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Summary for November 17 - November 21, 2008:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dungeness season begins, fishermen not hopeful

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bay Area seafood lovers anticipating the start of the Dungeness crab season can rejoice as boats began fishing – and they should enjoy the catch while they can, commercial fishermen warn, because the season might be short and lean.

Commercial boats from the Bay Area's three major ports left dock Friday to set crab pots in advance of the season opener, when fishermen can legally begin harvesting Dungeness and bringing them to market. – San Francisco Chronicle

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Alaska reports 16th best salmon harvest

JUNEAU – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released its preliminary estimates for the 2008 commercial salmon harvest and for the value of that harvest to commercial fishermen. 

Commercial fishermen harvested 146 million salmon in 2008.  This is the 16th largest harvest since Alaska became a state 49 years ago.  The 2008 harvest was 67 million fish less than the 2007 harvest of 213 million fish, 13.5 million fish above the preseason forecast of 132.5 million fish, and 27.3 million fish below the most recent 10 year average (2007-1998) commercial harvest of 173 million salmon.  – ADF&G

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Small pollock quota for 2009

The Bering Sea next year could yield its smallest catch of pollock in more than 30 years, squeezing the supply of a raw material used in goods such as fish sticks and imitation crab legs.

Government scientists who track the population of the mottled bottom fish are recommending a commercial catch limit of 815,000 tons. If approved, it would be a nearly 19 percent cut from this year's level and the lowest catch limit since federal management of the fishery began in 1977. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing in the Anchorage Daily News

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Anti-marine reserve petitions going to the governor

A Brookings Harbor port commissioner and a Curry County supervisor will be taking stacks of petitions opposing establish a marine reserve on Mack Reef to the Governor's Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) this week.– Curry Coastal Pilot, Oregon

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Alaska halibut season ends

The halibut season has closed. As usual, commercial fishermen left very few fish in the water.

Harvesters holding individual fishing quotas took more than 47 million pounds of halibut, or 98 percent of the overall Alaska limit, according to the latest report from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

From what I’ve heard, it was another terrific year for dockside prices.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if demand holds up for halibut and other Alaska seafood in what evidently is a global recession.

The next halibut season will open in March. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News


Tuesday, November 19, 2008

Fred Wahl closing shop on Yaquina Bay

Since 1999, a sliver of land at Sturgeon Bend along the Yaquina River near Toledo bustled with activity as employees at Fred Wahl Marine Construction hauled out, repaired, and maintained commercial fishing vessels and local charter and sport fishing boats.

The shipyard still brims with activity, but for the past week or more, the usual thrum of boat maintenance and related work has interspersed with the rumble of forklifts and trucks as crews remove and load equipment for transport to owner Fred Wahl's main facility in Reedsport. After nearly a decade of service, the Toledo shipyard is closing. And while everyone knew it loomed, the “death of a shipyard” -- as employee Michael Wood dubbed it -- weighs heavily.
Newport News-Times

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Researchers radio-tracking Sacramento Chinook

SAN FRANCISCO — State and federal researchers Friday released hundreds of tiny, transmitter-equipped salmon into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as part of California's largest effort to track movements of the pink fish through an estuary that has grown increasingly hostile to salmon and other species.

Using underwater listening devices, scientists will follow the fate of more than 6,000 juvenile chinook salmon -- or smolt -- over the next several months, gathering data on how fish behavior may be tied to factors such as tidal action and salinity, as well as the operations of the state and federal agencies that pump water through the delta to 25 million Californians. – San Francisco Chronicle

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Exxon lawyers file more payment lists

Lawyers controlling money from the Exxon Valdez case have filed more lists of people who might soon receive payments.
These lists cover several smaller claimant categories such as shellfish harvesters and tender vessel operators. -- Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Read the lists here:


Officials to defend pollock TAC

On Wednesday, at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, the commercial fishing industry and NMFS will explain the lower pollock total allowable catch for 2009. Here’s a link to talking points prepared by the Marine Conservation Alliance:


See us at Expo

Pacific Fishing again will be at the Pacific Maritime Expo in Seattle. The event, at Qwest center, runs Thursday through Saturday.
You’ll find us at Booth 622.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feds to open land near crucial Alaska salmon streams to development

