Alaska/Pacific Coast

Record Year for Oregon Dungeness as Value Tops $51 million
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – August 31, 2016
Oregon crab fishermen had an excellent year, says the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.  The value the fishery at the dock was $51.044 million, a record for the state. 14.172 million pounds were landed.

This year the season was delayed due to concerns about domoic acid.  However, the southern areas, including California, were more impacted than Washington and Oregon.

Oregon substantially increased their landings during this fishing year, from 8.2 million to 14.17 million lbs.  California, however, where the fishery remained closed longer, saw landings fall from 16.4 million in the 2015 season to 12.0 million lbs this year.

Prices were also impacted by the domoic acid publicity.  In both Oregon and California, pricing for Dungeness was down about 10% from the previous year, despite other crab prices going up this year.

Oregon fishermen are in a sweet spot these days, with high prices for crab, and record prices for cold water shrimp.  The strength of crab landings for the coming year will not be known until after the season opens, as no survey is done on crab abundance.

For cold water shrimp, coast-wide landings through July are down 50% from last year.  In September and October, vessels can generally catch larger shrimp as they have had some time to grow.

Alaska’s 2017 Bering Sea Opilio and Bairdi Fisheries May be in Jeopardy Due to Lower Stock Levels
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton and Peggy Parker – August 30, 2016
The summer survey results have not been good for either Bering Sea snow (opilio) or tanner (Bairdi) crab. For 2015-16, snow crab landings from both the IFQ and CDQ fisheries were 40.61 million pounds, a 40% cut from 67.9 million lbs in 2014-15. For Bairdi the 2015-16 quota was 19.64 million pounds, which helped make up some of the shortfall.

But the snow crab market reacted quickly to the cut in Alaskan snow crab, and prices rose throughout the year, including when Canada’s larger fishery opened.  Industry participants think 2016-17 may be worse.

This has now been confirmed with the raw survey data just released by Dr. Bob Foy of the Kodiak Fisheries Science Laboratory showing that legal male biomass has declined in all of the major crab fisheries.

Source: Draft NOAA Technical Memorandum Trawl Survey for Commercial Crab Species for 2016

Legal male biomass in the crab fisheries declined across the board, with the largest declines in Opilio.  The survey also measures the abundance of female crabs; all these numbers go into determining appropriate fishing levels.

The process from raw survey data to final catch quotas is complicated and includes lengthy scrutiny against both federal and state guidelines.

The bottom line is whether the analysis of the survey numbers shows there is a sufficient stock to meet the trigger thresholds for the State of Alaska to open the season for both opilio and bairdi.

“Thresholds for each of the [crab] fishery stocks are contained in state regulations,” explained Ruth Christiansen, science advisor to the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers Association.

The threshold formula is based on spawning biomass (stock size of mature males and females).  However, Alaska’s crab managers have three data sets to work with, and can pick one or use a combination to determine their estimates of spawning biomass.  The data sets each differ slightly in how the raw survey data is interpreted and modeled to produce the biomass numbers.

“There are multiple considerations going into how they chose one or a combination of the three options,” Christiansen said.

The survey numbers that were released today will go to NMFS stock assessment team to input the raw data into the stock assessment model.

“There is one baseline model,” explains Christiansen, “but the authors make adjustments to come up with different versions of the model.

“Those versions are then given to the Crab Plan Team, who meet September 20-23 and make model recommendations for each of the crab stocks,” she said.

That process includes setting an over fishing limit (OFL) and allowable biological catch (ABC).

The state crab managers work with these numbers to determine a minimum threshold for opening the fishery.

Meanwhile, the model recommendations get another peer reveiw from the  Science and Statistical Committee of the North Pacific Council, who meets October 3-5.

So ADF&G’s final announcement for the fall season will be made October 6-7, predicts Christiansen.  If the state’s minimum threshold of population has not been met, both the Opilio and Bairdi fishery will remain closed.

If the fishery is opened, the TAC will very likely be lower than in 2016.

This past year, bairdi has made up to some extent for the lack of snow crab, and the fishery took 19.6 million pounds in 2015-16.  However, bairdi numbers have been highly volatile, and the fishery was closed for four years between 2010 and 2013.  Since then there have been steadily increasing stocks, until this year.

Crab recruitment takes years and depends on environmental conditions as well as mortality from predators. This means that in less favorable conditions, the minimum stock sizes may be lower as well, as the entire productivity of the fishery is down.

“This year, 2016, is one of hottest on record for water temperature,” said Christiansen. “Both sea surface temperatures and ocean floor. There are no cold pools anywhere, unlike 2012 when we saw one of the largest cold pools on record.”

