Alaska/Pacific Coast

PWS commercial harvest tops 28 M
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – August 4, 2017
Processors in Prince William Sound processed in excess of 28 million wild salmon through Aug. 2, up by nearly 5 million fish from a week earlier.

The fishing effort continues in Togiak
KDLG by Nicholas Ciolino – August 3, 2017
The Togiak District in Bristol Bay edged past the bottom end of its escapement goal late in July. The mark was reached just days after the rule prohibiting fisherman to transfer to Togiak from other districts was lifted.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Study Tracks Fate of Caught and Released Kings
ADF&G can use the data it collects to allow for mortality from catch and release fishing in their management.
KDLG by Allison Mollenkamp – August 2, 2017
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game started a study this year to determine the fate of kings that are caught and released in the Nushagak sport fishery. KDLG’s Allison Mollenkamp reports….

Alaska’s Wild Pink Salmon Harvests on Target for Early in the Season, Hatchery Returns in PWS Low
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – August 3, 2017
It’s still early in the pink salmon run statewide, but with a harvest total as of August 1 of 49.08 million pinks, cautious optimism is taking hold that the preseason forecast of some 140 million pink salmon may be realized.

The statewide run is shaping up to be much better than last year’s and closer to “normal” for odd years.

In Prince William Sound, 23.5 million pinks have been landed as of August 1, 2017. The vast majority have been of wild pink salmon. The returns to the three hatchery facilities in the private non-profit system (Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation) have been lower than expected at this date. Predictions from those three facilities were 27.4 million pinks pre season.

The returns to the three hatchery facilities in the private non-profit system (Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation) have been lower than expected at this date. Predictions from those three facilities are 27.4 million pinks pre season.

No in-season return data is available from the facility at Solomon Gulch, owned by the Valdez Fisheries Development Association, but the preseason forecast for pink salmon return was 18.8 milion fish in a range from 9.4 million to 28.2.

In Southeast Alaska, pink salmon landings reached 12.4 million, in a fishery that is broadly tracking preseason estimates.

The SE pink salmon harvest forecast is 43 million pinks with a range of 27 – 59 million fish. By the last full week in July, on average, pink salmon harvest in Southern Southeast districts is 10% complete and in Northern Southeast districts pink salmon harvest is 20% complete. This year, ADF&G reports that in general, pink salmon escapement and harvest are below average in Southern Southeast Alaska districts and above average in Northern Southeast Alaska districts.

Over 6 million pinks have been landed in the Alaska Peninsula region. That is significantly higher than preseason return forecasts.

Kodiak fleets have landed 5.7 million pinks as of August 1, rounding out the Westward Regional total to 12.7 milion pinks.


First MSA Reauthorization Hearing Acknowledged Successes, Identified Needed Changes
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – August 2, 2017
At the first of a series of hearings on the Magnuson-Stevens Act held yesterday at the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, senators from both sides of the aisle voiced support for the regional management council system, NOAA Fisheries, and the science that supports fisheries management, despite the deep cuts proposed in the President’s budget.

“With regard to the budget, I think some of these cuts may not survive the [reauthorization] process,” said Chairman Dan Sullivan (R-AK). “I think we’re going to be adding a lot back to the projects that we think are vital.”

Sullivan was responding in part to a series of questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, about the current administration’s proposed budget for the agency.

“My question concerns the budget submitted by the president of the United States. The budget slashes funding for programs like Sea Grant and the Milford Lab at the University of Connecticut [Northeast Fisheries Science Center],” Blumenthal said.

“These federal research efforts to help grow and expand certain aspects of aquaculture are very promising. As a representative of this administration, how can you justify these cuts to the agency that you are responsible for administering? Are you going to commit to me that you’re going to [find funding] for Sea Grant and the Milford Lab?”

Oliver responded, “Senator, I don’t know that I’m in a position to comment very extensively on the President’s budget. I do know that they’ve placed a revised emphasis on the Department of Defense and national security.”

Blumenthal: “I’m on the Armed Services Committee sir, and I very much support that emphasis … but this kind of slashing and trashing of programs that are essential to the kinds of programs you administer, that are vital to our economic future in aquaculture I consider a mockery of the mission of your agency. And if you’re not in a position to justify it, who would be?”

Oliver: “All I can say sir is we’re going to do our best to operate within the budget that we have, and I know that a lot of the programs that were slated to be cut involve cooperative agreements or past grants of funding through the Sea Grant program, for example, and grants to the coastal states. We’re going to do our best to make that up internally…”

Blumenthal: “Are you going to commit to me that you can make up those cuts to the Sea Grant program and the Milford Lab and the University of Connecticut that are essential to those programs?”

Oliver: “I can’t commit that we’re specifically going to be able to make those up from our baseline budget. I think that we’re facing some tough decisions too. I’ve said on many occasions that I feel that this agency may be in a position to refocus on some of its very core mission – science mission…”

Blumenthal: “You’d agree with me that those are valid and important programs?”

Oliver: “Of course sir, I really do.”

Blumenthal: “If you agree these programs are valid, then your agency has a responsibility to fight for them and to make sure they are fully funded.”

The exchange was toward the end of an otherwise non-confrontational hearing on the “long overdue” reauthorization of the MSA with Oliver and Dr. John Quinn, Chair of the New England Fisheries Management Council. Both men lauded the successes brought about by the original 1976 law and the amendments to it, most recently in 2007.

“As a group, we are strong believers in the Magnuson-Stevens Act – and not just because it established the Councils,” said Quinn, who spoke on behalf of the Council Coordination Committee (CCC), which is made up of the chairs, vice chairs, and executive directors of the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils.

