, Morro Bay’s harbor director.
 -- San Luis Obispo Tribune

Plastics might cause lobster deaths

A Woods Hole scientist believes he may have found a key culprit behind a mysterious disease linked to a dramatic drop in lobster populations from Buzzards Bay to Long Island.

In research conducted this summer, Hans Laufer found that common man-made chemicals used in plastics, detergents and cosmetics had infiltrated the blood and tissue of lobsters, making them more vulnerable to a particularly virulent strain of shell disease.

"We need to use less plastic," warned Laufer, a molecular and cellular biology professor at the University of Connecticut who has been a researcher at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory for more than two decades.

In 2001, Laufer was one of many scientists investigating the mysterious die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound, when he noticed high concentrations of man-made chemicals, known as alkyphenols, in the blood and tissues of lobsters afflicted with lobster shell disease.

The disease causes gross deformation of the lobster's protective shell, and it can interfere with growth and reproduction. In the worst cases, the shell is so badly pitted it prevents the lobster from molting, resulting in death.

"It looks like the shell has been eroded away by acid," said Robert Glenn, a state Division of Marine Fisheries senior biologist and director of the state's lobster program. Glenn said more research needs to be done to pinpoint the cause of the problem. "We don't have enough of a handle on the mechanism causing the disease," he said.

First seen in Long Island Sound in the mid-1990s, the shell disease quickly spread up the coast into Southern New England and corresponded with a steep drop-off in the lobster harvest.

Alkylphenols are found in a wide variety of products including many cosmetics, detergents and plastics.
The chemicals are classed as endocrine disrupters: agents that mimic or interfere with the work of hormones. In low-oxygen environments such as heavy sediments or underwater, alkylphenols degrade very slowly. The chemicals enter the ocean through wastewater and septic system effluent, as well as road run-off.

In his research at MBL, Laufer used radioactive alkylphenol molecules to track the chemicals in lobster tissue. He found alkylphenols were blocking a critical amino acid derivative that hardens lobster shell.
Scientists believe bacteria may be responsible for the shell disease. But the lobster can molt to shed a defective shell, and Laufer believes the alkyphenols inhibit a new shell from hardening, leaving affected lobsters vulnerable to bacteria and other opportunistic diseases and predators.

Glenn agrees that alkylphenols "have some relationship to the shell disease puzzle," but he is skeptical Laufer has found the main cause of the lobster disease. He questioned why Boston Harbor, for example, shows little incidence of shell disease, while the pristine Elizabeth Islands have a relatively high rate of the illness. – Cape Cod Times

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American Seafoods out of farmed catfish business

Seattle-based American Seafoods has sold off Southern Pride Catfish, its Alabama-based catfish processing subsidiary, company spokesman Jan Jacobs said.

The buyer is Heartland Catfish of Itta Bena, Miss. No sale price was disclosed. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it fell short of the $41.8 million in cash American Seafoods paid in 2002 for Southern Pride, described as the largest U.S. catfish processor.

My impression was that the foray into Deep South fish was a misadventure for a company more at home in the Far North. American's main business is catching and processing Bering Sea pollock, a white fish used for products such as fish sticks and imitation crab.

The catfish industry is struggling these days. Fish farmers are letting many of their growing ponds go fallow due to low prices, high feed and energy costs, competition from imported catfish and declining U.S. consumption. Consolidation among catfish processors is expected.

On top of this, American Seafoods faced occasional labor flare-ups in the Southern Pride processing plants. So, American bailed out of catfish this month, just as it expanded its Bering Sea operations with the purchase of a rival fishing ship, the Highland Light.

A major owner of American Seafoods is Anchorage-based Coastal Villages Region Fund, one of the state's six Community Development Quota companies. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News.

Pampered cats may be contributing to overfishing, scientist says

Cat owners who feed their pets with fish are contributing to overfishing, which is threatening fish stocks worldwide, a scientist at an Australian university said.
Dr Giovanni Turchini of Deakin University said the global cat food industry consumes 2.48 million metric tons of forage fish -- small, rapidly breeding fish that are eaten by larger fish -- each year.
"In Australia, pet cats are eating an estimated 13.7 kilograms of fish a year, which far exceeds the Australian [human] average per capita fish and seafood consumption of around 11 kilograms," Dr Turchini said.
He said the pet food industry is increasingly marketing luxury food products containing "a significant amount of fish that may be suitable for direct human consumption."
"Our pets seem to be eating better than their owners," he said. – Russian News & Information Agency

Bush proposes marine reserves in Pacific

President Bush signaled his intention to protect some of the Pacific Ocean's most remote and unspoiled islands, atolls and coral reefs from fishing and deep-sea mining.

