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Summary for October 6 - October 10, 2008:

Monday, October 6, 2008 

North Pacific Council splits halibut catch

Federal regulators have approved a plan to apportion available halibut in two Alaska regions among commercial and the charter fleets.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council on Saturday voted 10-1 for the plan in southeast and southcentral Alaska, aimed settling a long-running fish feud between commercial halibut fishermen and charter boat operators who allow thousands of tourist and residents to catch halibut with a rod and reel.

The vote followed three days of public testimony. The plan must be approved by the U.S. Commerce Department secretary. …

The plan approved Saturday could lead to a lower halibut bag limit for charter boat anglers - one halibut instead of two. A limit would kick in during times when the halibut population is low. – Anchorage Daily News

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North Pacific Council delays crab ratz decision

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Anchorage through Tuesday, has been forced to postpone its review of the crab rationalization program.

The reason was the three-plus days the council needed to square away the halibut charter boat issue.

Presumably, the council will get to crab at its December meeting in Anchorage. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

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Arnold signs crabber safety bill

Sacramento ­ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 1690, legislation by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to improve safety conditions and protect resources in Northern California crab fisheries.

SB 1690 gives authority to commercial crab fishermen to develop solutions to problems in the industry that stem from increasing competition for crab.

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. – Ukiah Daily Journal


Fishermen fear outside voices on protected areas

Both sport and commercial fishermen say they are frustrated with the lack of communication with conservationists who are proposing marine reserves. But there is an even bigger issue, they said.

The fishing industry and the Ocean Policy Advisory Council have said for years that developing and implementing marine reserves should be done from the ground up, with locals designing the reserves. The fear was that well-funded out-of-state groups would override what local communities wanted.

Our Ocean, according to its Web site, is “a coalition of conservationists, scientists, ocean users, local leaders and business people from around the state working to preserve Oregon’s coastal legacy.” – Coos Bay World

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Ports band together concerning protected areas

Four Southern Oregon ocean ports have banded together to provide local community review of proposals to establish marine reserves and wave energy facilities in the state’s territorial waters off southern Coos and Curry counties.

The ports of Bandon, Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings formed the organization — the Four Ports Group — with the intent of presenting their analysis of and comments on proposed marine reserves and wave energy sites to the governor’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council before it decides which sites to recommend to the governor.

Site proposals were due by Tuesday, and OPAC’s final recommendations are due to the governor by Nov. 30. – Bandon Western World

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kodiak wants fishermen to use pump-outs

Kodiak harbors have two facilities for pumping or discharging waste from boats, but at least one is underused, prompting concern that boat operators may be discharging human and other waste in the harbors.

Kodiak fisherman Gordon Jensen raised the concern at the Ports and Harbors Advisory Board meeting last week.

“We have a pristine area here, and we harvest bounty from the sea,” Jensen said. “We have to do something about it, because we’re not a third-class city.”

The Federal Clean Water Act prohibits vessels from pumping sewage within three miles of the shore. The EPA regulation is enforced by the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Lt. Jason Boyle said. All vessels more than 26 feet with an installed head are required to have a marine sanitation device onboard. – Kodiak Daily Mirror


Developers itching for wave power

Surfers aren't the only ones itching to jump in the water and catch some big waves.

Dozens of companies, from oil giant Chevron Corp. to smaller firms like Ocean Power Technologies Inc., have invested in or are evaluating the potential of technology designed to harness electrical energy from waves, tides and currents.

Ocean Power, of Pennington, N.J., and Verdant Power Inc., of New York, are among the firms that already have built or plan to build wave- and tidal-power stations in oceans or adjacent waters. Others, such as Chevron, are seeking government approval to study the feasibility of such projects.

All are in a race to harness what some scientists contend is among the nation's largest unexploited sources of renewable energy. …

The prime territory in the U.S. to harvest energy from wave power is in the Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and northern and central California. The optimum spot for tapping into ocean currents, which are steady flows of water going in a prevailing direction, is off the shores of south Florida, while parts of the Alaska coastline, including the upper Cook Inlet around Anchorage, have some of the strongest tides in the world. The edges of Maine, New York, San Francisco and Washington state's Puget Sound also look to be ideal for tidal energy, researchers say. – Wall Street Journal


SE cucumber harvest begins

KETCHIKAN – Divers were getting ready for the beginning of the commercial sea cucumber season in Southeast Alaska with the lowest quota in several years.

