pf home
Summary for September 29 - October 3, 2008:

Monday, September 29, 2008 

Editorial: Canada looks to fishing quotas

If there's a worse way to run the west coast salmon fishery, it's hard to imagine what it would look like. The present regime is an impenetrable tangle of mixed messages and unworkable attempts at compromise.

In theory, the federal government uses a complex formula to manage the resource. The formula juggles coastal zones, gear types, salmon species and catch data with a long list of policy objectives.

The hope is to find an accommodation between three competing groups -- commercial operators, recreational anglers and native bands. But all of this theory is negated by a simple fact -- there aren't enough salmon to go around.

In practice, what happens is an unruly stampede, with each group trying to maximize its share at the expense of the others. The results are not in dispute. – Victoria Times Colonist

Read more:


Palin’s role in Pebble Mine vote examined

WASHINGTON – For months, the confrontation mounted, a face-off that arguably held in the balance the fate of two of Alaska's biggest industries.

On one side were companies hoping to open Pebble Mine at a huge gold and copper reserve adjacent to one of the world's largest salmon runs, Bristol Bay. On the other side were fishermen and environmentalists pushing a referendum that would make it harder for the mine to open.

The two sides spent more than $10 million -- unprecedented for such efforts in Alaska -- and throughout it all, the state's highly popular first-term governor, Sarah Palin, held back. Alaska law forbids state officials from using state resources to advocate on ballot initiatives.

Then, six days before the Aug. 26 vote, with the race looking close, Palin broke her silence. -- The Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.

Read more:


Fisherman cited for turning off tracking unit

WARRENTON, Ore. -- NOAA, the federal fisheries agency, has charged Warrenton fisherman Denniss Sturgell with allegedly making three fishing trips without a functioning vessel monitoring system, and with failure to declare what type of fishing gear he was using on those trips.

In its charging document, NOAA alleges Sturgell, who operates under a federal fishing permit issued by NOAA, made the trips September 2007 and that he is the owner and operator of the fishing vessel Sea Sick II.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the federal law that governs federal fishing operations off the nation's coasts, requires the gear declaration and, to track vessel locations, the monitoring system.

An operating vessel monitoring system unit is required on board all vessels holding federal fishing permits for the Pacific groundfish fishery, when fishing in state or federal waters. – Daily Astorian

Read more:


Newport endorsed fish quotas – but none to processors

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which governs fishing in federal waters off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and California, has reached a pivotal point in its five-year effort to establish an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program for the Pacific groundfish trawl fishery.

In June, the council voted unanimously to move forward with the program. A final decision on what form it will take is scheduled in November. At issue is what some observers have called a contest “to see who gets the deed to the farm” -- processors or fishermen.

Tuesday, the Port of Newport commissioners weighed anchor on the matter, voting unanimously in favor of a resolution backing an IFQ program, and allocating harvesting shares to fishermen, not processors. – Newport News-Times

Read more:


Salmon farm foes get day in court

ECHO BAY, B.C. -- Alexandra Morton heads to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday for a four-day challenge of the provincial government's constitutional right to regulate and approve fish farm locations.

Until recently, fighting the salmon-farming industry was a solo upstream battle for her. Not anymore.

She is being joined by the Wilderness Tourism Association, Area E Gillnetters Association, Fishing Vessel Owners Association and the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society.
She specifically created the society to raise $60,000 to fund the court case.

Her field station in the Broughton Archipelago, a largely undeveloped group of islands at the north end of Vancouver Island, is now home to scientists and budding biologists studying the threat that salmon farms pose to wild stocks. The 6.5-hectare research station site has just wrapped up its third year in operation, receiving up to 50 researchers and volunteers per season, on a meagre annual budget of $40,000.

Of special interest are sea lice, naturally occurring parasites which can flourish in the high densities of commercial fish farms. Because most fish farms use nets rather than solid barriers to separate their fish from passing wild fish, the parasites can pass easily between the two. – Vancouver Sun

Read more:


Tuesday, September 30, 2008 

Alaska crab allotment down slightly

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced catch limits for the Bering Sea crab season opening Oct. 15.

Bristol Bay red king crab, the state’s most valuable crab fishery, is unchanged from last season’s 20.4 million pounds. Snow crab is down 7 percent to 58.6 million pounds. The small bairdi crab fishery is down 23 percent to 4.3 million pounds.

The numbers would seem to be a mild disappointment, as limits for all three fisheries took big jumps last season and crabbers no doubt were hoping for more upward momentum. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Lawsuit: Feds should control B.C. fish farms

VANCOUVER — The B.C. government has been ineffective at protecting its coasts from damage caused by fish farms and should be stripped of its responsibility to regulate them, a provincial Supreme Court judge heard Monday.