In a memo to three Cabinet secretaries, the president asked for a plan that would protect parts of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on the planet, as well as waters around Rose Atoll in American Samoa and various islands and reefs in the central Pacific that are under U.S. jurisdiction.

The proposal, expected to be finalized before Bush leaves office, could establish marine sanctuaries or national monuments extending as far as 200 miles from each island or emergent reef that breaks the surface of the water.
The memo lays out several legal alternatives for extending federal protections, including the Antiquities Act, which the Bush administration employed several years ago to establish the world's largest protected marine area -- a swath that encircles the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  

The memo sets a preliminary deadline of Sept. 5 for the evaluations, indicating that the administration wants to move fast. – Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Partial settlement reached in Exxon Valdez case

Lawyers in the epic Exxon Valdez court case have negotiated a settlement to pay out most of the $507.5 million the U.S. Supreme Court awarded in June, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs confirmed.

Under the deal, Exxon will release about $383 million for distribution to the nearly 33,000 commercial fishermen and others who sued Exxon after the disastrous 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and Exxon will continue to battle over another $70 million, as well as potential interest of $488 million on the Supreme Court judgment. Exxon has argued the interest isn't owed.

The oil titan will in effect pay itself $54 million -- the largest single payout -- under terms of a side settlement the company made in 1991 with seven Seattle-based fish-processing companies who formerly were plaintiffs.

David Oesting of Anchorage, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said he and Los Angeles-based lawyers for Exxon negotiated the settlement over the past couple of weeks.

The deal, at least in part, will nip further fighting in court, and the fishermen and other plaintiffs could see checks beginning in early October, Oesting said.

A final payout schedule could be finalized this week, he said. – The Highliner, Anchorage Daily News

Alaska Clean Water Initiative defeated

In a closely fought Alaska race, a petition initiative intended to increase protections for clean water and streams where salmon live was easily defeated. Known as Ballot Measure 4, the initiative was largely aimed at fighting the development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a vast deposit of copper and gold that is near the headwaters of Bristol Bay, one of the Pacific Ocean's most productive runs of salmon.

The Measure 4 campaign became one of the most expensive in state history, with more than $10 million spent overall. Opponents, led by the mining industry, had raised more than twice as much as supporters in the final week of the campaign.

The defeat of the measure does not ensure that the mine will be developed. It still must receive multiple state permits. The New York Times

Pacific sardines continue to gain interest

VICTORIA - Tonnes of slippery, silvery sardines are being netted from the waters off Vancouver Island as a fishery once deemed dead is being resurrected and once again providing jobs.

"There's a pretty solid interest in Pacific sardines," says Mickey Flanagan, chief executive of Keltic Seafoods in Port Hardy, where workers are sorting the fish by size to pack and ship them to global markets.
"It has some great promise."

This year's seine fishery started two weeks ago, and Flanagan hopes it will last into October, possibly early November. Workers at all four Port Hardy docks are busy with sardines, also called pilchards, Flanagan said.

At Keltic, 45 workers are dedicated to sardines being caught off northern Vancouver Island. The fish are packed into brine at the company's cold-storage plant. At other locations, the sardines are shipped south to the Lower Mainland because there is limited cold storage available on the North Island.

Since B.C.'s coastal fisheries were rocked by the decline in salmon, communities have sought alternative species to help bolster their economies.

This year's quota for Pacific sardines, or sardinops sagax, is 12,491 tonnes, with half the allowed catch designated to First Nations for communal commercial fisheries, and the other half to individual commercial licenses.

This is Keltic's first year processing sardines. The fish are considered crucial to the survival of the processing plant, which has relied on its versatility to survive when other plants along the coast were forced to close.

When the previous owner, Maple Leaf Foods International, decided to shut down the plant in 1999, a group of local business people bought the operation a year later. It has been running ever since, processing salmon, halibut, groundfish and shellfish, as well as providing custom services such as cutting, ice and storage.

