Alaska/Pacific Coast

Rift Between West Coast Carriers, Workers Worsens With Ports Now Shut For President’s Day Weekend
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Associated Press] by Justin Pritchard – February 12, 2015
Troubles on the West Coast waterfront are getting worse.

Amid an increasingly damaging labor dispute, 29 West Coast seaports that handle about $1 trillion of goods annually will be mostly closed four of the next five days.

The announcement came Wednesday from the association representing companies that operate marine terminals where dockworkers move goods on and off massive oceangoing vessels, eventually transferring the containers onto trucks or trains for distribution nationwide.

Companies said they won’t hire crews to load or unload ships Thursday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday — when they’d have to pay Presidents Day holiday or weekend wages to dockworkers they accuse of slowing work to gain leverage in contract talks.

Employers do not want to pay hourly rates that are at least 50 percent above normal, which would bring a few of the highest-paid dockworkers to close to $100 per hour, according to Steve Getzug, Pacific Maritime Association spokesman.

Instead, terminal operators could decide to hire smaller crews that would focus on moving already-unloaded containers into the flow of commerce.

Full crews would still service military and cruise ships, and any cargo ships bound for Hawaii — but these are small operations compared with work on container ships that are as long as some skyscrapers are tall.

Those ships bring in car parts, furniture, clothing, electronics — just about anything made in Asia and destined for U.S. consumers. Ships then take goods back, exports that include perishables such as rice, hay, nuts and produce.

Cargo has been struggling for months to cross the docks amid historically bad levels of congestion.

Employers blame crowded docks on longshore workers they say have staged slowdowns since November; dockworkers deny that and say cargo is moving slowly for reasons dockworkers do not control, including a shortage of truck beds to take containers to retailers’ distribution warehouses.

In recent days, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said companies are exaggerating to cut dockworker shifts and pressure negotiators into a contract agreement.

In response to Wednesday’s move by employers, the union noted that longshore workers were not hired to load or unload vessels last weekend.

It also emphasized that the two sides have not talked across the bargaining table since last Friday.

“The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days,” union President Robert McEllrath said in a written statement. He suggested the maritime association is “trying to sabotage negotiations.”

Whatever the causes of the congestion, containers that used to take two or three days to hit the highway have been taking a week or more. Meanwhile, outside ports in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, about three dozen ships are at anchor, awaiting a berth.

Differences over what is causing the cargo backup reflect disputes at the bargaining table.

Negotiations between the maritime association and dockworkers union for a new contract were to resume Wednesday in San Francisco, but were canceled despite heavy — and increasing — pressure from elected officials and businesses to reach a deal. The two sides are now scheduled to reconvene Thursday morning, association spokesman Getzug said.

Talks have stalled over how to arbitrate future workplace disputes. Some of the biggest issues, including health care, have been resolved with tentative agreements.

Port signs Shell oil-fleet lease

The Port of Seattle on Monday signed a lease that allows short-term moorage and vessel operations for a Shell oil fleet assembled to conduct exploration off Alaska’s North Slope.

The lease with Foss Maritime is expected to pay $13.17 million over two years. It covers 50 acres of the 156-acre Terminal 5, according to an email Wednesday from Port CEO Theodore Fick to Patti Goldman of EarthJustice, which represents environmental groups opposed to the Port being used as a support base for Shell exploration.

Goldman said Wednesday the environmental groups are “very disappointed” and will review their options.

In a letter to the Port of Seattle last month, a coalition of environmental groups asserted the Port was legally bound to assess the harm that could befall Puget Sound from the lease. Goldman said last month the groups would consider a lawsuit over the lease.

In his letter, Fick said the lease doesn’t represent a change from how the terminal was used by a previous tenant, so it would comply with state law and Port regulations.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/964034/Rift-Between-West-Coast-Carriers-Workers-Worsens-With-Ports-Now-Shut-For-Presidents-Day-Weekend

National

Young Introduces Legislation to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing
Matt Shuckerow | Office of Congressman Don Young Feb 11, 2015 [Alaska Native News]
Washington, D.C. – Alaskan Congressman Don Young has joined Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) in introducing H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015, which would enhance the enforcement authority of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to regulate and combat IUU fishing.
http://alaska-native-news.com/young-introduces-legislation-combat-illegal-unreported-unregulated-fishing-15888

Environment/Science

Seabird Decline Could Signal Drop In Ocean Productivity
APRN by Lori Townsend – February 10, 2015
Seabirds are on the decline in the North Pacific, from the Western Aleutians to Vancouver Island. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey compiled and filtered the data of hundreds of thousands of surveys of different species conducted in the last 40 years to document the decline. They say the decline could signal a drop in the overall productivity of the ocean.
http://www.alaskapublic.org/2015/02/10/seabird-decline-could-signal-drop-in-ocean-productivity/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+aprn-news+%28APRN%3A+Alaska+News%29

Labeling and Marketing

Walmart launches ‘The Alaskan’
Homer News by DJ Summers – February 11, 2015
ANCHORAGE — Walmart announced on Jan. 28 the launch of an in-store brand, The Alaskan, for sale in every Alaska Walmart Supercenter and 20 Washington stores, as well as 14 additional products of wild Alaska cod, salmon, rockfish, sole and crab to its general stock.
http://homernews.com/homer-news/business/2015-02-11/walmart-launches-%E2%80%98the-alaskan%E2%80%99

Safeway-Albertsons merger means expansion for Waterfront Bistro seafood line, Merger with Meat Dept
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Undercurrent News] by Jeanine Stewart February 12, 2015
With closure of Safeway Inc. and Albertsons’ merger last week comes a huge new seafood contract opportunity for North American suppliers selling sockeye, tilapia, shrimp, cod and…well, the list goes on.

