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Summary for December 15 - December 19, 2008:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coast Guard sends crabbers to port

SEATTLE — Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Fir terminated the voyages of three Oregon crabbing vessels and discovered 12 violations last week.

The most recent termination took place Thursday when the crew of the Fir boarded the fishing vessel Orca near Yaquina Bay, Ore.  The Orca was involved with the Oregon state crab fisheries and did not bear a valid Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act decal prompting the crew of the Fir to conduct a boarding.  When it was discovered there were not enough immersion suits aboard the Orca to accommodate all of its crew, the Orca's voyage was terminated and the vessel was sent back to port with an escort from Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay.

The vessels Thora-S and Sunset were also boarded and had their voyages terminated.  Violations the Fir discovered aboard the vessels include: expired emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB,) expired distress signals and expired life rafts.  The Fir has also found expired EPIRB batteries and expired hydrostatic releases for EPIRBS and liferafts. 

"We put a great emphasis on ensuring all the proper safety equipment is aboard these vessels," said Lt. Cmdr. Francis Colantonio, a fisheries enforcement officer with the Coast Guard Thirteenth District.  "These guys have a tough, dangerous job, and we want to make sure they get home safe." – Coast Guard press release


As expected, pollock catch cut for 2009

Federal fishery regulators meeting in Anchorage on Saturday recommended a deep cut in next year's catch of Bering Sea pollock, the whitefish widely used for such goods as fish sticks, fast-food fish sandwiches and imitation crab.

The action was expected and had the broad support of government scientists who study the fish and believe the stock is healthy but trending down.

Activists with environmental groups Oceana and Greenpeace, however, called for a much deeper cutback in next year's catch, arguing the commercial fleet is fishing too hard on a stock important not only as human food but as nourishment for sea lions and other Bering Sea creatures. – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy, writing in the Anchorage Daily News

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Oregon, Washington fight over Columbia Chinook fisheries

OLYMPIA — Yet again, Washington and Oregon are at odds how to split the catch of the Columbia River's highly prized spring Chinook salmon between sportsmen and gillnetters.

Saturday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission postponed for a month adopting a spring salmon allocation policy, with several members blasting Oregon for deviating on Friday from a compromise deal reached in November. – The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

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FDA proposal would ease mercury warnings

The Food and Drug Administration is urging the government to amend its advisory that women and children should limit how much fish they eat, saying that the benefits of seafood outweigh the health risks and that most people should eat more fish -- even if it contains mercury.

If approved by the White House, the FDA's position would reverse the government's current policy that certain groups -- women who are pregnant, nursing or of childbearing age, and infants and children -- can be harmed by the mercury in fish and should limit their consumption. – Los Angees Times

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California report suggest go-slow on ocean power

A white paper commissioned by the state of California says that tapping the ocean for power should be done carefully.

The report for the California Energy Commission and the Ocean Protection Council looked at the possible socioeconomic and environmental effects of the infant industry, including what it might mean for fisheries and coastal habitat. – Eureka Times-Standard

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

North Pacific Council wrestles with crab ratz

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council sank most of its energy Monday into the thorny subject of crab rationalization.

Crab ratz, you’ll recall, is the new management style that swept over the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands king and Tanner crab fisheries three years ago. That’s when the harvests switched from dangerous derbies to individual shares for fishermen and processors.

Like most revolutions, this one was contentious, and the resistance remains strong.
The council took some modest steps toward fixing what some see as big flaws in crab ratz.  – Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

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Bush admin seeks to reduce mining buffer areas

Changes to a federal rule governing mining in and around sensitive salmon streams and other habitats have drawn fire from Alaska environmental groups.

Adopted even as President George W. Bush's administration draws to a close, the new "Stream Buffer Rule" relaxes existing regulations governing how mining companies work in and around active salmon streams.