Despite vigorous opposition, federal officials plan to open roughly 1 million acres near some of Alaska's richest salmon streams to mineral exploration and oil and gas leasing.
Large blocks of land in Southwest Alaska would be opened to development -- for the first time in more than 35 years -- in the same two river drainages as Pebble, the giant copper and gold prospect.
One of the drainages is the Kvichak River, which has the largest sockeye salmon run in the world. The other is the Nushagak River, the state's second-largest king salmon producer. -- Anchorage Daily News


NOAA announces aid for fishermen affected by Fraser River sockeye fishery

NOAA’s Fisheries Service announced that several Northwest Indian tribes and the state of Washington will be eligible for up to a total of $2 million to assist tribal and non-tribal communities affected by the commercial fishery failure in Fraser River sockeye salmon.
“The assistance we are announcing today will help tribal and non-tribal fishermen who have been hurt by drastic declines in sockeye salmon runs and harvests that are so important to these communities,” said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service. “We encourage the tribes and the state to use this aid to expand their work on salmon habitat restoration, stock enhancement, and retraining of fishermen.”
The tribes and the state of Washington will now submit plans to NOAA’s Fisheries Service outlining how the funds will be used. -- NOAA News


Biologists: Three pesticides must be contained to protect salmon

Farms and orchards that continue to use three pesticides that harm salmon will have to greatly expand buffer zones around their fields so the chemicals don't reach streams, federal biologists ruled Tuesday.
Acting under terms of a lawsuit brought by anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen, NOAA Fisheries Service issued findings under the Endangered Species Act that chemicals malathion, diazinon and chlorpyrifos jeopardize the survival of all 28 species of Pacific salmon listed as threatened or endangered in the West. -- Seattle Times


Ocean advisory panel recommends just two marine reserves off Oregon coast

Gov. Ted Kulongoski's vision of fishing-free marine reserves off the Oregon coast could be downsized dramatically if he accepts recommendations made Tuesday by an ocean advisory panel.
The state's Ocean Policy Advisory Council recommends two pilot reserves, one near Port Orford and one near Depoe Bay, substantially whittling down the governor's top initiative for restoring ocean abundance.
The council recommended four areas for further study or discussion -- near Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua and Cape Arago -- but scaled back most of those proposals and didn't set a timeline. Kulongoski had called for up to nine reserves provided they didn't significantly impact coastal economies. The council considered 20 proposals in all. --The Oregonian


Governor Palin announces board appointments

Governor Sarah Palin announced appointments to the Alaska Board of Forestry and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, as well as her nominations to the Bering Sea Fishery Advisory Board and the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission’s advisory panel. – Press release, Office of the Governor, reported by Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alaska Steller sea lion survey indicates mostly stable population

NOAA scientists have completed their analysis of 2008 Steller sea lion survey results.

“This year’s numbers reinforce last year’s incomplete survey,” said Doug DeMaster, Director of NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “With increased counts in some places and decreases in others, the overall trend since 2004 in Alaska’s western population of Steller sea lions is stable or declining slightly.” 

While concerns remain about numbers in the Central and Western Aleutians, the stable trend overall was welcome news, said Dave Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance. “It’s noteworthy that the SSL counts in the Eastern Aleutians, where most commercial fishing activity in the Bering Sea takes place, have increased by seven percent since 2004 and is the only region where western SSL populations have steadily increased since 2000.”

-- Press releases, National Marine Fisheries Service (Alaska region) and the Marine Conservation Alliance in Juneau


Columbia River catch-sharing plan unpopular with fishermen

This much is clear: Both sport and commercial fishermen are unhappy with a proposed spring chinook catch-sharing recommendation for the lower Columbia River.

On Monday, the Columbia River Fish Working Group agreed on an approximately five-year scenario for dividing the harvest between the groups.

"We knew we weren't going to please,'' said Jerry Gutzwiler of Wenatchee, chairman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and a working group member. "We've got a finite resource and a big appetite for it.'' -- The Columbian


Alaska commercial salmon season estimates show drop in catch, value

Preliminary estimates for the 2008 commercial salmon season show a statewide harvest numbering less in total salmon caught and monetary value than last year, according to a press release by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The estimated amount caught by commercial fisherman this year, at 146 million, though considered the 16th largest harvest since Alaska statehood 49 years ago, was 67 million less than 2007’s 213 million. However, 2008’s final prediction was 13.5 million fish greater than the preseason forecast of 132.5 million.
The value of 2008’s catch, a total of $409.3 million, was only $7.4 million less than last year, though still higher than the most recent 10-year average (2007-1998). -- Kodiak Daily Mirror


Central California crab season looks dismal

HALF MOON BAY, Calif.—The Central California crab season isn't looking good this year, and some fishermen are already heading home.