The warming temperatures can make the environment less hospitable to crab populations, and the lack of cold pools can scatter populations, potentially impacting survey results as well.

The upshot is that the 2017 Alaska crab season for opilio and bairdi is looking difficult, andunder the worst case scenarios, the two fisheries might not open at all.


Governor pauses implementation of CFEC changes
KDLG by Molly Dischner – August 30, 2016
Gov. Bill Walker has put a hold on his plan to move some functions of CFEC over to Fish and Game.


Iceland’s Responsible Fisheries will become 2nd Certification Scheme to Meet GSSI Benchmarks
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – August 30, 2016
Iceland’s Responsible Fisheries Management Certification Scheme will become the second Certification scheme to meet the GSSI benchmarks.

Alaska’s Responsible Fisheries Management Scheme has also been certified as meeting all GSSI requirements.

The Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative (GSSI) announced that a 30 day public comment period was now open on Iceland’s benchmarking scores.

GSSI, after a rigorous evaluation, has said the program meets all of its requirements in the three areas:  governance, operational management, and fisheries standards.

Each area consists of a set of core standards that guarantee the scheme complies with the FAO responsible fishing documents, and also several supplementary standards that are non-binding, but reflect additional requirements sought by some NGO schemes beyond the FAO standards.

Iceland met all 43 governance program standards, plus 14 out of 15 of the supplementary standards.  One supplementary standard was not applicable to the scheme.

For operations, Iceland met 40 out of 42 requirements, with 2 requirements judged not applicable.  In the supplementary area, Iceland met 3 out of 5 requirements, with two judged to be not applicable.

For Fishery standards, Iceland met  55 out of 60 requirements, with 5 requirements not applicable to Iceland’s scheme. The five requirements all dealt with enhanced fisheries, which are fisheries where specific methods are used to enhance stock reproduction, as is common in many pink salmon fisheries, for example.

Iceland’s scheme specifically excludes enhanced fisheries, which are not conducted in Iceland.

For the supplemental standards, Iceland passed 30 out of 46 separate enhanced standards, with 16 judged not applicable to Iceland’s scheme.

The full recognition of Iceland Responsible Fisheries Management will come after the 30 day comment period, and a board vote of GSSI to accept the benchmarking report.  At that time, Iceland will become the 2nd scheme to be certified.

A number of other schemes have applied to be benchmarked as well, and further announcements should be forthcoming.

However, the approach of the Marine Stewardship Council, the largest and best-known certification scheme, to GSSI is still a mystery. MSC has not announced, like Global Aquaculture Alliance, that they have started the benchmarking process.

In the discussions developing the GSSI standard, the MSC argued for a numeric scoring system that would allow a ranking of certification schemes.  They lost that argument, and instead the GSSI, like most food safety and industrial benchmarking systems, is a pass / fail system. Until the scheme meets all the required elements, it cannot pass.

Iceland’s benchmarking report, especially the fact that it meets all supplementary components accepted by the GSSI that are applicable, illustrates the problem for the MSC.  As Iceland has received the highest score practicable, it is equal to the MSC in its robustness in meeting the global fisheries sustainability standards; should the MSC ever consent to a benchmarking process.

Alaska’s scheme achieved the same result.  As more certifications are benchmarked to the global standard, private schemes that aim to generate revenue will have to find new ways to differentiate themselves and add value for their customers.  Otherwise, the expense of such private schemes will erode their position, until certification of fisheries is no longer a money-making enterprise for any organizations except technical ones, developed for a specific purpose of low-cost certification and auditing.


Q: As a vegetarian, can I get enough omega-3 from walnuts, flax seed, canola oil and trace amounts in other foods?
Health & Nutrition Letters – January 2012 Issue
Answer:  The omega-3 fatty acids found in plant foods (ALA) have their own health benefits, but they are not the same as the omega-3s found in fish (DHA and EPA) that have been associated with heart-health benefits. According to Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, while your body does convert ALA into DHA/EPA, studies have found that this conversion is very inefficient. Only between 3% and 5% of the ALA gets converted into EPA and as little as 0.5% to 9% into DHA. If you’re concerned about getting enough of the omega-3s found in fish, it is possible to buy vegetarian supplements that derive DHA from algae.

MSC Standard Modification for Mixed Fisheries
MSC – 01 August 2016 to 30 September 2016
Improvement overview: The MSC is working to create a new standard for assessing mixed fisheries. The proposed new standard will contribute to greater efficiency and accessibility to the MSC program for fisheries that are catching multiple species simultaneously.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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August 31, 2016