Pacific sardines migrate into B.C. waters from California. The commercial fishery dates back to the early part of the century. In 1917-1918, the B.C. fishery stood at 70 tonnes, but quickly grew to reach 44,000 tonnes by 1926-1927. Heavy fishing continued until the 1940s, when stocks collapsed and sardines virtually disappeared from Canadian waters.

Overfishing plus unfavourable environmental conditions are blamed for the crash, said Fisheries and Oceans Canada in a recent stock status report.

The species has since rebounded and was calculated at 800,000 tonnes in 2007, rivalling numbers of a century ago, according to the federal fisheries' 2008-2009 integrated management plan. About 10 per cent of that stock is expected to migrate into Canadian waters.

After sardines started showing up in Canadian waters again, limited fisheries were introduced in 1996.
Now it is hoped that the small fish can again play a role in B.C.'s economy.

"It is anticipated that Pacific sardine stock size and production will be sufficient to support a moderate fishery in B.C. over the short and medium term," the management plan states. – The Vancouver Sun

California Senate votes to improve safety of crab fishery

SACRAMENTO – By a vote of 27-8, the California Senate gave final approval last week to a measure by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to improve safety conditions and protect resources in Northern California crab fisheries.

The measure, SB 1690, sets a groundbreaking precedent in fisheries management by giving authority to commercial crab fishermen to develop solutions to problems in the industry that stem from increasing competition for crab.

“California has some of the most robust crab fisheries in the world,” Wiggins said “But looming pressures, such as declining salmon runs, are increasing competition for this valuable resource. This competition also results in unsafe conditions on the ocean and puts fishermen at risk.

“I believe the fishermen know best how to solve problems in their industry,” Wiggins added. “My bill asks them to work together to tell policymakers how to fix problems, in order to keep the fisheries safe and sustainable for future generations of fishermen and their families.”

SB 1690 sets up a Crab Task Force comprised of fishermen from California’s eight crab ports, commercial processors, sport-fishing and tour boat representatives, the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and sustainable fishery groups.

The task force is charged with meeting over the course of two years to develop recommendations for management policies that will improve safety and sustainability in California’s crab fisheries. The recommendations will be submitted by January, 2011 to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, DFG and the Fish and Game Commission.

Wiggins’ measure was sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund, which brought together fishermen throughout the North Coast and led a series of discussions on how to craft a fair and representative process to develop policy recommendations,

The bill is supported by a wide range of crab fishermen and others in the industry, including the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, California Fisheries and Seafood Institute and Coastal Fishboat Owners Alliance. – Lake County News


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Abundance of krill off California coast a good sign

After three lean years, the ocean off California's coast this summer is suddenly rich in nutrients, and creatures - from microscopic krill to humpback whales - are thriving anew.

But whether this abundance will continue in coming seasons or is merely a bright blip in an otherwise discouraging picture year-after-year can't be predicted, say scientists monitoring the sea's productivity. The cycles of life in the Earth's warming climate are changing.

For the time being, many species of sea birds, fish and marine mammals are flourishing, and the reason lies largely in an unexpected change in two features of the ocean: The California current, flowing down the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico, is colder than it has been in years, and strong northwest winds have increased the upwelling of cold water from just above the sea floor to the surface.

"Cold is good, and when it comes to the ocean ecosystem, the colder that upwelling gets, the better it is for all the animals in the food chain," said Steven Ramp, an oceanographer at the Monterey Aquarium Research Institute at Moss Landing.

Others agree.

"This year there's been a striking resurgence of krill in the waters off Monterey Bay, particularly for one species that has really made a comeback from the past three years," said Baldo Marinovic, a research biologist at UC Santa Cruz who specializes in the life cycles and abundance of krill, a major food source for whales, some seabirds and many species of seals.

"Sea surface temperatures that we monitor have been the coldest since the late 1980s, and that translates all the way up the food chain," he said.

The upwelling of cold water began in March all along the coast, said Bill Peterson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore., a science agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It's bringing more and more food up into levels of the ocean where fish can feed better than they have in years," Peterson said. – San Francisco Chronicle

Making money by catching less

How can a fisherman make more money? By catching fewer fish.

That happy lesson is well known in the waters of Australia, as I discovered when I visited the lobster and tuna fisheries there for a New York Times Magazine. But now there’s even better news, for both fish and fishermen, in an Australian study published in Science.

