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Summary for October 20 - October 24, 2008:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feds to list Cook Inlet beluga whales

The National Marine Fisheries Service said it’s listing Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species.

That’s alarming for developers, port operators, oil drillers and city wastewater treatment plant operators around the Inlet, on the shores of which much of the state’s population is clustered.
What does the listing mean for commercial fishermen?

Over the years, I’ve generally heard it won’t mean much, as fishery interaction with the white whales is minimal.

But today, some big voices warned the listing could hurt the fishing industry. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News.

Read the NOAA press release about beluga whales at:


Terns gone, but cormorants still feast on salmon

Ten years ago, “Oregon Field Guide” reported on an experiment to move an entire colony of terns to save the wild salmon they were feasting on. It appeared to have worked great, but now there's a new danger.

Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, and at 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, to learn more about salmon-eating cormorants that are devouring more salmon than terns ever did. The program will also join a search for reptiles and a rare weasel. – Newport News-Times

Election: Washington rep against Columbia gillnets

CAMAS — Sport fishers packed the meeting room at Camas Meadows Golf Club last week, eager to hear what their local congressman had to say about gillnets.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird had the room’s full attention when he referenced the extraordinary measures being undertaken to protect imperiled wild salmon in the Columbia River basin: Hundreds of millions in ratepayer dollars to rebuild habitat, land-use restrictions to protect streams, and costly modifications to get fish safely past the hydroelectric dams spanning the river.

Then came the kicker:

“And at the end of the day, we’re killing these fish in large numbers indiscriminately,” he said.– The Columbian, Vancouver


Europe 25 years behind U.S. in fishery management

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum" – I am a Roman citizen. A hundred and fifty years ago, Lord Palmerston bragged that the equivalent privilege was to be a British citizen.

We are all, today, citizens of the European Union. How proudly do we make that boast? I suspect that depends on our ability to use the law to defend ourselves against arbitrary and stupid decisions made by those in authority.

And in that respect, the citizens of Europe are miserable specimens indeed. We have no right to insist that politicians make decisions that comply with the laws they themselves have passed, as do citizens of the United States. This is an absolute scandal.

I draw this conclusion from a case in which the environmental group WWF tried to ensure that the European council of ministers acted within the law when deciding how much endangered cod could be caught by fishermen. – Charles Clover, writing in The Telegraph, UK


Coast Guard to aid disabled Alaska fishing boat

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR was responding to a disabled fishing vessel 270 miles southeast of Kodiak in the Gulf of Alaska Sunday.

The fishing vessel Equinox, a 58-foot longliner home-ported in Petersburg, reported an engine casualty to the Coast Guard at approximately 4 a.m. The fishing vessel reportedly has three people aboard. No injuries or other problems have been reported.

The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, a 225-foot sea-going buoy tender home-ported in Kodiak, was en route and has an estimated time of arrival of 2 a.m. They may tow the Equinox to Kodiak but that could change depending on weather and the discretion of the SPAR's crew. – Coast Guard press release


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another legal squabble about Exxon Valdez money

It took better than 19 years for commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs to win sizeable punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp. for the disastrous 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound.

Now that some money is in hand – about $383 million – it still could be months away from distribution.

Because of new legal squabbling among the plaintiffs about how to slice the pie. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

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Editorial: No wind turbines on Oregon Coast

Energy production ain't pretty, even in its more environmentally friendly forms. If Oregonians want to reduce dependence on foreign oil and support cleaner energy, they need to accept wind turbines in many of their wide-open spaces.

The Oregon coast, however, should remain sacred territory. Wind turbines that are plainly visible from shore would be a blight on the horizon and should be treated as an energy option of last resort -- not just another frontier in the wind rush. – The Oregonian

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Coast Guard towing distressed Alaska fishing vessel

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR was towing the disabled fishing vessel Equinox to Kodiak.