The previous restriction, in effect since 1983, prohibited coal strip mining and waste dumping within 100 feet of streams and other water bodies and was meant to protect not only streams in the mine footprint, but also associated areas around the mine site. -- Kenai Peninsula Online

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Smith River salmon stocks looking good

After a year of bad news about failing salmon fisheries, experts are quietly optimistic about the numbers of salmon spawning in the Smith River Basin.

"With the data we have now I wouldn't try to make any predictions about what next year's salmon count will be," said fisheries biologist Zach Larson. "But there is a good amount of spawning fish in the system." – Crescent City Triplicate

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Groups warn about trawl fisheries

VANCOUVER — Where commercial fishermen fish and the type of gear they fish with largely determines the amount of collateral damage done to the environment, according to a new national study.

And that damage -- from the destruction of rare coral reefs to the incidental killing of species that are accidentally taken as bycatch -- has to be reduced, warn three marine conservation groups from Canada and the United States.

The groups undertook a study that examined the impact of 13 different gear types used by commercial fishermen across Canada, ranking the fishing methods according to the severity of their impact on the environment.– Globe and Mail, Toronto

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Shellfish prices down all over

Sagging prices for the Florida Keys’ main seafood products hardly have commercial fishermen in a merry mood for the holidays.

Dockside prices paid for whole spiny lobster have crashed from nearly $8 per pound at the peak earlier this year to less than $4 per pound in some areas, according to fishermen.

Fishermen reached by the Keynoter this week said they’ve been paid from $4.25 to $5 per pound — although some reports from Key West said fishermen have been offered as little as $3.50. -- Bradenton Herald, Florida

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Opinion: Protected areas are nice … for sea lions

There's an old saying that has a lot of truth to it: beware of unintended consequences. We need to keep that warning in mind as Oregon moves toward creating a system of marine reserves. If we aren't careful, hungry seals and sea lions could be the only real winners. –
Terry Thompson, a Lincoln County Commissioner, writing for The Oregonian

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Rule aims to protect Alaska sea otters

A federal agency is proposing habitat protection for Alaska sea otters in the Aleutian Islands, where numbers have dwindled by more than half in 20 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal issued Tuesday would designate 5,879 square miles of ocean near the shoreline in Southwest Alaska as critical habitat. – The Anchorage Daily News

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Feds to restrict use of N. California water

Federal wildlife officials on Monday released new restrictions on pumping water from Northern California, further tightening the spigot on flows to Southern California cities and San Joaquin Valley farms.

The curbs, intended to keep the tiny delta smelt from extinction and stem the ecological collapse of California's water crossroads, could in some years cut state water deliveries by half. – Los Angeles Times

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Charter guy retires, and it’s your fault

Case Harris has announced he will retire his Alaskan Marine Adventures company at the end of this season. The business offered fishing and scenic tours of Alaska.
Harris started the business in 2004 during a fishing trip with his own father. The business peaked to 980 individual trips in the 2005-06 season. Those numbers dipped to 350 this season. Last August he drove his boat, the famous “Can-Can,” 2,500 nautical miles with various parties. …
“The political scene for sportsman in Alaska is not pleasant at this point in time,” Harris said. “Commercial fishermen are bringing in better than 90 percent of the allowable catch in an effort to corner the market. They would rather you buy the fish from them instead of catch it yourself.” – Press release

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Marine wiring class offered in Seattle

Washington Sea Grant and Port of Seattle/Fishermen’s Terminal are cosponsoring a Marine Electrical Wiring Workshop for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.

Designed for boat owners who want to upgrade their electrical systems, the workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 21, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., in the Nordby Conference Room, Nordby Building, Fishermen’s Terminal, 3919 18th Ave. W., Seattle.

The fee for the workshop is $80. Space is limited, so pre-registration is advised. For more information or to register, contact Sarah Fisken, Washington Sea Grant Continuing Education Coordinator, at 206-543-1225. – Press release


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Alaska trooper’s mission: kill rats

In what the Department of Fish and Game is calling a first for the state, a trooper boarded a fishing boat in Seward on Thursday searching for vermin. Literally. His mission: Find illegal rats. – Anchorage Daily News

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Bush trying to be the darling of environmentalists?