It turns out that profit-seeking fishermen should want to catch even fewer fish than the “sustainable” number calculated by biologists, because leaving more fish in the ocean leads to bigger populations that make for easier and more lucrative fishing in the long run.

Marine biologists have been trying, without much luck in many places, to limit the annual fish harvest so that the fish population reaches a size that produces the maximum possible yield year after year. But what if, instead of trying to maximimize the number of fish that could be caught, fishermen tried to maximize their profits? What would be the size of the fish population with the maximum economic yield over the long run?

Here’s the answer and what it means, as explained to me by the lead author of the Science paper, R. Quentin Grafton of the Australian National University:

“The key result is that we find that for very different species (including very long-lived and slow growing species like orange roughy) that the biomass that maximises the discounted economic profits of fishers (BMEY) is larger than the biomass that maximises the sustained yield (BMSY). Although this has been known to be a theoretical possibility we show that it likely holds for many, if not most, fisheries at reasonable discount rates, prices and costs (indeed our result holds at very high discount rates for three of the four fisheries we study).

“The result implies that current fisheries management objective of moving fisheries to BMSY is not ‘conservative’ enough and, more importantly, allowing for larger stocks (larger than BMSY) is good (raises fisher profits), results in more fish in the sea and also more resilient marine ecosystems. In other words, it’s truly a ‘win-win’ outcome.”

Dr. Grafton says the increased profits also offer a way to deal with the political problems of getting fishermen to forgo immediate profits in order to make more money tomorrow. He suggests that a government could compensate fishermen for their short-term losses, and then recoup the money by taxing the extra profits in the future.

“Such a scheme,” he said, “coupled with individual harvesting rights that gives an assurance to those fishers incurring the transition costs that they will also be the beneficiaries of larger stocks and higher profits, will go a long way to overcoming fishers’ objections to lower harvest today.” – John Teirney, writing a blog for the New York Times.

Sockeye salmon make substantial return to Idaho

STANLEY, Idaho — More than 500 endangered sockeye salmon have arrived at a central Idaho fish hatchery, the most in more than two decades.

The arrival of the sockeye, listed as endangered under federal law in 1991, has started to slow in recent weeks, but state fish biologists said 507 arrived at fish traps near the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery near Stanley as of this week.

To reach central Idaho, the sockeye travel about 900 river miles, gain 6,500 feet in elevation and pass eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Biologists said the returning fish are from 180,000 smolts released in the valley's lakes in 2006 for the journey down the Salmon, Snake and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the returning fish were artificially spawned at the Eagle Fish Hatchery in southwestern Idaho as part of a program to help boost the sockeye returns.

As many as 35,000 sockeye once returned naturally to spawn in Redfish, Pettit, Alturas and other lakes around the Sawtooth Mountains, but the numbers have dwindled severely, a trend groups including Idaho Rivers United blame mostly on four dams along the lower Snake River in Eastern Washington.
Between 1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye returned to central Idaho.

After 257 sockeye returned in 2000, the numbers fell to single digits in the last five years. – Seattle Times

Ballot Measure 4 backers regroup in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Luki Akelkok thinks he knows why Alaska voters failed to pass the Clean Water Initiative in Tuesday's statewide primary.

"Money talks and everyone got brainwashed," said the 71-year-old lifelong resident of Bristol Bay. "I knew it was going to fail because people got bought off."

One day after voters failed to pass Ballot Measure 4, initiative supporters were regrouping, trying to come up with strategy for fighting the mining industry and the Pebble Mine, a huge copper and gold deposit in Southwest Alaska near the world's most productive wild salmon streams.

With nearly all the vote counted Wednesday, Ballot Measure 4 failed with more than 57 percent of voters opposed.

Members of Alaskans for Clean Water, the Bristol Bay Alliance and the Renewable Resources Coalition said at the very least the fight over Ballot Measure 4 helped put the issue of Pebble before the public. – Kodiak Daily Mirror

XTRATUF boots: High fashion in the Pacific Northwest

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho looks at boot colors when he travels. Most boots he sees in eastern Russia, for example, are black. But when he sees the "clay red" color of XTRATUFs, he knows he's back in Southeast Alaska. Take a walk on the docks, trails or downtown streets and you'll see people of all ages and walks of life sporting identical footwear.