The SPAR arrived on scene with the Equinox, a 58-foot longliner which became disabled early Sunday morning, at approximately 1:30 a.m. Monday. En route to the disabled fishing vessel the crew of the SPAR experienced 25- to 30-knot winds and up to 17-foot seas.

Weather conditions have been diminishing since this morning with current conditions for the tow being 5- to 10-knot winds and 4- to 6-foot seas. The SPAR and the Equinox were expected to arrive in  Kodiak at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The fishing vessel reportedly had an engine casualty 270 miles southeast of Kodiak while en route to their homeport of Petersburg. The Equinox has three people aboard and no injuries or pollution has been reported. – Press release


United Fishermen of Alaska wants safeguards on drilling leases

United Fishermen of Alaska, representing 37 Alaska commercial fishing organizations, has called for protections for ongoing sustainable fishing activities in the North Aleutian Basin, as the federal government considers moving forward with development of oil and gas leases in the area.
“The area under consideration represents over 40 percent of the commercial U.S. fisheries catch including the nation’s richest crab, pollock, cod, halibut, and salmon fisheries, with annual harvests worth more than a half a billion dollars in ex-vessel value. With additional value in the processing sector and the nutritional value of sustainable seafood from these pristine waters, the long term value to the region and the nation stands on a par with energy needs. Sustainable, wild capture seafood production is an integral part of our national food production, and as such it is essential to overall national security,” said UFA President Joe Childers.
The group’s comment letter calls for 14 points of protection and mitigation, including creation of Regional Citizens Advisory Councils to be funded by the approved leaseholders following lease sales, and not to wait for funding from production.

UFA also called for establishment of an adequate fisheries disaster fund to provide compensation to the fishing industry and coastal communities in the event of disruption of fisheries; zero discharges from drilling installations; and inclusion of commercial fishing organizations in the planning process as stakeholders on a par with other cooperating municipal, state and federal agencies.
“From the Prince William Sound experience we have seen what can happen in a worst case scenario and we cannot trust in the intention or ability of other industries, or the federal government, to make fishing communities whole when things go wrong. We need to do all we can to set up protections and a process to protect the nation’s sustainable supply of seafood as we seek to address energy needs,” said UFA Executive Director Mark Vinsel.
The group also supported the fisheries protections called for in a draft memorandum of understanding between the borough governments on the north coast of the Alaska Peninsula, including protections that fishermen are not displaced or precluded from access to fishing areas, unless they are adequately compensated for the displacement; fishermen are not precluded from participating in designated fishing seasons, unless they are adequately compensated for the lost season(s); and fishermen will be compensated for damage to fishing equipment, vessels, gear and decreased harvest value from OCS operations in a timely manner. 
The group’s comments were submitted in response to the Minerals Management Service call for comments scoping process for the EIS on the proposed North Aleutian Basin Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Lease Sale 214, published in the Federal Register on April 8, and August 13, 2008. The deadline for comments is October 17, 2008. – UFA press release


Video films about ‘The Real Dutch’

A series of short films about life in Unalaska received an Emmy nomination this year. The series, called The Real Dutch, was produced in conjunction with Deadliest Catch for the Discovery Channel and included interviews with every one from police officers to bartenders to local DJs. Director, editor, and producer Vanessa Serreo said they wanted to show fans of the TV show what life was really like here.

"We wanted to show that there was more to the town than just the port and the crabbing industry and to show how the crabbing industry affected the rest of the town," she said. "So we just thought about who the key people in the town were and what kind of people gave the town it's flavor. We tried to do a good cross section of people." – Pacific Fishing columnist Anne Hillman writing for KIAL

Read more:


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin’s role in Pebble Mine fight questioned

EKWOK, Alaska — Two years ago, Sarah Palin landed near this tiny native village and spoke of her love for the vast and starkly beautiful delta that drains into Bristol Bay. “I am a commercial fisherman; my daughter’s name is Bristol,” said Ms. Palin, then a candidate for governor. “I could not support a project that risks one resource that we know is a given, and that is the world’s richest spawning grounds, over another resource.”

