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Summary for October 27 - October 31, 2008:

Monday, October 27, 2008

F/V Katmai news roundup

Search called off: The Coast Guard suspended the search Sunday at 9:36 a.m. for two missing crewmen from the fishing vessel Katmai that sank 100 miles west of Adak. Carlos Martin Zabala and Robert Davis were part of the 11-man crew aboard the fishing vessel Katmai that sank on Wednesday – Coast Guard press release.

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Investigation begins: The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation into the sinking of the fishing vessel Katmai will convene Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 at the Anchorage Hilton Downtown at 9:30 a.m. The members of the board are Cmdr. Malcolm McLellan, USCG Headquarters in Washington D.C.; Lt. Scott White, USCG District 1 in Boston Investigations; Lt. Michael Benson, USCG Sector Anchorage Investigations. – Coast Guard press release.

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The human toll: 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. 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. – Seattle Times.

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Research into best pink salmon pack

A steady flow of twenty-somethings wearing jeans and backpacks entered a room that smelled slightly of fish. They sat down in front of paper plates holding three helpings of pink salmon. The crowd -- mostly college students -- had responded to a sign outside: "Do you like to eat fish?"
About 120 people sat down that day at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to rate Alaska pink salmon on such features as saltiness, texture, fattiness and fish flavor. Perhaps lured by the reward of a few cookies, those fish tasters were helping Trina Lapis earn her degree.
Lapis is a master's degree student in seafood science and nutrition at UAF who wanted to answer a question -- can fish processors make pink salmon more attractive to consumers by boosting its oil level? – Ned Rozell for Alaska Science, writing in the Anchorage Daily News


Lawyers fight to keep Exxon money allocation plan

Here’s a response to the motion from Sea Hawk Seafoods Inc. to toss out the allocation plan for Exxon Valdez punitive damages and replace it with a different plan. (The Highliner, Oct. 19 and 21).

David Oesting, lead lawyer for the nearly 33,000 commercial fishermen and other oil spill claimants hoping for checks soon, makes several key points in his 32-page response filed yesterday. – Pacific Fishing columnist writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News


B.C. closes halibut season, sports charters howl

The recreational halibut fishery in British Columbia will be closed one week from today, announced Fisheries and Oceans Canada yesterday morning.
The DFO decision effectively eliminates the ability for anglers and charter clients to catch any halibut from Oct. 31 to the end of the calendar year.
Already the decision has prompted harsh criticism from recreational stakeholders such as the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia (SFI), which claims the 10,000 pounds of fish the sport sector could have caught before Dec. 31 pales in comparison to the 1.3 million pounds the commercial halibut fishery is expected to catch during that two-month period. – Prince Rupert Daily News


Battle over Oregon fish quota plan still rages

As the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) rides a wave of controversy toward its Nov. 5 decision on a proposed individual fishing quota (IFQ) system -- otherwise known as “catch shares” -- for the West Coast groundfish fishery, individuals, agencies, councils, commissions, and others continue to weigh anchor on the matter.


The fishermen got a boost from an Oct. 15 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) signed by 13 members of Congress -- three senators, 10 representatives, all Democrats -- encouraging the agency “to support a fair, well-designed IFQ program that will transform the groundfish industry from a fishery struggling with bycatch problems and economic stagnancy into a vibrant, ecologically, and economically sustainable fishery” that would benefit fishermen, processors, coastal communities, and the fishery resource. For them -- including Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Pete DeFazio, and representatives Darlene Hooley and Earl Blumenauer -- the shared system would not only “take a 20 percent bite out of fishermen who are already struggling to stay in business,” but also give those processors “even more ability to mandate times and prices.” – Newport News-Times


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Study: Maybe dams don’t hurt small salmon

It's a startling finding with potentially big political implications: Young salmon running the gantlet of dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers fared just as well as salmon on an undammed river.

The dams, after all, are widely considered a chief culprit in the decline of endangered salmon in the West's biggest river. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent trying to make dams more fish-friendly, and environmentalists have poured out their wrath about the concrete walls.

The online scientific journal PLoS Biology, which released the study, jumped on the apparent contradiction with a news release trumpeting that "Dams make no damn difference to salmon survival." – Seattle Times


Count-by-count summary of Ted Stevens’ guilty verdict

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was convicted on all seven charges of making false statements on Senate financial documents about gifts he received from contractor Bill Allen, oil services company VECO Corp., and others.

Here are the charges. The verdict form is broken down by year and jurors did not have to indicate which gifts, if any, they believe Stevens concealed. – Anchorage Daily News


Katmai sinking hearings begin with survivor ordeal

ANCHORAGE — In testimony Monday, the captain of the fishing vessel Katmai — lost at sea last week — described a nightmarish fight for survival in a life raft that kept flipping in rough seas.