We've all heard about the string of lame-duck moves planned by the Bush administration that are sure to anger environmentalists interested in protecting the planet.

But now Bush is also looking for an environmental legacy, and in a Nixon-goes-to-China move, he has proposed permanently protecting an area three times the size of Texas -- bigger even than Mexico. – Seattle P-I

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Bush appointee ‘tainted’ endangered declarations

A high-ranking Interior Department official tainted nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species over five years, a new inspector general report finds, concluding she exerted improper political interference on many more rulings than previously thought.

Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service, did pervasive harm to the department’s morale and integrity and may have risked the well-being of species with her agenda, Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney said in his report. – Coos Bay World

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Higher prices for processors, but what about cruise ships?

I read a recent article in the Ketchikan Daily News in regards to the city considering raising the water usage rates on local processors. I am wondering if the city is going to raise the rates on the cruise ships when they water up in Ketchikan? I hope the city considers raising water rates on them as well. – Kevin Kristovich, Ketchikan, writing to the editors of SitNews, Ketchikan

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Canadians to study Steller sea lions

The University of British Columbia Marine Mammal Research Unit (UBC MMRU), in collaboration with the Vancouver Aquarium, announce the Northern Fur Seal Research Program. …

Six female fur seal pups have joined the Steller sea lions at the Vancouver Aquarium for this important research program. Researchers transferred the animals on a flight by Pen Air from the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea to Vancouver.—Press release

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama nominates Oregon marine biologist to lead NOAA

FLORENCE — Jane Lubchenco, one of the world’s most prominent marine biologists, a staunch advocate of marine reserves and an Oregonian for three decades, will be introduced today as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The huge agency oversees a wide range of operations, including how the United States deals with climate change, analyzes the weather, regulates commercial fishermen and responds to tsunamis. – Eugene Register-Guard

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Shell cancels 2009 Beaufort Sea drilling

Shell Oil has canceled its drilling and other exploration plans for next year in the Beaufort Sea while it focuses on court challenges to its offshore plan.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that federal regulators improperly granted Shell permission to drill in the Beaufort. The court ordered the Minerals Management Service to reconsider how exploratory drilling would affect wildlife and Inupiat Eskimo subsistence hunting and fishing. —Anchorage Daily News

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Opinion: Mining threatens Natives’ way of life

For generations, Alaska Natives have hunted, fished, thrived and survived on the lands 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 of Dillingham, a member of Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of Our Land), writing in Tundra Drums, Alaska

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Greenpeace not pleased with pollock decision

Greenpeace isn’t happy with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s recommendation on next year’s Bering Sea pollock catch limit and has submitted a letter to federal regulators who have the final say (below). Pacific Fishing columnist Wesley Loy writing as The Highliner for the Anchorage Daily News

Dec. 16, 2008

James Balsiger
Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Mr. Balsiger:

On Dec. 13, 2008, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed a Total Allowable Catch for eastern Bering Sea pollock of 815,000 tons. This equaled the maximum Allowable Biological Catch recommended by the Groundfish Plan Team, and greatly exceeded the 458,000 ton recommendation made by a minority of Plan Team and Advisory Panel members.

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Europeans try quotas

Fish stocks around Britain have been reduced to 10 per cent of what they were 100 years ago due to overfishing. Common skate and angel fish are already extinct while favourites like cod are in danger of being wiped out.

The European Union has been trying to help fish stocks recover by introducing quotas for every country under the Common Fisheries Policy.

However scientists have said that unless the system is completely overhauled fish stocks will continue to deplete to the point of extinction by 2048, leaving consumers little option but to eat jellyfish or the small bony species left behind at the bottom of the ocean. – Telegraph, U.K.

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