“The outcome of our management success is clear: commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries are key contributors to our coastal communities and the nation’s economy. In large measure, this is because the Act structured a very successful approach to sustainable fisheries management. Central to the Act are the 10 National Standards that guide our management process.”

“Under the standards set in the Magnuson-Stevens Act the nation has made great strides in maintaining more stocks at biologically sustainable levels, ending overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, building a sustainable future for our fishing-dependent communities, and providing more domestic options for U.S. seafood consumers in a market dominated by imports,” echoed Oliver.

Both agreed, however, that changes should be made. Oliver noted in particular ways in which overall production could be increased, particularly in areas where catch limits have not been updated to changes in stock sizes.

“For example, while our West Coast groundfish fisheries have rebuilt several important stocks, in recent years fishermen are leaving a substantial amount of the available harvest of some groundfish species in the water, due to regulatory or bycatch species constraints. We must find ways to maximize allowable harvests that are still protective of non-target species in all of our fisheries,” explained Oliver.

Stakeholders in the West Coast groundfish fishery were enthusiastic about Oliver’s references to the plight of those working in the non-whiting trawl catch shares program. The program has realized far less than full utilization of the resource, with less than one-third of the available fish being harvested annually.

“We applaud Chris Oliver’s recent testimony to the Senate on the state of the West Coast IFQ non-whiting trawl fishery,” Pacific Seafood’s Mike Okoniewski said.

“Members of industry have been testifying for years that while the conservation benefits of the program have passed all expectations, but the economics are performing at abysmal levels,” Okoniewski said.

Oliver’s testimony drilled to the heart of the matter: if you cannot get the fish out of the water you cannot realize the economic benefits outlined in the program’s goals and objectives. Targets such as increasing economic benefits, providing full utilization of the trawl sector allocation, increasing operational flexibility and providing measurable economic and employment benefits throughout the processing and distribution chain have not been met for the non-whiting sector.

“Chris Oliver’s testimony is a huge step forward to reverse the present trajectory we are on. Again we thank him and look forward his leadership of NMFS. His focus on balance and economic output, as well as conservation and sustainability, is long overdue,” Okoniewski said.

“Much like Pacific groundfish (to quote AA Oliver), New England groundfish fishermen ‘are leaving a substantial amount of the available harvest of some groundfish species in the water, due to regulatory or bycatch species constraints’”, noted Maggie Raymond, Executive Director of Associated Fisheries of Maine.

Both Quinn and Oliver referenced a need for “flexibility”, Raymond observed.

“Quinn’s testimony is specific to a need for flexibility in rebuilding timelines.  But flexibility in rebuilding timelines is not necessarily the fix, at least not for New England,” she added.

“As long as an otherwise healthy mixed stock fishery remains constrained by a weak stock in the complex, the problem of leaving available harvest in the water cannot be addressed.  We look forward to working with AA Oliver to ‘find ways to maximize allowable harvests that are still protective of non-target species.’

“Let’s start with windowpane flounder. A species with no economic value that puts a significant burden on the NE groundfish and scallop fisheries,” said Raymond.

Oliver acknowledged his testimony from last year on no need for further flexibility on MSA. But, he said, “I’m in a new role now and as I look at the issue more broadly, I’d heard from constituents across the country, listened to the dialog about issues with the Act, and I’ve come to believe that there is a possibility that additional flexibilities should be considered, accountability measures that are used to enforced annual catch limits (ACLs), particularly in fisheries where we don’t have the robust and accurate accounting.

“Many of our recreational fisheries are of a nature that don’t lend themselves well to those monitoring methods.

“The administration has not taken positions on these specific issues,” Oliver said. “But in my personal view, in fisheries that don’t have robust systems of accountability, in particular the recreational fisheries that have different goals, there’s room for flexibility.”

Quinn agreed. “We’re here to reauthorize [the MSA], not repeal it. Data availability and stock assessment, particularly in the recreational side, I think we’ve got a lot of work to do. Data needs are really important. ACLs and AMs work for the commercial, not necessarily for the recreational fisheries.”

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the nation’s bycatch quantity “unacceptable” and asked Quinn for an assessment on catch shares.

“In some parts of the country, catch shares have worked,” Quinn responded. “In my part of the country, it hasn’t worked as well. But the CCC’s position is to keep catch shares as a part of our management tool box.”

Sullivan brought up the issue of electronic monitoring as a less expensive alternative to onboard observers and asked, “What can we do to help the councils use EM more efficiently?”

“Like catch shares, the authority for EM is in the Act now,” said Quinn, “but individual regions may have specific fisheries that may or may not use EM. There are a lot of pilot programs using EM now. Decisions should be made region by region.”

“I want to compliment you both on your emphasis on data and science,” Sullivan said in closing comments. “We’re going to back you up on that.”

The next hearing will be August 23, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska.

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program
A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 08/03/2017
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) submitted Amendment 48 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP) to NMFS for review. If approved, Amendment 48 would revise the Crab FMP to specify how NMFS determines the amount of limited access privileges held and used by groups in the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program (CDQ Program) for the purposes of managing the excessive share limits under the Crab Rationalization (CR) Program. Amendment 48 is necessary to make the Crab FMP consistent with Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Kamchatka Flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 08/04/2017
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Kamchatka flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2017 Kamchatka flounder initial total allowable catch (ITAC) in the BSAI.


Marsh will retain harvest seat on ASMI board
Cordova Times – August 2, 2017
Gov. Bill Walker has reappointed Tomi Marsh, of Ketchikan, to the harvester seat on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s board of directors.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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August 4, 2017