Many here took her words to heart. But as governor, Ms. Palin has helped ease the way for a proposed copper and gold mine of near-mythic proportions at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world’s greatest spawning ground for wild salmon. – New York Times

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Crowd dislikes Oregon protected area plan

The Port of Umpqua offices were packed when the Ocean Policy Advisory Council met to consider evaluation criteria for 20 proposed marine reserve areas off the coast.

The idea of closing areas to fishing or other extractive activity while diving, swimming or other activity still may be allowed did not sit well with many folks in the audience. Most of them said they’d had little or no input with the groups proposing the closed areas — something the council made clear would have to happen for any of the areas to be seriously considered.

There still is a two-year evaluation process that will take place, said Ed Bowles, fish division director for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the governor’s representative on the council. Any sites that pass OPAC scrutiny, and are forwarded to the governor for further consideration and to the legislature for funding consideration, must go through even more study between now and 2011. – Umpqua Post

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Banned chemicals found in Chilean farmed fish

German health authorities recently detected banned chemicals in Chilean farmed salmon, Ecoceanos News reported last week.

Germany’s Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, or BVL, recently tested 42 samples of Chilean-raised farmed salmon. In two of those samples, BVL officials found traces of crystal violet, an anti-fungal chemical believed to have potentially carcinogenic properties. Crystal violet is not allowed in food exported to the European Union. BVL investigators also found traces of abamectina, an anti-parasite drug that is also banned in Germany. – Patagonia Times

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First Alaska king crab landed

The first red king crab of the season arrived in Unalaska over the weekend. The F/V Bering Star delivered about 14,000 pounds to Unisea when they returned to pick up more pots.

Most processors are offering $5 per pound of red king this season, 57 cents more than last year – Pacific Fishing columnist Anne Hillman writing for KIAL, Dutch Harbor

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California turns down off-shore wind power project

State utility regulators last week rejected the first wave energy application they've ever considered, denying a contract for a project off the Humboldt County coast.

In its decision last week, the California Public Utilities Commission turned down a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. application to buy power from a small pilot project to test wave buoy technology developed by Canadian company Finavera Renewables. The commission determined that the project isn't viable, that Finavera's bid doesn't compare to others in PG&E's renewable energy portfolio and that the contract price for the power isn't reasonable.

The decision effectively kills the agreement for the project, PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said, which was proposed to be situated off Trinidad Head. – Eureka Times-Standard


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Video: Search after deadly Alaska sinking

JUNEAU, Alaska -- The Good Samaritan fishing vessel Patricia Lee recovered two of four missing fishermen from the fishing vessel Katmai at approximately 8:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Earlier, four crewmembers were recovered safely from a life raft by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk from air station Kodiak and taken to Adak for medical treatment. During Wednesday's search, the Jayhawk, Courageous and Patricia Lee have recovered five deceased crewmembers from the Katmai.

The search for two missing fishermen continued overnight by two Good Samaritan vessels, Courageous and Patricia Lee, an Alaskan Air National Guard C-130 and Pave Hawk helicopter, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak.

On scene weather is 20-foot seas, 50-knot winds from the north, snow and rain with 3 miles of visibility.

The Katmai is a 93-foot fishing vessel homeported in Kodiak, Alaska. The names are being withheld pending next of kin notifications. The circumstances regarding this incident are under investigation. – U.S. Coast Guard

Click below for a video of the F/V Courageous searching.
(It’ll take some time to download, but the wait it worth it.)


Drop anchor, get fined $542,950

The state is seeking up to $542,950 in penalties for a Makena charter boat business for damaging 538 specimens of coral in Makena Bay last year.

