pf home
Summary for December 8 - December 12, 2008:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Report: Alaska still top fishing state

Alaska is still the No. 1 fishing state in the nation, a position it’s held since 1975, based on the state’s 2007 catch. The catch was Alaska’s third-highest in value since statehood and its sixth-largest in volume. The state’s annual harvest value first exceeded the $1 billion mark in 1988 and has done so 14 times in the following 19 years. – Alaska Department of Labor
Read more:


Pebble Mine projected value increases

ANCHORAGE -- The vast potential of the Pebble deposit is becoming more clear each day.

So far 476 holes have been drilled to determine the copper and gold mining prospects of the Southwest Alaska region, which also features some of the world's top salmon fisheries.

A report by companies pushing the project says the deposit holds close to 72 billion pounds of copper and 94 million ounces of gold. – Juneau Empire

Read more:


Study: Salmon find home using magnetic field

How marine animals find their way back to their birthplace to reproduce after migrating across thousands of miles of open ocean has mystified scientists for more than a century. But marine biologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill think they might finally have unraveled the secret.

At the beginning of their lives, salmon and sea turtles may read the magnetic field of their home area and “imprint” on it, according to a new theory in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. – Underwater Times


Battery-powered fish

For many years, fisherman and researchers alike have been trying to figure out where different species of fish like herring go once they spawn or where juvenile salmon go after leaving their freshwater habitat to journey out into the waters of Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.

Over the years, various tracking systems, tagging methods and models have been developed worldwide to monitor commercial fish stocks to better understand and predict where fish go, what might happen to them while in the ocean and help predict when they will return. – Cordova Times

Read more:


BC group: Feds dragging feet on treaty salmon allocations

The BC Treaty Commission claimed that the federal government is holding back treaty negotiations because the organization does not have permission to forward salmon allocations as part of any deal.

And one commissioner said such hold-ups are hurting negotiations with North Coast First Nations. – Prince Rupert Daily News

Read more:


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Exxon money finally being sent

The millions of dollars Exxon Mobil Corp. has surrendered as punishment for the Prince William Sound oil spill have started hitting the streets, nearly 20 years after the disaster.

Several commercial fishermen who joined in the lawsuit against Exxon reported receiving direct deposits in their bank accounts Monday. Paper checks are expected to go out in the mail in the next week. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing in The Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Oregon crab boat skipper arrested

Oregon State Police troopers cited the crew Saturday and arrested the skipper of commercial fishing vessel Fierce Leader on allegations of taking undersized crab.

At 4 p.m. officers inspected the vessel at Bandon Pacific seafood processing plant in Charleston, finding a large amount of undersized Dungeness crab, according to an OSP press release.

Troopers cited and released crew members Contessa M. Sturgell, 34, of Astoria; Terry D. Hopkins, 46, of Canby; Kenneth M. McMaster Sr., 47, of Astoria and David H. Ashton, 39, residence unknown. They arrested the vessel’s skipper, Dennis L. Sturgell, 56, of Hammond, on a charge of unlawful take of undersized commercial crab. He was taken to the Coos County jail, where he was released on citation this morning.

The crab were released back into the water. – Coos Bay World


Opinion: Protected areas may not be the answer

There are two positions already staked out on the issue of creating marine reserves off the Oregon coast. There is an emotional and often irrational drive to lock up much of Oregon's ocean from commercial and sport fishing, and there is the predictable response to that drive that amounts to "no way."

But there's a third position, what I'd call the Oregon way, a rational approach: Involve all interested and affected people, become informed, work from the people upward and make informed decisions. – The Oregonian

Read more:


Tenth birthday for B.C. coastal village fish farm

A celebration was recently held in the small coastal village of Klemtu, British Columbia,
to commemorate the ten years of collaboration and business success between the
Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation and Marine Harvest Canada.

Twenty years ago the people of Klemtu turned to salmon aquaculture to try to replace the
economic opportunity lost in the decline of the commercial salmon fishery. – Marine Harvest press release

Read more:


Opinion: Protect Bristol Bay from BLM

For generations, Alaska Natives have hunted, fished, thrived and survived on the land surrounding Bristol Bay. As I look forward to passing on this way of life to my children and grandchildren, I find myself fighting for the future of my culture.