The vessel with 11 crewmen went down after midnight Wednesday, and through a long dark aftermath, Henry Blake III said, the life raft probably flipped more than 20 or 30 times. Three crewmen were lost from the raft, but Blake and three others managed to hang on until their rescue some 17 hours later. – Seattle Times


More fish farms moving to Latin America

Fish farming is expanding in Latin America, fuelled by the demands of a global market that is facing the stagnation of commercial fishing. But some people are warning about the limits of industrial production of fish and the environmental and social risks.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 45 percent of the fish consumed in the world comes from fish farms. Today that means 48 million tonnes, but by 2030 that volume would have to be doubled because of the decline in commercial fishing and the increasing demands of a growing population. -- Inter Press Service 

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Off-shore drilling in B.C.?

Last week, former NDP Premier Dan Miller said he would like the coast of British Columbia to open up for offshore oil business. Two dayslater, Council of Haida Nation (CHN) Vice President Arnie Bellis said no way.

Bellis was reacting to comments made by Miller, who said he would like to see the federal moratorium lifted on offshore oil drilling, or else the province would suffer economic peril. – Prince Rupert Daily News


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A terrifying night follows Katmai sinking

The captain of a commercial fishing boat that sank last week in remote Aleutian waters said Monday he and other crewmen spent a terrifying night trying to cling to a wave-pummeled life raft.

The 11-man crew was forced to abandon the 93-foot vessel Katmai after it lost steering, flooded and rolled over in rough seas west of Adak early last Wednesday, said Henry Blake, who lives in Massachusetts.

That began a desperate fight for survival, Blake told a panel of federal investigators during a hearing at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing in the Anchorage Daily News

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For an Anchorage Daily News video glimpse of testimony by Guy Schroder, the Katmai’s deck boss, click here


Catching fish to feed pigs

An alarming new study to be published in November in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources finds that one-third of the world’s marine fish catches are ground up and fed to farm-raised fish, pigs, and poultry, squandering a precious food resource for humans and disregarding the serious overfishing crisis in our oceans.

Lead author Dr. Jacqueline Alder, senior author Dr. Daniel Pauly, and colleagues urge that other foods be used to feed farmed animals so that these “forage fish” can be brought to market for larger-scale human consumption. “Forage fish” include anchovies, sardines, menhaden, and other small- to medium-sized fish species which are the primary food for ocean-dwelling marine mammals, seabirds (especially puffins and gulls) and several large fishes. – News Wire

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Editorial: First set rules for off-shore fish farming

A decision to allow commercial fish farming in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico should only come after extensive consideration of the environmental and health impacts to the Gulf and its wild fisheries.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is meeting in Mobile this week to consider adopting rules on fish farming. It should wait, and let Congress weigh in with consistent standards to be applied to all federal waters.
Pensacola News Journal

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Outlook good for Klamath and Trinity salmon runs

Early indications are good for Klamath and Trinity river salmon next year, although Sacramento River fish -- whose collapse ground ocean commercial and sport fishing to a halt this year -- may still be struggling.

Counts of adult fish and 2-year-old Chinook salmon, which are a strong indicator of next year's run, have been strong at several weirs on the Klamath and Trinity. While it's still early, the beginning numbers are encouraging.  – Eureka Times-Standard

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Juneau fish advisory panel members quit over charters

JUNEAU – Half the members of Juneau's local Fish and Game advisory committee, including several people who had been on the committee for decades, resigned Monday.
A trapper, a sportsman and six commercial fishermen, plus an alternate who commercially fishes, quit. In a joint letter to the state boards of Fish and Game, they said charter fishing operators had been elected into seats reserved for sport or personal-use fishermen and hunters.
Juneau Empire

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Katmai panel investigates mysterious mayday call

Investigators looking into last week’s sinking of the fishing boat Katmai, which killed seven crewmen, have learned of a recorded Mayday call at the Kodiak Coast Guard station that came in 101 minutes before the radio signal that triggered the search for survivors.

“The call is not confirmed to have come from the Katmai, was not heard by the Coast Guard watch stander in Kodiak and not reported as being heard by any other entities,” a Coast Guard press release issued this evening says. “It was discovered upon review of the recorded audio files as a part of the investigation.”– Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing in the Anchorage Daily News

Coast Guard audio of the mysterious mayday call:

The Anchorage Daily News offers a visual sampling from the hearings into the deadly sinking of the Katmai:

Still photography:



Commercial fishermen object to new Columbia plan

If you want to get a good raging debate going, just toss out any plan for salmon recovery, as I did in a recent column ("One man's urgent fight to save salmon").

Predictably, the proposal by four biologists, including longtime state biologist and sport fisherman Jim Martin, elicited some praise, lots of questions and tons of criticism.