B.F. Goodrich first commissioned Norcross Safety Products to manufacture the XTRATUF in a factory in Rock Island, Illinois in the 1950s. Norcross bought the brand from Goodrich in 1985. This May, Honeywell Safety Products acquired Norcross and the XTRATUF brand.

The boot was originally designed for commercial fisherman. The Chevron outsole is slip-resistant on boat decks, and the neoprene lining keeps fish oils from penetrating through the rubber.

"Regular everyday rubber does not have very good resistance to fish oils," said Arlen Stensrud, Vice President of Marketing for Norcross. "Neoprene holds up very well to all of that nasty stuff. In the fish processing world, it was a very popular product."

Stensrud estimates that Norcross manufactures around 100,000 pairs a year, at least a third of which end up in Alaska. Xtratufs are also sold in Washington, Oregon and a few places in California, but that's it.

"The only other people that I run into in other parts of the country who have experience with XTRATUF are people who have visited Alaska," Stensrud said.

The brand loyalty to XTRATUFs keeps the boots competitive in a market full of inexpensive rubber boots from overseas.  

To explain how this loyalty could have developed, Stensrud referred to Malcolm Gladwell's book, "The Tipping Point," in which consumer trends are compared to epidemics. The XTRATUF craze first infected the commercial fishing industry, then spread to land.

"The origin of the boot is in commercial fishing," Stensrud said. "It gravitated then to the everyday costumer because it's a waterproof product (and) easy to wear. It became, quite by accident, a consumer product." 

But you'd have a hard time finding an Atlantic fisherman in 'tufs.

XTRATUF sales representatives have surveyed commercial fishermen all along the East Coast and have not been able to interest them in the brand. The boot of choice on the Atlantic is a different Norcross brand, Servus, which is heftier than the XTRATUF.

"They like the heavier, clunkier rubber in the East Coast," Stensrud said. "People develop in their minds an idea of what a fishing boot is." – Capital City Weekly

Friday, August 29, 2008

Small-scale fisheries are shortchanged, Canadian study finds

Small-scale fisheries produce as much annual catch for human consumption and use less than one-eighth the fuel as their industrial counterparts, but they are dealt a double-whammy by well-intentioned eco-labeling initiatives and ill-conceived fuel subsidies, according to a University of British Columbia study.

Small-scale fisheries are characterized as fishers operating in boats 15 meters (50 feet) or shorter.

"They are our best hope at sustainable fisheries," says Daniel Pauly, Director of the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of a study published in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

The study shows the amount of subsides large-scale, industrial fisheries receive versus small-scale, coastal fisheries. For instance, the average large-scale fisherman receives nearly 200 times the fuel subsidy that the average small-scale fisherman receives.
"This is because small scale fisheries employ more than 12 million people worldwide, compared to half a million in the industrial sector," says Jennifer Jacquet, study co-author and a PhD Candidate in the UBC Fisheries Centre. "And because small-scale fisheries use less fuel to catch fish."

"Small-scale fisheries use fishing gear that are more selective and far less destructive to deep sea environments," says Jacquet. "As a result they discard very little unwanted fish and almost all of their catch is used for human consumption."

Large-scale fisheries, on the other hand, typically do not target species for direct human consumption and discard an estimated 8-20 million tonnes of unwanted dead fish each year and reduce another 35 million tonnes of their annual catch to fishmeal.

Over the past decade, market-based sustainable seafood initiatives such as eco-labelling have been the predominant strategy for curtailing demand of dwindling fish stocks. The U.S. conservation community alone invested $37 million between 1999 to 2004 to promote certification and "wallet cards" to encourage consumers to purchase seafood caught using sustainable practices.

"For the amount of resources invested, we haven't seen significant decrease in demand for species for which the global stocks are on the edge of collapse," says Pauly. "Market-based initiatives, while well-intentioned, unduly discriminate against small-scale fishers for their lack of resources to provide data for certification."

Furthermore, small fishers simply can't compete on the open market with large fleets. Rashid Sumaila, also of the UBC Fisheries Centre, estimates that governments worldwide subsidize $30-34 billion a year in fishing operations, of which $25-27 billion go to large-scale fleets.

"It's an unfair disadvantage that in any other industry would have had people up in arms," says Jacquet. "But small-scale fishers are often in developing countries and have very little political influence."