Some crabbers say the season, which began Saturday, is the worst they've seen in more than a decade.
Crab specialist Peter Kalvass, a senior biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, attributes the sudden shortage to natural environmental factors.

The Dungeness crab fishery tends to move in peaks and troughs. After a record season in 2004, the harvest has been declining, and Kalvass says the numbers likely will remain low before they improve again, most likely in 2010-11. -- San Jose Mercury News


Sen. Stevens says thanks for 40 years

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens conceded defeat in a re-election bid shadowed by his federal felony conviction, while the Democrat who toppled him staked out a centrist agenda that includes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
In an eight-sentence statement, the longest serving Republican in Senate history said not enough ballots remain uncounted for him to catch Mark Begich, who holds a 3,724-vote edge out of about 315,000 ballots cast.

"I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for," Stevens said. "I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life." -- Fairbanks Daily News Miner


Friday, November 21, 2008

Federal advisory board approves standards for "organic" farmed fish

For the first time, a federal advisory board has approved criteria that clear the way for farmed fish to be labeled "organic," a move that pleased aquaculture producers even as it angered environmentalists and consumer advocates.

The question of whether farmed fish could be labeled organic -- especially carnivorous species such as salmon that live in open-ocean net pens and consume vast amounts of smaller fish -- has vexed scientists and federal regulators for years. The standards approved by the National Organic Standards Board would allow organic fish farmers to use wild fish as part of their feed mix provided it did not exceed 25 percent of the total and did not come from forage species, such as menhaden, that have declined sharply as the demand for farmed fish has skyrocketed. -- Washington Post


Columbia River Commercial Fishing Advisory Group open for nominations

Nominations are open for representatives on advisory committees that focus on sport and commercial fishing issues on the Columbia.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 15.

Members of the Columbia River Recreational Fishing Advisory Group and the Columbia River Commercial Fishing Advisory Group meet three to four times a year to talk issues affecting salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and smelt fisheries.

The two groups advise both fish and wildlife agencies on structuring fishing opportunities, developing fishery-management plans, minimizing sport/commercial gear conflicts and implementing annual marketing plans. -- Statesman Journal


Pacific Seafood now a fish farmer

Pacific Seafood, a dominant buyer on the West Coast, has purchased a steelhead farm on a stretch of the Columbia River in Nespelem, Wash., within the Colville Tribal Territory.  Marking the company’s first foray into finfish aquaculture, the farm will be operated using sustainable, all natural and humane practices. 
Located in a remote part of the Okanogan Highlands, the farm follows strict aquaculture practices and closely monitors the water quality, sediment quality and health of the fish. – Pacific Seafood press release


Study: California salmon and trout may not be around long

A study by UC Davis scientists, released on Wednesday, predicts 65 percent of California's salmon and trout species may become extinct within a century.

The research was commissioned by the environmental group California Trout to call attention to the plight of 31 native salmon, steelhead and trout species in the state. Three researchers from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences examined threats to the fish and estimated their likelihood for extinction.

Among the most threatened species are coastal coho salmon, which require cold streams shaded by thick wooded habitat. Instead, many of those streams have been degraded by logging and development. Less threatened are Central Valley fall-run chinook, the most abundant species in California and a foundation for the commercial harvest. However, Moyle warned this may be changing. This year the run collapsed, causing the closure of commercial fishing. -- Modesto Bee


Nichols Bros. Boat Builders makes temporary workforce reduction

Seattle, Wa –  Nichols Bros. Boat Builders announced today a temporary workforce reduction of 30 employees due to a buyer’s plan to acquire and rebuild existing vessels rather than purchase a new vessel from Nichols Bros. The reduction in personnel, expected to last an estimated three months, brings the company’s number of employees to 150.
Chief Executive Len York said, “This is a temporary workforce adjustment, not an indication that Nichols Bros. is headed into any serious financial issue." -- Press release