Sea cucumbers are also known as sea slugs. They're echinoderms with an elongated body and leathery skin.
They're a popular food in Asia.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game set a guideline harvest of just more than 1.1 million pounds for 18 harvest areas. That's down about 19 percent from last season and 24 percent lower than the 2005-2006 season.

The reason for the drop in sea cucumbers isn't known. Biologist Marc Pritchett says there's an assumption that it's connected to sea otter predation. – Juneau Empire


Stevens earmarks Coast Guard funds for Alaska

Congress approved a continuing resolution over the weekend which included several provisions, authored by Sen. Ted Stevens, benefiting the Coast Guard.

The continuing resolution allocates $6.19 billion to the Coast Guard for operating expenses.

Of that money, Stevens’ earmarks designate $7.6 million to operate the cutter Acushnet, based in Ketchikan, with a crew of 120. The provision saved the Acushnet from being decommissioned.

A separate provision earmarks $11.6 million for Coast Guard housing in Cordova.

The Coast Guard Base in Kodiak will receive $18.5 million for basic operations and maintenance, a Stevens spokesman said. Kodiak also can expect to receive further money from the general funds once the Coast Guard decides how to allocate it, the spokesman said.

“This bill strengthens the Coast Guard’s presence in Alaska by providing funds for operations and construction of family housing,” according to a press release from Stevens’ office. – Kodiak Daily Mirror


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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Report: B.C. salmon being driven to extinction

A combination of ignorance and neglect by the Canadian government appears to be pushing many British Columbia sockeye runs towards extinction, according to a new report by the world's leading conservation group.

The report recommends a halt to traditional commercial fishing and reconsideration of artificial spawning programs -- saying both policies are likely contributing to a sockeye decline that is greater here than anywhere else in the world.

Sockeye populations in Russia and Alaska are for the most part thriving, notes the report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. – Vancouver Sun

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To the editor: Quotas only a part of Alaska’s fishery success

Quota share systems are an important tool to conserve fish stocks, but other steps are equally important. Key actions include following scientific recommendations for catch limits, catch monitoring, setting aside fish habitat and protecting forage fish.

In Alaska, where more than half the nation's seafood is landed -- more than 5 billion pounds annually -- we incorporate all these steps into management plans. As a result, none of our groundfish stocks are considered overfished. Major commercial fisheries such as those bringing in salmon, halibut and pollock are certified as sustainable.

These fisheries operate under a quota share system or other access limitation. Catch limits are set by scientists, harvests are closely monitored, and quotas are adhered to. Wide undersea swaths have been set aside to protect habitat. Fishery managers incorporate broad ecosystem concerns, such as protection for forage fish, in their plans.

I'm skeptical of alarmist predictions of a worldwide fishery collapse by 2048. If we incorporate scientific management actions such as those taken by Alaska, Iceland, New Zealand and others, I am confident we can ensure that our fisheries remain a sustainable part of the world's food supply. – David Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance, writing to the Washington Post


Take a look at the winning halibut motion

Wesley Loy, Pacific Fishing columnist and reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, has pointed out the text that was approved by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in limiting charter halibut catches.

Read it at:


Palin names her picks to the Pacific Salmon Commission

Gov. Sarah Palin has announced her Pacific Salmon Commission panel picks.

The commission was established by the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty, by which Alaska and Canada manage the salmon born in Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia. – Juneau Empire

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Sunken WWII sub confirmed off Aleutians

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – The Navy has confirmed the wreckage of a sunken vessel found last year off the Aleutians Islands is that of the USS Grunion, which disappeared during World War II.

Underwater video footage and pictures captured by an expedition hired by sons of the commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele, allowed the Navy to confirm the discovery, Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny said

McAneny said the Navy was very grateful to the Abele family.

“We hope this announcement will help to give closure to the families of the 70 crewmen of Grunion,” he said.

The Grunion was last heard from July 30, 1942. The submarine reported heavy anti-submarine activity at the entrance to Kiska, and that it had 10 torpedoes remaining forward. On the same day, the Grunion was directed to return to Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base. The submarine was reported lost Aug. 16, 1942. – San Diego Union Tribune


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Marine reserve plan: ‘That’s horrible’

The Ocean Policy Advisory Council met in Reedsport on Tuesday to discuss primarily one issue: Marine reserves, set-aside areas of the ocean where no fishing or other activity would be allowed.

The council was charged only with discussing the process by which members would review the 20 or so proposals submitted by individuals, local groups and environmental groups.

One group in particular has raised fishing industry hackles up and down the coast. Our Ocean proposed a network of eight marine reserves last week. Fourth-generation Charleston commercial fisherman Devin Hockema was aghast when he heard about one of those this week.