A state report said Makena Boat Partners allegedly violated state rules when its Kai Kanani, a 46-foot wood hull catamaran, dropped anchor on a coral reef fronting the Maui Prince Hotel from July through Aug. 24, 2007.
Maui News

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No one hurt when vessel goes aground off Unalaska

The Ocean Harvester went aground on Unalaska Island in Mutton Cove near Chernofski ranch. The vessel dropped anchored but high winds pushed it on shore. The crew was able to get it off Wednesday morning and is waiting until weather improves to return to Unalaska where the Coast Guard will inspect the ship for any damages. The local Coast Guard reports that the boat is fully operational and not leaking any fluids.
KUCB, formerly KIAL

Federal agencies fight over Oregon Coast wind power

COOS BAY — There’s a renewed fight brewing over wave energy, but it’s not between the fishing industry and developers.

This time, it’s between two federal agencies.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has assumed it has jurisdiction over projects within state waters, out to three nautical miles — and that’s generally been accepted as the case. The Minerals Management Service has assumed jurisdiction over alternative energy projects in the outer continental shelf, federal waters, beyond three miles.

That changed — maybe — on last week.

FERC decided to flex its muscles and assert its jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects in federal waters. --  Coos Bay World

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Eagles change diet away from sea otters

The decline in Aleutian sea otter populations is affecting what bald eagles eat. A new study published in the journal Ecology this month compares the eagles' eating habits from before and after the sea otter decline. The US Geological Survey study's lead biologist, Dr. Bob Anthony, explained that the species are linked in two different ways. The first is directly eagles often eat sea otter pups when the adults dive into the water to gather food. The species are also linked through a long ecological chain. – KUCB, formerly KIAL

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Katmai: The raft tossed in a deadly black night

Afloat and cold in the North Pacific, tossed by two-story swells, a group of men wearing survival suits shivered and huddled on a raft after their fishing boat, the Katmai, went down in the early morning dark Wednesday.

Blistering winds approaching 50 knots and ocean spray battered them, ultimately ripping off the raft's canopy. Then bad turned to worse: The raft flipped, and when it came back up, some men were missing, vanished in the blackness.  Anchorage Daily News

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Dramatic video as helicopter rescues one survivor

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk and crew from Air Station Kodiak rescued four survivors from the 93-foot fishing vessel Katmai 100 miles west of Adak in the Aleutian Islands on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008. 

The marine casualty, the sinking of the vessel and loss of life, is under investigation by the Coast Guard. Coast Guard investigators anticipate taking initial statements from the survivors in Anchorage. – U.S. Coast Guard
Video from the Jayhawk:


Ship’s owner releases names of crew

The survivors
Capt. Henry Blake III, 39, of Massachusetts
Adam Foster, Shoreline, Wash.
Guy Schroder, Anchorage
Harold Appling, Anchorage
The missing
Carlos Zabala of Helena, Mont.
Robert Davis, Whatcom County, Wash.
The dead
Cedric Smith, Portland, Ore.
Glenn Harper, Portland, Ore.
Jake Gilman, Camas, Wash.
Joshua Leonguerrero, Spanaway, Wash.
Fuli Lemusu of Salem, Ore.
-- reported by the Anchorage Daily News

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Katmai had been for sale by owners

Looks like the Katmai had been on the sale block recently. Here’s part of the Internet listing: “Katmai is a world class vessel,” said the listing, which asked for a "reduced" price of $647,500. – Anchorage Daily News

Here is the Google page of the listing.

Potential crewman backed out because he couldn’t swim

A couple of years ago, a jobless Bobby Harrison contemplated a dramatic shift in lifestyle, leaving the urban comforts of Portland to join his cousin aboard the Katmai, a fishing vessel that tapped into the harvests off Alaska.

But Harrison couldn't swim, and had heard a few too many tales about the dangers of fishing the North Pacific. He opted to stay put.

"I heard stories about guys who had lost limbs and arms, and was just too scared to go," he said.

Thursday, Harrison's cousin, Cedric Smith, and a longtime friend, Glenn Harper, were identified as two of the men who died when the Katmai sank early Wednesday morning off the Aleutian Islands. Their bodies, along with three others, were recovered from the Bering Sea on Wednesday. – Seattle Times

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