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Summary for December 1 - December 5, 2008:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two crabbers die crossing Tillamook Bar

Two commercial fishermen were missing after their crab boat capsized Friday morning off the north jetty of Oregon's Tillamook Bay.

Coast Guard boat and helicopter crews spent seven hours searching for the two men before suspending the search as hopes faded for their recovery.

The vessel, the 42-foot Network, went over at 7:42 a.m. as it attempted to traverse a bar to exit Tillamook Bay. The crab boat was hit by a wave estimated to be about 13 feet tall by the skipper, Darrin Mobley, who was able to swim to shore.

The two missing crewmen are George Shaw, 55, of Sequim; and Timothy Leake, 44, of Tillamook. – Seattle Times

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How Exxon Valdez money will be distributed

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez case issued a press release explaining the process for paying out about $150 million in punitive damages to certain classes of claimants.

Plaintiffs' counsel in the Exxon Valdez Litigation announced today that the process of distributing punitive damages money to claimants who have no outstanding liens in 13 claim categories (oiled fisheries, Native subsistence, and the Prince William Sound Fund) consistent with the Judge Russel Holland's November 24 order is now under way, and should be completed by mid-December. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing for the Anchorage Daily News as The Highliner

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Fishing intrinsic to Alaska’s identity

As Alaska prepares for its 50-year statehood celebrations in 2009, Alaskans are reminded of one of the rallying cries behind the statehood quest: to gain control of the salmon fishery. Fishing is intrinsic to the state’s identity.

“Alaska has one of the only state constitutions that specifically addresses state responsibility for prudent and sustained resource stewardship, for the material benefit of the people,” said Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) communications director Laura Fleming. – Petroleum News

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More troller disaster money released

Another $70 million is out of the hold for fishermen and other business owners run aground by this year's closure of the ocean salmon fishing season off Oregon, Washington, and California.– Newport News-Times

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North Pacific more acidic than once thought

NEAH BAY -- Measurements of ocean acidification off the North Olympic Peninsula coast at Tatoosh Island show acidity is rising more than 10 times faster than climate models have predicted.

The researchers cannot say whether the trend is widespread. – Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Will consumers buy Alaska’s high-priced seafood?

Even as an unstable national and worldwide economy shakes and shrinks, people still have to eat.

But will they continue to purchase Alaska’s expensive, quality-driven, brand-name seafood?

The notion that consumers are going out to eat less — and potentially buying less Alaska seafood as a result — is a growing anxiety for the industry, said Laura Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. – Kodiak Daily Mirror

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Washington fish, wildlife director announces retirement

Jeff Koenings, the longest serving director in the history of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is resigning effective Dec. 11.

Koenings, 61, announced his resignation on Monday. He has held the job since January 1999. —The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

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Canada needs new fisheries minister

With nearly every fisheries group on Canada's Northwest coast in agreement that management changes are desperately needed across all sectors, it would reason that there could not be a better time for the appointment of a new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. – Prince Rupert Daily News

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Oregon crabs full of meat

The crab have arrived!

Commercial Dungeness crabbers brought in boatload after boatload of the crustaceans, delivering their catches to processors in Washington, Oregon and California.

The crab are full of meat and the state-supervised price negotiations got the season started, but some crabbers are still trying to get moving. Rough weather prevented many of the smaller boats from leaving the dock, but some braved the 16-foot swells to catch as much crab as they could. – Coos Bay World

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Letter: Oregon can’t afford marine reserves

Based on the Register-Guard’s front page on Oregon’s economic health and the loss of 14,100 jobs in Oregon in September, it is time for all ports to let the governor and legislators know that not only can we not afford to fund marine reserves, we should demand at least a five-year moratorium on the topic. – Gina Dearth, general manager, Port of Bandon, writing in the Coos Bay World

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hard caps part of NOAA pollock plan for Chinook bycatch

NOAA Fisheries has released a draft environmental impact statement that proposes methods of reducing the number of Chinook salmon accidentally caught by Bering Sea pollock fishermen.

The comment period ends on Feb. 3, 2009.

The alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS generally involve limits or ‘caps’ on the number of Chinook salmon that may be caught in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. Managers would close all or part of a fishery when a Chinook salmon bycatch cap is reached, even if the entire pollock total allowable catch has not yet been harvested. – Press release

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Another cut for Southeast halibut fleet

For the third year in a row, Southeast Alaska fishermen are faced with a cut in the halibut catch limit.

International Pacific Halibut Commission staff released draft recommendations for a 2009 catch of 4.47 million pounds, a 28 percent reduction from this year's 6.21 million pounds. – Juneau Empire

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Scientists question Greenpeace pollock ad

Scientists are questioning the message of a new Greenpeace ad, saying the group misrepresents the facts.

Greenpeace has bought TV airtime in Alaska and Seattle to fight current pollock fishing practices.