“I’ll be damned,” he said. “That’s horrible.” – Umpqua Post


Pribilof buys Snopac processor shares

The Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA) announced its wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, APICDA Joint Ventures Inc. (AJV), has reached agreement with Snopac Products Inc. to purchase all of Snopac's crab processor quota shares (PQS) and their crab processing line and equipment.

AJV will acquire from Snopac approximately 5.7% of the Bering Sea opilio PQS, 1.6% of Bristol Bay red king crab PQS, 3.6% of Bering Sea bairdi PQS, 2.5% of the Pribilof Islands red and blue king crab PQS, and 4.3% of the St. Matthew's king crab PQS.

At today's crab quotas, the PQS represents approximately 3 million pounds of opilio, 290,000 pounds of Bristol Bay red king crab, and 141,000 pounds of bairdi. – Posted by Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News


Codfish stocks collapse in Irish Sea

Cod stocks in the Irish Sea are now considered "to be in a state of collapse" and are expected to decline further in 2008, the EPA examination of estuarine and coastal waters has warned.

Overall, many commercially-important fish stocks in Irish waters are "heavily overexploited and in decline," while many species, as much as 75 percent, are now being harvested outside safe biological limits, according to the EPA.

Given the "perilous state" of cod stocks in Irish waters, the EPA said it is likely that severe measures, such as multi-area closures in certain areas will be required to ensure the long-term sustainability of these stocks. – Irish Times


Everett statue to salute fishing heritage

EVERETT -- The Port of Everett has agreed to erect a statue on its waterfront as a tribute to its once-mighty fishing fleet.

It even has a location for it -- a spot near its 12th Street Yacht Basin that will also be home to an administration building for the agency. The location was approved unanimously by the port commission.
– Everett Herald


Killer whales starving

Killer whales in the waters off southern Vancouver Island are losing blubber and developing strange behaviour patterns because of a shortage of salmon, say whale experts.

Some endangered southern resident killer whales are developing "peanut heads" because they are not getting enough food, said Howard Garrett of Washington-based Orca Network.

"They are looking sick. There is usually a thick layer of blubber just behind the skull and that seems to be the first place to be drawn from when they need to draw down blubber," he said. – Victoria Times Colonist


Friday, October 10, 2008

Alaska panel looks to buy Cook Inlet permits

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A state task force is considering buying fishing permits from Cook Inlet commercial fishermen in the hopes that less fishing will replenish salmon runs.

State lawmakers met on Thursday with a goal of getting more fish in Alaska's rivers.

The joint Cook Inlet Salmon Task Force held a meeting to hear testimony from the Department of Fish and Game. – KTUU, Anchorage

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Economy sends lobster prices downward

Count Maine's lobster industry among the casualties of the worldwide economic crisis.

The wholesale price of Maine lobster, considered low all summer, has plunged more than 20 percent in the past week, to as little as $2.60 per pound in some harbors. Dealers say falling financial markets have ruined consumers' appetite for luxury items such as lobster, and the international credit crisis has effectively shut off orders from major processors in Canada. – Sun Journal, Maine

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Small Oregon community wants marine reserve

Yachats-area residents are proposing new protections for the waters off Heceta Head and Cape Perpetua. The community is proposing the creation of a marine protected area and marine reserve to complement conservation efforts on the coast statewide. This remote and productive area is one of Oregon’s natural treasures.

Local residents proposed a no-take marine reserve and an adjacent marine protected area (MPA) that would still allow most fishing activities. – South Lincoln County News, Oregon 

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Greenpeace after pollock fishery again

Supporters of Greenpeace seemingly cannot accept the notion that an industrial fishery can be sustainable.

The enviros made another run against pollock earlier this year, saying that, regardless of what the Marine Stewardship Council says, the Alaska pollock fishery is not sustainable. MSC took umbrage and sent out its own press release saying the pollock fishery was just fine, thank very much, and that Greenpeace should butt out.

Now, Greenpeace has fired off another press release.

One suspects that part of the problem, at least for Greenpeace, is where pollock is served – McDonalds, for one.

Click the link for the latest Greenpeace press release.

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Bornstein wants Clatsop County to support processor IFQs

The controversy over federal involvement in fishery allocations on the North Coast took a new step this week.

Fish processor Andrew Bornstein, of Astoria, asked the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners to reconsider its decision to adopt a resolution opposing a portion of a federal fishery management plan for the groundfish fishery. The plan allocates 20 percent of the catch to shore-based processors.
The Daily Astorian

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