The Bureau of Land Management has released a management plan for nearly 1.5 million acres of key watershed for Bristol Bay that recommends opening every acre to mineral development. This development could effectively wipe out the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, which not only feeds my people but also contributes $200 million annually to the state economy. – Bobby Andrew, spokesman for Nunamta Alukestai, Caretakers of Our Lands, in Dillingham, writing in the Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Feds serve search warrants on Ocean Beauty

Ocean Beauty Seafoods was contacted Tuesday by federal agencies requesting information pertaining to imported seafood products. Ocean Beauty is actively working with the federal government to make sure the agencies get the documentation they are seeking as quickly as possible.
“Obviously, the safety and security of the nation’s food supply is of paramount importance, and all of us at Ocean Beauty are firm supporters of the government’s vigilance in this area,” said Mark Palmer, President and CEO of Ocean Beauty. “We are doing everything in our power to comply with these requests quickly and comprehensively.” – Company press release

Oregon crab fisherman’s body found
The Tillamook County Sheriff has confirmed that the body of a missing deckhand from a crab boat that sank November 28 was discovered late last week on a nearby beach.

Sheriff Todd Anderson said a beach walker found the body of 55-year-old George Shaw on a beach near Rockaway last Friday morning at around 4:30 a.m. – The Oregonian

Read more:


Sustainability group fights back against Greenpeace

The Alaska pollock fishery remains certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) independent third-party certification system despite Greenpeace USA’s  campaign to raise doubts about the status of the fishery.
Commercial seafood buyers and consumers around the world who rely on MSC to provide assurance that they are sourcing sustainably caught seafood should be confident that the Alaska pollock fishery continues to be certified to the MSC’s widely accepted and rigorous scientific standard. – MSC press release

Read more:


Stevens still working on commercial fishing agenda

Sen. Ted Stevens may be leaving a final holiday gift behind for one of his most loyal constituencies: the Alaska commercial fishing industry.

In 2006, while Congress negotiated the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the fishermen fought to loosen rules that govern the environmental review process surrounding catch limits. 

The resulting language “wasn’t as specific as it should have been,” said David Benton, head of the Marine Conservation Alliance, a coalition of Alaskan fishermen and processors.

Benton said that while Stevens — the 85-year-old Alaska Republican turned out of office by voters last month after his conviction on federal corruption charges — has long been a strong ally, the effort has been bipartisan. -- Politico, D.C.

Read more:


Sports fisherman to Alaska Board of Fisheries

JUNEAU -- Gov. Sarah Palin has appointed Karl Johnstone, a retired judge and sport fisherman, to the Board of Fisheries.

The board makes and directs fisheries policy. It sets seasons, bag limits, methods and means for the state's fisheries -- sport, chartered, personal use, commercial and subsistence -- and makes allocation decisions among those sectors.

Johnstone has sport-fished in Alaska since 1967. – Juneau Empire

Read more:


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ocean Beauty changes story about federal ‘request’

Ocean Beauty Seafoods changed its story, seemingly overnight, concerning an investigation by federal authorities.

Here’s how the company characterized the investigation on Tuesday, Nov. 9: “Ocean Beauty Seafoods was contacted today by federal agencies requesting information pertaining to imported seafood products.”

Turns out, the situation was less a request and more of a raid. Here’s the press released distributed Wednesday, Nov. 10.

“Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ Washington plants in Seattle and Monroe, as well as its Los Angeles location, returned to normal operations Tuesday afternoon after federal officials closed them briefly earlier in the day. Agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arrived at the plants Tuesday morning seeking documentation records apparently relating to a single shipment of seafood imported in late 2007.
“Our operations were suspended at these locations for part of a day as a result of the investigation, but by the end of the day all operations were processing and shipping as normal,” said Mark Palmer, Ocean Beauty President and CEO. “Food safety is too important to us not to take this seriously, and we are doing so. We have done everything in our power to comply fully with the authorities, and will continue to do so.”
This matter is unrelated to the company’s Alaska operations or its fresh fish distribution locations, but appears to be narrowly focused on a single frozen shipment.


Katmai hearings resume

The U.S. Coast Guard neglected to tell the public about its latest hearing into the sinking of F/V Katmai until less than 24 hours before hearings resumed. Here’s press release emerging from the latest hearing:

The Marine Board of Investigation into the Oct. 22 sinking of the fishing vessel Katmai reconvened at the Jackson Federal Building here Wednesday.

Members of the board heard from several witnesses:

Isaac Vigil worked as an engineer aboard the Katmai in 2007.  Vigil described various machinery aboard the Katmai and claimed to witness questionable methods used for repairing the vessel.  He accused the owners of the Katmai of hiring incompetent welders and pointed out problems he experienced with water getting into the fish processing factory on board the vessel.

Sean Harrigan, captain of the fishing vessel Courageous which responded to the sinking, spoke about his experience fishing in Alaskan waters and of the weather conditions the day the Katmai sank.

Jeff Davis, captain of the fishing vessel Patricia Lee, described the types of safety training and equipment required aboard his vessel and other vessels similar to the Katmai.  Davis also discussed the weather conditions for Oct. 22. 

Lloyd Cannon, a co-owner of the Katmai, discussed the history of the vessel and the hiring of Henry Blake III, captain of the Katmai at the time of its sinking.