A group of petitioners is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to rule that regulating the fish farm industry should be the responsibility of the federal government, not the province.
Ottawa delegated power over fish farms to the province in the late 1980s.

The group argues that because the ocean is federal jurisdiction while the farms are provincial jurisdiction, neither government has the full power to protect the marine environment.

The groups argued that fish farms harm the ocean -- which is under federal jurisdiction -- and so should also be the responsibility of the federal government. …

Commercial aquaculture projects were first set up along B.C.'s coastal waters in the 1970s. As of 2006, there were at least 120 open-net aquaculture operations in the province.

Outside court Monday, marine biologist and fish farm critic Alexandra Morton said fish farms, which operate in nets located in the ocean, produce vast amounts of waste and are breeding grounds for diseases like sea lice. – Canadian Press

Read more:


Boning out the Pacific troll fleet

The salmon-boat cemetery in Fort Bragg, a fishing port tucked into shaggy pines about 150 miles north of San Francisco, is full of bleached and peeling hulls. Over the years many California vessels have landed in Bruce Abernathy's front yard, pitched at steep angles among the weeds, some still rigged with trolling poles.

The Anita II, the Dag. Eventually Abernathy's son David takes them apart with a tractor and chain saw and sells what he can for parts. Sometimes all that's left is a scrap with a painted-on name: My Pet.

Bruce Abernathy himself doesn't watch the demolitions. He finds somewhere else to be, or he stays inside his house, with its many framed prints of trim little ships atop frisky seas. The fisherman turned resale man, and lately junk dealer, has "a lot of remorse" about what's happening outside his window beyond the hot pink rhododendron bush. "I know almost everybody who owned these boats," he said. "Boats become part of you, like a wife."

Thirty years ago there were several thousand salmon boats in California. More recently, as the fish became scarce, only a few hundred worked the coast. Then salmon populations crashed, and this year for the first time U.S. officials canceled all ocean salmon fishing off California and most of Oregon, and curtailed it off Washington, a $300 million loss – The Smithsonian

Read more:


New Cosco Busan bill signed

SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) signed into law legislation in response to the Cosco Busan container ship that hit the Bay Bridge in November 2007 and spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay. 

Senate Bill 1217, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), provides greater public oversight of the board that regulates the San Francisco Bar Pilots – the maritime pilots who assist vessels traveling in Bay Area waters.  The bill also requires the bar pilots board to appoint a physician to evaluate the effects of prescription medications that a pilot may be taking and requires the physician to determine if the individual is fit to perform his or her duties as a pilot. – PolitickerCA

Read more:


These fishermen want marine protected areas

PORT ORFORD -- The bobbing yellow blobs on Jeff Miles' fish-finder display tell of streams of spiny rockfish swimming among underwater reefs 11 fathoms below.

A harbor seal pops up amid a thicket of kelp. Cormorants and gulls eye Miles' white fishing boat from black basalt perches. The sea plunges beside a towering rock, revealing a glittering orange wall of starfish.

Miles, 48, has fished the fertile waters of Redfish Rocks for 35 years, of late in a well-worn former lobster boat from Maine. He figures 10 to 15 percent of his income comes from the popular fishing grounds just off Port Orford.

That's why it's a surprise that the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team -- led by Miles, four other longtime commercial fishermen from Port Orford and the wife of a second-generation commercial fisherman -- are proposing to turn the area into Oregon's first marine reserve, where no fishing will be allowed.

Today is the deadline for supporters of Oregon marine reserves to turn in their proposals to the state. Applications from Cannon Beach to Gold Beach are expected, along with a proposal for an overarching "network" of reserves and less-restrictive protected areas from Our Ocean a coalition of ocean conservation groups.

But it appears the Port Orford team will propose the only reserve both in a prime fishing area and initiated by commercial fishermen, the people most directly affected by declaring a swath of ocean off limits. They're also asking that it be approved as a pilot project, which could make it the first to take effect. – The Oregonian

Read more:


Wednesday, October 1, 2008 

CDC notes deaths in Dungy fishery

During 2000-2006, commercial fishing was one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, with an average annual fatality rate of 115 deaths per 100,000 fishermen.

By contrast, the average annual occupational fatality rate among all U.S. workers during the same period was four deaths per 100,000 workers.

During the 1990s, safety interventions in Alaska fisheries were followed by declines in that state's commercial fishing fatality rates. To assess the need for similar safety improvements in the other three Pacific Coast states, CDC analyzed data on commercial fishing fatalities from California, Oregon, and Washington during 2000-2006.