Martin has been busy in recent weeks trying to sell a five-year pilot program to state leaders that would increase the number of hatchery smolts to be planted in "terminal" coastal fishing grounds, such as Youngs Bay at Astoria. – Columnist Andy Parker writing in The Oregonian

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A short history of salmon farming

“There are no commercial fisheries left in the world for Atlantic salmon. When you see ‘Fresh Atlantic Salmon,’ it’s farmed,” explained Catherine Stewart, salmon farming campaign manager for Living Oceans, a marine conservation agency in British Columbia. “And you shouldn’t eat it until the industry cleans itself up,” Stewart added.

Farming of Atlantic Salmon – a non-native species to the Pacific – took root in B.C. during the late eighties due to the ideal conditions found in sheltered inlets and bays.

A Norwegian-owned company, Marine Harvest Canada, is typical of the industry. During the 20-month growing cycle for salmon, the company feeds its stocks fishmeal, a combination of processed fish and fish oil that comes in pellet form from fish farms in Chile or Peru. -- Canadian National Newspaper

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Kill fish to feed pigs

Factory-farmed fish, pigs and poultry are consuming 28 million tonnes of fish a year, or roughly six times the amount of seafood eaten by Americans, according to new research.

A nine-year study by the University of British Columbia has found that 90 percent of small fish caught in the world's oceans every year such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel are processed to make fishmeal and fish oil.
They are used as a cheap feed for aquaculture (including farmed Atlantic salmon, prawns and trout), poultry, pigs and animals bred for the fur industry. – The Canberra Times

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Feeding fish to pigs once an accepted practice in the Pacific Northwest

Fish pig feed not a new concept. Back in the early ‘70s, I worked on a weekly newspaper on the Oregon Coast, and for a reason that escapes me now, I interviewed an old-timer who grew up on the Siletz River. He told me that his family raised pigs to make cash in what was then a very isolated and poor corner of the nation.

Come late summer, the family stretched a seine net entirely across the Siletz River, which was about 30 yards wide. They would plug the river at times, hauling ocean-bright salmon onto shore. These, they’d feed to the pigs.

After the pigs had fattened, the family then drove them overland to Newport, about 25 miles. There, the pigs were fed corn to further fatten them and, it was hoped, get the fishy flavor out of the pork. The swine were then sent by ship from Newport to San Francisco, Portland, or Puget Sound.

Small wonder salmon stocks have been hammered on the Northwest’s small coastal streams. – Don McManman, editor of Pacific Fishing magazine


Friday, October 31, 2008

Survey: Dungeness crab full off Oregon

Test crabs have proven plump enough to give Oregon crews hope that the lucrative Dungeness crab season will begin on the traditional date, Dec. 1.

Test crab recently harvested along the coast contained enough meat to justify an on-time start, said a state official.

Bargaining on price begins Nov. 12 in Newport. – Hillsboro (Oregon) Argus

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To save B.C. salmon, protect habitat

It is obvious to anyone who has put in any time on the issue of increasing salmon populations that saving and restoring spawning and rearing habitat in rivers is the single most important issue to be tackled today. This far and away outstrips the common sense view that stopping fishing is the way to go. The rejoinder is to note that if habitat is ruined a run becomes extinct in one year, whether there is or is not any fishing.

One clear example where habitat proved crucial is the Fraser River Hell's Gate Canyon slide of 1924. That slide wiped out a run of as many as 30,000,000 pinks in one year. And it is why, today, more than 80 years later that there are no pink salmon for the Fraser in an even numbered year, like this year, 2008.

Far and away the biggest contributor to ruined rivers is a century of logging damage -- a smother of small gravel and silt from bank to bank, wiping out habitat for spawning and rearing and leaving a hot algae-filled low-water stream nearly devoid of life. -- D.C. Reid writing for the Times Colonist, Victoria

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Aspelund named to Alaska commercial fisheries position

The Highliner hears that Sue Aspelund has been promoted to the vacant deputy director’s job in the state Division of Commercial Fisheries.

For the past five years, Aspelund has been a special assistant to the fish and game commissioner. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

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Arctic ice sheet slip-sliding away

The countdown to the annual Arctic slush cup has ended, and the realm of polar bear and ice seal has shrunk yet again. The meltback may not be as bad as last year, but it’s worse than any other season logged by the satellite record.
How bad was it?
The Arctic Ocean ice cap has basically lost an area three times larger than Texas. – Far North Science

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Ice coming back to Eureka

When Eureka Ice and Cold Storage thawed out, the roof caved in.

About a month after the facility's ice-making chemicals were ordered evacuated by Humboldt County environmental health officials, leaving a fishing port city without vital cold storage, the company is planning a comeback.

The current building is unusable, the north section of its roof having given way after the insulation was soaked by melting ice. Eureka Ice is hoping its insurance will cover the damage, allowing it to raze the building and replace it with a new steel structure.

That would provide cold storage, with a new Freon system, needed for businesses, fishermen and other customers with large volumes of goods to freeze. – Eureka Times-Standard

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