Pauly and Jaquet say eliminating government subsidies is the most effective strategy towards significantly reducing pressure on vulnerable global fish stocks.

"Without subsidies, most large-scale fishing operations will be economically unviable," says Jacquet. "Small scale fishers will have a better chance of thriving in local markets, and global fish stocks will have an opportunity to rebound." – University of British Columbia

Alaska delegation attends Democratic National Convention with fish
on their minds – and heads

Liz Villarreal may be missing moose season, silver salmon season and a full week of work, but what this Homer resident isn't missing may be history in the making.

At about 7 p.m. Tuesday Denver time, Villarreal and her fellow delegates were walking around the Democratic National Convention with salmon on their heads. The Alaska delegation wanted people at the convention to realize how important commercial fishing is not only for Alaska, but for the Lower 48, she said. Commercial fishermen make up a large part of the delegation and they wanted to be sure people knew why it's important to support a sustainable valuable resource.

"It's electric," she said, while waiting for Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker to speak. "It's so amazing, so empowering."

Homer residents elected Villarreal as their delegate on Super Tuesday, she said, speaking over the crowd's roar. Villarreal traveled to the state convention where she was chosen as an alternate and made the trip to Denver.  – Homer News

EPA fines Alaska seafood processor $38,000 for wastewater violations

Seems like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has busted just about every fish processor in Alaska on some pollution violation in recent years.
Here's a press release that came in recently on the latest victim:

Alaskan Seafood Processor fined $38,000 for Polluting the Kenai River
(Kenai, Alaska) Salamatof Seafoods Inc. (Salamatof), an Alaskan seafood processor plant located in Kenai, Alaska, has agreed to pay a $38,000 penalty to settle alleged federal Clean Water Act violations.

The Salamatof plant was inspected by EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in 2002, 2005 and 2006 and cited for violations of the company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The plant discharges seafood processing wastewater into the Kenai River which flows into Cook Inlet.

The alleged violations included:
• the unauthorized discharges of seafood processing waste into the Kenai River;
• the failure to monitor;
• the failure to develop and operate in accordance with an appropriate best management practices plan; and
• the failure to submit annual reports.

According to Kim Ogle, Manager of EPA’s NPDES Compliance Unit in Seattle, it is extremely important for seafood processors like Salamatof to continuously monitor their facility operations.

“In impaired waters like the Kenai River, it is especially critical that Salamatof and other processors comply with the NPDES permit,” said Ogle. “Discharges from seafood processors can have a large impact in Alaskan waters and these permits help to protect these resources.”

The NPDES permit program is a key part of the federal Clean Water Act and controls water pollution by regulating facilities that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States. – The Highligner, Anchorage Daily News

Massachusetts fishermen to receive $13.4 million in federal aid

Relief is on the way for commercial fishermen in Massachusetts.

The state has begun disbursing some $13.4 million in federal aid to the struggling industry.

The bulk of the funds - $11.3 million - will go to commercial fishing permit holders whose businesses suffered in the wake of government-imposed groundfishing restrictions.

The state also plans to provide $750,000 to individual fishermen and to contribute $650,000 toward health-insurance benefits for fishermen and their families.

“This aid will provide much-needed financial breathing room while groundfish stocks recover,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement.

Kerry is one of several legislative leaders who worked to lessen the financial impact after the federal government imposed fishing limits in order to give certain species time to rebuild their populations.

Groundfish include traditional New England fish such as cod, haddock and flounder.

State officials have said that the region’s economy would lose $22 million as a result of the restrictions. They asked the federal government to declare the state a fishery resource disaster zone. After the federal government denied that request, state officials secured the relief funding.

Some commercial fishing permit holders may receive subsidies of up to $10,000 to keep them in business until the limits are lifted. – The Boston Herald

Conservation groups call for tuna fishery’s closure

CHARLOTTETOWN - There's growing speculation that the entire Atlantic tuna fishery, perhaps even the global fishery, could be shut down at an international meeting soon.

Ed Frenette, executive director of the P.E.I. Fisherman's Association, said that pressure is mounting for a ban from wildlife conservation groups in the wake of an alarming decline in tuna catches around the world, including the eastern United States.

American fishermen may even be among those calling for the fishery's closure, said Frenette.
"They really don't have much of an industry," he said.

The ban could come during a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, slated for late November in Morocco. -- Canada East Times & Transcript