The results of that analysis indicated that the three states combined had an average annual commercial fishing fatality rate of 238 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) fishermen, approximately double the fishing fatality rate nationwide during the same period.

CDC also determined that safety equipment (e.g., immersion suits or life rafts) had not been used adequately in these fatal events, and that the Northwest Dungeness crab fishery had the highest fatality rate of any fishery located off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. To reduce fatalities among the Pacific Coast commercial fishermen at greatest risk, additional prevention measures tailored to the Northwest Dungeness crab fishery should be considered.  – Journal of the American Medical Association

Read more:


Suit focuses on fish farms, not law

VANCOUVER — A court case demanding responsibility for B.C.'s coastal fish farms be turned over to the federal government was launched to debate the merits of aquaculture, not constitutional law, a provincial government lawyer said Tuesday.

A group of fish farm critics is mounting a legal challenge to have the responsibility for the farms transferred back to the federal government, which delegated that power to the province in the late 1980s.

The group says because of the farms' impact on the ocean and wild fish, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans should regulate them.

But Veronica Jackson, the lawyer for the provincial government, said much of the evidence produced by the complainants focuses on the merits of aquaculture and the effectiveness of existing regulations.

"The complaint of the petitioners is not so much about which level of government has jurisdiction, but rather whether there should be aquaculture in oceans and how the provincial government is regulating them," Jackson told B.C. Supreme Court Judge Grant Burnyeat.

"The public policy decisions involved are not proper matters for the court to adjudicate."
Jackson read examples from the group's affidavits, many of which criticized specific policies and questioned their effectiveness. – Canadian Press

Read more:


Regulators say Klamath dam plan violates law

California water quality regulators have said they believe an application from the owner of the Klamath River dams, which was looking to operate the hydropower project with only minor changes in the future, doesn't fit state law.

The State Water Resources Control Board's staff on Tuesday said that Pacificorp's application isn't legally feasible. The regulators said in a notice to prepare an environmental impact report that they would instead review a number of other alternatives to determine if they will improve water quality in the troubled river, and bring that before the public. – Eureka Times-Standard

Read more:


Apropos of nothing, our latest PITA article

Nothing if not creative, our friends at the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PITA) have suggested a new approach to dessert confectionary art:  Ice cream made from mothers’ milk.

Make that human mothers.

Yep, PETA sent a letter to Ben and Jerry’s, which responded thusly: "We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child." – Press release

Read more:


Opinion: Halibut charters need to share responsibility

Alaska halibut are valued by subsistence, commercial and recreational fishermen alike, and all users need to share in the responsibility of conserving this resource. This conservation ethic needs to be reflected when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council votes on a halibut catch sharing plan.

Since 1995, commercial setline halibut fishermen in Alaska have operated under a strict individual quota system. Mostly small family operations based in rural communities, the setline fishery is governed by scientifically based quotas that vary from year to year as the abundance of the halibut resource fluctuates.

Over the past two years, the Southeast setline quota has been cut 43 percent due to a downward trend in halibut abundance. On top of unprecedented high fuel prices, the cut caused deep pain for the setline fleet. But fishermen accepted it as necessary to protect the long-term sustainability of the resource. – Jev Shelton, a Juneau halibut and salmon fisherman and member of the Halibut Coalition, writing to the Juneau Empire

Read more:


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Council takes another run at Alaska halibut charters

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council began work on yet another bold attempt to settle the interminable battle between two halibut fleets – the commercial fishermen and the charter boat captains.

With the supply of halibut limited, of course, both fleets aren’t too keen on surrendering any fish to the other side.

So this week, we can expect the usual cavalcade of guys making impassioned pleas down at the council, which is meeting at the Sheraton hotel.– Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Alaska halibut fishing guide fined

Johnathan Rodriguez, age 35 of Ketchikan, Alaska, entered a guilty plea on September 24, 2008, in Craig District Court to two counts of allowing sport fishing charter clients to keep an over limit of halibut.

Superior Court Judge David George sentenced Rodriguez to pay a fine of $20,000 with $12,000 suspended, revoked his guide's license and fishing license for a period of 13 months with 12 months suspended (Rodriguez is prohibited from guiding from May 1, 2009 – June 1, 2009), and placed Rodriguez on probation for a period of three years.

Rodriguez was charged for aiding in the commission of sport fishing violations committed by charter clients on August 22, 2007. Rodriguez expressly told two clients, who unbeknown to him were undercover Alaska Wildlife Troopers, to continue catching and keep halibut after they had already retained two halibut each.