The commercial features an unemployed fisherman begging on the streets of Los Angeles. Jobs, Native communities and endangered animals are all at risk if the pollock population drops, Greenpeace says. – KTUU, Anchorage

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Logging could hurt Oregon’s Tillamook streams

Five rivers pour into Tillamook Bay, and together they are among Oregon's most important coastal rivers for salmon and steelhead. This is one of a few places where six different fish stocks return each year from the sea.
But the same rivers pour off state forestland that may soon face accelerated logging to provide struggling coastal counties with more timber revenue. – The Oregonian

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N. California Dungeness crab sparse

Local markets are selling crab, but it's not the deluge the North Coast often sees at this time of year.

”Just getting some water boiling now,” said Mr. Fish fishmonger Mark McCullough Tuesday.

The crabs began coming in Monday night, and McCullough was prepared to sell cooked crab Tuesday afternoon. But he wasn't hearing promising reports from fishermen. – Eureka Times-Standard

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Report: B.C. stocks down because of fishing

VANCOUVER — Salmon stocks in British Columbia are on the brink of collapse largely because the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has consistently allowed too many fish to be killed in commercial and recreational fisheries, according to a new research paper.

The high exploitation of stocks -- which draws parallels with the destruction of Atlantic cod by overfishing -- may be more to blame for the decline of Pacific salmon than global warming or poor ocean conditions, says the study assessing salmon management practices, published today by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Globe and Mail, Toronto

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Letter: BLM won’t spoil Bristol Bay

I saw last week an article from a news service about the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to open most of its Bristol Bay lands to mineral development. The tone of the article was near-hysterical and led the casual reader to conclude that the end was near, that the feds had cleared the way for vast environmental degradation and destruction.

I disagree. While it’s true that the BLM, in its new plan for Bristol Bay lands, would allow for mineral exploration, we should look a bit deeper at what will likely follow. – Andrew DeValpine, director of the Bristol Bay Coastal Resource Service Area and a commercial fisherman, writing in the Bristol Bay Times

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Washington governor to change Fish and Wildlife Department

Big changes are afoot at Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency is looking for a new director after its longtime chief resigned this week.

That’s not the only change in Washington, as Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire prepares for a second term.– Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Oregon Dungeness fleet may reach 12 million pounds

Oregon Dungeness stocks are cyclical. Harvests reached record levels from 2003 to 2005, peaking at 33.6-million pounds worth $52.8 million in 2004, followed by 27.5 million pounds in 2005, valued at $44.6 million.

In 2006, their catch dropped by almost half to 15.1 million pounds worth $32.9 million. Last season, crabbers hauled 12.3 million pounds of Dungeness crabs valued at $29.3 million into Oregon ports.

Most observers expect landings to reach about 12 million pounds this season, although a disappointing haul off central California has some pondering whether the same fate awaits Oregon crabbers.  

But 12 million pounds is well above average, said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. Landings in recent seasons “were records, and you don't have them all the time,” he added, noting the need to compare potential catch to the norm, rather than record hauls. – Newport News Times

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Feedback: One consumer shunning fish

A Fish Wrap reader took note of an item we had a couple of days ago, in which it was reported that consumers are shunning relatively expensive seafood. Here is her response:

“As a consumer, I can say that the number of Alaskan seafood meals in my home has dropped.  The cost of seafood has been high most of the year. The price of crab, lobster, salmon and halibut have never been a past year's sale prices.  Chicken, pork and turkey are the more frequent menu items.
 Kathy Ogden
Bothell, Wash.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Size of Pebble mine emerging

Four hundred and seventy six drill holes later, we now know the rough size of the giant, controversial Pebble deposit.

The copper and gold prospect in salmon-rich Southwest Alaska holds about 72 billion pounds of copper and 94 million ounces of gold, according to the estimate published Thursday by one of the companies advancing Pebble. – Anchorage Daily News

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Oregon protected area system ‘bellyflops”

Oregon's attempt to establish a network of marine reserves – an excellent idea – appears to have sorta bellyflopped.
Instead of the 20 marine protected areas proposed by conservationists, the state's Ocean Policy Advisory Council is recommending just two. – The Daily Score

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Funniest advertisement sells wild salmon

About 300million people voted on an Internet poll for the funniest commercial of all time. And the winner (drum roll, please), a television ad supposedly set in Alaska. – The Sun, U.K.

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Maine lobster enters sustainability certification process

The Maine lobster trap fishery, located on the Gulf of Maine in the northeastern United States, has begun full assessment for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. – MSC press release

Group seeks threatened species declaration for walrus
A conservation group went to court Wednesday to force the federal government to consider adding Pacific walrus to the list of threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for failing to act on a petition seeking protection for walrus under the Endangered Species Act. – Anchorage Daily News

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