Alaska/Pacific Coast

Cuts in commercial fishing budgets lead to reductions in staffing
Peninsula Clarion by Elizabeth Earl – February 2, 2018
Budget cuts at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have led to reductions in staffing in the commercial fishing division, leading to a potential loss in fishing opportunity.

At the Center of the IPHC Impasse is Apportionment, A Word No One Uses Any More
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – February 5, 2018
The failure to reach agreement on catch limits for Pacific halibut last month had roots in a 2006 decision by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to shift from managing halibut area by area to a single coastwide assessment.

The change was triggered by data from tagging studies that showed significant migration between distinct geographical areas. There was evidence to support ‘resident’ populations, but new data showed complex migration patterns that had not been understood before.

So the scientists, who had used a closed-area assessment up to then, changed to a coastwide assessment to measure total biomass, then apportioned catch limits based on area surveys and geographical size.

It was a significant change in IPHC’s harvest policy and called for a stock assessment workshop and an independent evaluation from the Center for Independent Experts in June of 2006.

CIE’s Dr. Chris Francis, an independent evaluator and stock assessment expert, commented on the biggest snag he saw with the change.

“The problem for me (and for the IPHC, I believe) is that the coast-wide model requires some way of apportioning the estimated current biomass amongst the regulatory areas. It is important to distinguish between accepting the coast-wide model over the closed-area, and accepting the area-apportionment scheme,” Francis said.

“I know that the IPHC staff are well aware of this distinction but I am not confident that this was true of all workshop participants.”

The Canadians caught on in short order. Their area was one of the hardest hit by the new apportionment, and they registered a clear refusal to accept the new procedure almost immediately. Every year since, they reiterate their position and in a compensitory action support higher, historical catch levels for British Columbia.

Canada (Area 2B) was not the only area that got short-shrifted in the 2006 decision. Its neighbors to the north, Southeast Alaska (Area 2C), and the west, Bering Sea (Area 4CDE), were also adjusted downward. No one was happy with these new apportionments, but other areas in Alaska got more, so for the most part the U.S. delegation accepted the change.

Then three things happened that increased pressure on the industry and its managers.

First, size-at age began dropping and by 2007 was recognized as a clear trend, not an anomaly. It was unclear why halibut’s growth rate was declining. It could be caused by more competition for food (coincidentally the biomass of arrowtooth flounder in the same range and eating the same food had increased exponentially) or some other ecosystem change. There was nothing wrong with the fish, they just weren’t getting as big as they used to. It appears to have stablized today at about 60 percent of the weight the same-age fish were in 1995. Catch limits decreased accordingly.

The second hit to the industry came in 2012 when another correction was made to the assessment model to remove a retrospective bias error. It was a well known problem that predicted an increased rate of growth in the biomass, despite the size-at-age problem, but the cause of the bias error was misunderstood. It took a few years and a personnel change to get to the real reason for the error and correct the biomass size and future productivity. As a result, the industry lost almost 30 percent of total biomass in what everyone now calls “electronic fish”, which dropped in one year from 260 million pounds to 187 million pounds. Again, nothing happened to the population, the managers just modeled a more accurate stock size and future productivity.

The 2012 correction adjusted all areas downward — some by more than 50% — but Canada continued to support pre-2006 levels of catch limits.

This was a cause of considerable frustration among non-Canadians, but the Commission continued to adopt higher levels for Canada. A big part of why it did was simply the structure of the Commission — three Canadians and three Americans meant one side had to get at least one vote from the other side. If that wasn’t achieved, catch limits reverted to the previous year.

In a move to further clarify their position on apportionment, last year the Canadians introduced and the Commission agreed to change “apportionment” to “stock distribtution”, commenting that ”stock distribution” is a scientifically-defensible concept while “apportionment” is more of a policy call.

While Canada’s year-after-year position to take approximately a million pounds more than the scientific advice from the Commission was seen by the U.S. as troublesome, the impact on the stock in that area has not been what one would expect.

A reliable metric to gauge stock size — weight-per-unit-effort — has gone up in both British Columbia and Southeast Alaska since 2007. All other areas have gone down with the exception of an uptick in Area 4CDE last year.

Why, if the Canadian fleet is taking more from the stock in that area than the scientists recommend, would the WPUE not go down over the years?

But now a third dynamic is before the group, and may have played a pivotal role in last month’s impasse. After a few years of warning signals from the scientists who are seeing less younger halibut in the population, this year’s loud-and-clear message is that recruitment is in trouble.

This is a game changer. No one is sure why recruitment is so low or what can be done about it.

These three forces, all emerging in just the last decade, increase both uncertainty and the inclination to use more caution when the Commissioners set catch limits.

Both countries have committed to set regulations reflecting the lower catch limit levels before the March 24, 2018 season opener.


Russian Fishery Company upping production of frozen-at-sea pollock fillets
Seafood Source by Ivan Stupachenko – February 5, 2018
Russian Fishery Company is seeking to capitalize on Russia’s growing taste for pollock fillets by adding fillet production lines to several of its trawlers.

Labeling and Marketing

3MMI – Seafood vs Beef, Chicken, Pork – a Center of Plate Protein Analysis
TradexFoods – February 5, 2018
— In this week’s episode we will analyze center of the plate protein costs. Seafood consumption is a steady trend over the past five years at between 14 and 15 pounds eaten per capita each year…

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reallocation of Pollock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/05/2018
NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amounts of the Aleut Corporation’s and the Community Development Quota pollock directed fishing allowances from the Aleutian Islands subarea to the Bering Sea subarea directed fisheries. These actions are necessary to provide opportunity for harvest of the 2018 total allowable catch of pollock, consistent with the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area.

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Non-American Fisheries Act Crab Vessels Operating as Catcher Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/05/2018
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by non-American Fisheries Act (AFA) crab vessels that are subject to sideboard limits, and operating as catcher vessels (CVs) using pot gear, in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2018 Pacific cod sideboard limit established for non-AFA crab vessels that are operating as Start Printed Page 5054CVs using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.


Vessel drill instructor workshop
Juneau Empire – February 2, 2018
The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) will offer a Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor workshop in Juneau on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The workshop will be conducted at the University of Alaska Southeast Technical Education Center, room 106, 1415 Harbor Way.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail:; Website:
Our office days/hours are Monday-Friday
8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.

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February 5, 2018