The limit for halibut in Alaska at this time was two fish per person per day. Rodriguez placed the halibut in what he called a "live well" and then released extra halibut at the end of the day, including two halibut that had been gaffed and were dead upon release. – Press release

Read more:


B.C. pink return down, salmon farms blamed

BROUGHTON ARCHIPELAGO – Pink salmon returns are low and tourism operators are concerned about how it will affect their industry.

In a bulletin issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, observations of rivers in the Broughton Archipelago indicate that pink salmon returns are significantly lower than expected, especially in the key Glendale Creek system. …

Other rivers in the region are also experiencing lower returns, though not as dramatic as the Glendale. The DFO bulletin does not speculate on the reasons for the decline, similar to one in 2002.
But tourism operators in the region blame fish farms. – North Island Gazette


Feds give money to Oregon wave power project

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. announced that it has received a US$2.0 million award from the US Department of Energy (DoE), in support of OPT's wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon.

The DoE grant will be used to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy to be installed at the Reedsport site. This system will be a 150 kilowatt-rated PB150 PowerBuoy, major portions of which will be fabricated and integrated in Oregon.

This is the first award for the building of ocean wave energy systems by the DoE, and the company believes it is indicative of the growing recognition and support of wave energy within the US federal and state governments – Press release


New cold storage warms hearts in Brookings

The cold storage facility at the Port of Brookings Harbor was at minus 10 degrees and filling up fast as word of its renewed operation spread up and down the West Coast.

"We're getting a much better response than I thought we would," said Ted Fitzgerald, interim port manager.

That's good news for a port struggling to raise revenue to pay off its massive debt. The port commission voted in September to turn its cold storage facility back on in an effort to make money. The $1.3 million facility was closed in 2004 after drawing nary a customer.

That changed this year when the closest cold storage facility, in Eureka, Calif., was closed down. A similar facility at the Crescent City Port closed years ago. Brookings port officials saw the closing of the Eureka facility as an opportunity to reclaim business it had lost to the other ports. – Curry Coastal Pilot, Oregon


Friday, October 3, 2008 

Charter-commercial halibut wars begin (again)

Federal fishery regulators meeting this week in Anchorage are trying again to end a 15-year battle between two competing fleets that hook halibut for a living.

The proposal now on the table would divide the available halibut between the commercial fishing fleet, which historically has caught the lion's share of the fish, and the charter boat fleet, which has been taking a growing share in recent years.
Commercial fishermen generally support the idea. But the charter boat captains are fighting it hard, saying the plan could drive up their expenses and leave their clients with fewer fish to take home.

One potential scenario would cut the daily bag limit for charter boat anglers from two fish per day to one. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing for the Anchorage Daily News


Bill to make California crabbers safer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week, penned by North Coast State Sen. Patricia Wiggins, aiming to improve safety conditions and protect resources in northern crab fisheries.

Senate Bill 1690 gives authority to commercial crab fishermen to develop solutions to problems in the industry that stem from increasing crab competition.
S.B. 1690 sets up a crab task force, composed 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. – Eureka Times-Standard


NW crabbers negotiating over wave power

OK, maybe it’s not ALL about real estate, but to the hundreds of commercial crab fishermen in Oregon — and those from Washington and California who also fish Oregon waters — protecting valuable crab grounds is at the top of the list when it comes to considering where to place possibly hundreds of wave energy devices.

Fisherman Bob Eder, from Newport, and a member of the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy, addressed that issue, during the second of a two-day wave energy conference held at The Mill-Casino Convention Center.

FINE started out as a way for fishers to organize and have a greater say in where wave energy devices would be placed in the ocean. So far, Eder said, the group has negotiated areas to be used by Oregon State University and Finavera Renewables for testing wave energy buoys. But just because fishermen were willing to negotiate doesn’t mean they consider test buoy areas unproductive. – Umpqua Post


Time magazine notes IFQ successes

Giving a man a fish — not teaching him how to do it — may actually be a better way to preserve the world's dwindling fish stocks, according to a new study published in Science on Sept. 19. Scientists and fishermen have known for years that global fish populations are in bad shape. According to one bleak 2006 study, all of the world's major commercial fisheries could collapse by 2048 because of overfishing and loss of habitat. Now a team of economists and biologists say they know one way to prevent the loss of this crucial resource in global waters: more quotas. – Time


More Alaska cruise ships cited for pollution

JUNEAU – State water quality regulators this week issued six more notices of violation to cruise ships for exceeding pollutant limits in their wastewaster.

That brings the total number of violations to 15 notices for 11 cruise ships this year, with the potential for more because the state Department of Environmental Conservation hasn't yet evaluated its September samples.

This is the first year cruise ships have been regulated under a wastewater discharge permit that voters, in a 2006 ballot initiative, required the state to write. – Juneau Empire