Safeway’s successful Waterfront Bistro line is set to be expanded from its 1,326 stores to as many as 2,239 total stores that now fall under Albertsons ownership with the merger.

“The Waterfront Bistro brand will expand in to the larger organization, ” Brian Dowling, vice president of public affairs at Safeway and Albertsons, told Undercurrent News. “We are early in the planning stages so cannot specify regions, items, or timing at this early date. ”

The line has been very successful in Safeway, a source with knowledge of the matter told Undercurrent. Safeway’s pitch to consumers is that the products are “reminiscent of the best coastal restaurants” but with lower price and less work. They are intended to be cooked from frozen.

Safeway lists ten “fish fillets and steaks” and eight “scallops and shrimp” products under the trademarked, private label brand on its website.

“It has to be outrageous volumes, ” a source at a company that supplies Safeway’s Waterfront Bistro brand told Undercurrent.

Yet whether this means more seafood sold in the merged entity remains unclear, and it could create a musical chairs situation as companies work to make up for lost contracts in Albertson’s own key brand,  Arctic Shores.  This brand seems likely to be phased out as the Waterfront Bistro line phases in, sources said.

Dowling declined to comment on the company’s plans for Arctic Shores.

Albertsons Arctic Shores brand

The Arctic Shores line is less extensive, with just three species — shrimp, tilapia and salmon — to Waterfront Birsto’s ten, according to the companies’ websites.

Suppliers have yet to find out how the company will decide who picks up the supply deals from the roughly 700-store expansion.

“I haven’t heard anything, ” the afore-mentioned supplier said of impacts from the merger. “It’ll be interesting, but it’ll take quite a while to figure this out. ”

The expansion introduces the brand to several new markets.

“If they put it into the Eastern Seaboard, that would be new to New England, down through the mid-Atlantic, ” the source said.

Seafood-meat department merger in the cards

A merging of seafood and meat departments is also in the cards for the new Albertsons-led entity.

Safeway stores generally split the seafood and meat departments, with one manager assigned to meat and another to seafood. At Albertsons the meat department managers headed up seafood as well as meat, and this method is expected to prevail.

“I assume that the meat guys will run the show at store level going forward, ” said on industry supplier, later adding that this will not be good for the industry. “There may some labor contract issues with that so it may not happen in some areas until the contract is up…This is Albertsons’ show, so I think their management practices will be the ones chosen to go forward with. ”

The afore-mentioned Safeway supplier said a decentralization of the company’s purchasing system is also likely. In the past, Safeway managed its regional divisions’ purchasing from headquarters, in contrast to the Albertsons method of managing each region’s purchasing from regional offices.

“It could be good, it could be bad,” the source said, adding that his company is awaiting meetings with the retailer to find out the implications of its plans.

Speaking from general retail knowledge, Jerry Walsh, corporate seafood buyer for the coop Unified Grocers, said he believes the merger — due to the enhanced resources it provides the companies — is likely to improve their seafood departments.

“I see it as a positive for the industry to streamline them together and bring some better programs between the two entitites, ” he said. “To make their seafood departments better, then as a competitor you’re going to have to upscale your department to compete…”

Divested stores chunk thrown into overdrive

Suppliers watching impacts from the 168 stores that that Safeway divested in order to secure Federal Trade Commission (FTC) clearance for the deal are expecting an attempt to improve seafood quality, although just how serious that attempt will be remains to be seen.

Haggen, the retailer that purchased 146 of the stores, has plans to pump up the image of the seafood departments in these stores, Roger O’Brien, the new CEO of Santa Monica Seafood, told Undercurrent, citing information presented at a suppliers meeting Haggen held recently on its plans.

“It’s my understanding that they will put more emphasis on seafood than a typical grocer would…” O’Brien said.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/964044/Safeway-Albertsons-merger-means-expansion-for-Waterfront-Bistro-seafood-line-Merger-with-Meat-Dept

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program; Amendment 45; Pacific Cod Sideboard Allocations in the Gulf of Alaska
A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/12/2015
NMFS issues a proposed rule that would implement Amendment 45 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP). If approved, Amendment 45 would establish, for a limited period of time, a process for NMFS to permanently remove Pacific cod catch limits, known as sideboard limits, which are applicable to certain hook-and-line catcher/processors in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Regulatory Areas. This action would authorize NMFS to remove these Pacific cod sideboard limits in the Central and/or Western GOA if all eligible participants in the hook-and-line catcher/processor sector in a regulatory area sign and submit a request that NMFS remove the sideboard limit. Each eligible participant would be required to submit the request to NMFS within 1 year of the date of publication of a final rule implementing Amendment 45, if it is approved by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary). This action is necessary to provide participants in the Central and Western GOA hook-and-line catcher/processor sectors with an opportunity to cooperatively coordinate harvests of Pacific cod through private arrangement to the participants’ mutual benefit, which would remove the need for sideboard limits in these regulatory areas. This action is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), the Crab FMP, and other applicable laws.
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/02/12/2015-02911/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-bering-sea-and-aleutian-islands-crab?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Small Vessel Exemptions; License Limitation Program
A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/12/2015
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has submitted to the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) Amendment 108 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI FMP), Amendment 100 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP), and Amendment 46 to the Fishery Management Plan for Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (Crab FMP). If approved, these amendments would correct text omissions in the BSAI FMP, the GOA FMP, and the Crab FMP. These amendments would make the fishery management plan (FMP) texts that establish vessel length limits for small vessels exempted from the license limitation program (LLP) in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) groundfish and king and Tanner crab fisheries, and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) groundfish fisheries, consistent with the original intent of the LLP, current operations in the fisheries, and Federal regulations. This action would promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMPs, and other applicable laws.
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/02/12/2015-02890/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-small-vessel-exemptions-license-limitation?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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February 12, 2015