Robert Wood, another co-owner of the Katmai, discussed repairs done aboard the vessel as well as its history.

Henry Blake III, former captain of the Katmai, was recalled to testify about weather conditions the day the Katmai sank.  Blake was also asked questions pertaining to possible pre-existing damage to the vessel and rafts used to abandon the boat.

In addition to collecting testimony, members of the board of investigation examined a raft recovered by crew members from the Courageous and a cod pot similar to those used aboard the Katmai.

The board will examine the evidence it has gathered and will reconvene at a future date.  No date or location has been given for any future testimony. – Press release


Mining company’s Alaska proposal examined

State permitters this month are reviewing Redfern Resources Ltd.'s revised plan to haul mine supplies and ore on the Taku River year round.

This is the Vancouver company's second application. The state terminated the first one this summer after the company changed the tow vehicles it planned to use to haul an air-cushion barge across Taku ice.

The first plan generated widespread concern among sport and commercial fishermen and other users of the salmon-rich river. More than 250 people attended the last public meeting in February. – Juneau Empire

Read more:


Australian plan would pay fishermen for marine parks

Waterways across Southern Sydney could become protected areas in a marine park that stretches from Gosford to the southern tip of Royal National Park.

The National Parks Association (NPA) last week launched a world-first proposal to turn the waters surrounding a major urban centre into a marine reserve.
NPA marine project manager Nicky Hammond said the reserve would ensure the health of marine ecosystems. …
She said that if commercial fishermen were affected by marine park restrictions they would be compensated financially by the State Government. – St. George & Sutherland Shire Leader, Australia 

Read more:


Alaska’s Don Young loses clout in D.C.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Don Young, who wielded considerable power on the House Committee on Natural Resources in the 1990s as chairman and in recent years as its senior Republican, on Wednesday lost his top spot on the panel.

The move was forced by Republican leaders, who are determining this week who will assume leadership roles on House committees when Congress begins its new term next year.

Young told his Republican colleagues in a caucus meeting that it was a difficult decision to step aside as the top Republican on a committee with a crucial mission for Alaska that he had been a member of for the past 36 years. But he also told them he was "confident that the cloud that hangs over me will eventually clear as I know I have done nothing wrong." – Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Friday, December 12, 2008

Fishermen say Copper River run is sustainable

While commercial fishermen told the Copper River and Prince William Sound Board of Fisheries last week that the region’s fishery is sustainable without more regulation, local dipnetters expressed doubts that wild salmon stocks are safe here.

The comments came as the fisheries board held its annual weeklong meeting in Cordova, with two days devoted to public testimony.

“We do not need more restrictions on this fishery,” Cordova District Fishermen United President Gerald McCune testified. “The Department of Fish and Game can tell what is happening. We live by the sonar counter. There is no need to change the start of the season on the Copper River.” – Cordova Times

Read more:


Serious business at North Pacific council meeting

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting all this week at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage. Naturally, The Highliner can’t resist hanging around the council, even on his days off. The fishing down there is just too good for a newshound like me.

Traditionally, the council’s December meeting is a biggie. It’s the time when the council recommends next year’s catch limits for valuable species such as pollock, cod, yellowfin sole and rockfish.

With well over a billion dollars of fish in play, it’s serious business, conducted amid the many company Christmas parties that rock the Hilton this time of year.

Anyway, here’s three big issues the council is grappling with at this meeting. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing at The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Read more:


Olympia fish/wildlife agency to change

Few will deny Jeff Koenings has been a lightning rod for criticism during his 10 years as director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He has been raked over the coals for being pro commercial fishing and rebuked for being pro recreational fishing. He has limited hunting opportunities, some say, while others argue hunting has expanded too much. …

Why then, did the commission put pressure on Koenings to step down, which he did on Dec. 1?

“There are things in the department we do want to change, things we want to improve upon,” said commission chairman Jerry Gutzwiler said, “like the interaction with the public, with our constituent base out there, the people who like to watch wildlife, who like to fish, who like to hunt.” – Tacoma News Tribune

Read more:


Economy? Floridians can’t sell their crab

Two months into the seven-month stone crab season, most fishermen are having good times on the water and hard times at the dock.

Depending on who's talking, the hard times are because of either the holiday season or the economy. – News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.

Read more:


Katmai Board hears more testimony

Several more witnesses have testified in Seattle before a Coast Guard hearing into the Oct. 22 sinking of the fishing vessel Katmai off Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Seven of the 11 crew members were lost.

An engineer who worked aboard the Katmai in 2007 says he witnessed questionable repairs aboard the vessel. Isaac Vigil says the ship owners hired incompetent welders and the vessel had problems with water getting into its fish processing factory. – Seattle Times

Read more: