Alaska/Pacific Coast

Bycatch Management
SWAMC focus is on energy economics fish
Cordova Times by January 10, 2015
Plans are shaping up for the 27th annual Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference economic summit on fisheries, energy and economics, March 4-6 in Anchorage, with bycatch issues on the agenda for fisheries and politics day, March 6.

The draft agenda for the day devoted to fisheries and policy includes economic considerations for bycatch, Gulf of Alaska bycatch management, gear modifications and the worth of bycatch.

Arctic Report Card: Update for 2014
What’s new in 2014?
Rising air and sea temperatures continue to trigger changes in the Arctic. The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth.

However, natural variation remains, such as the slight increase in March 2014 sea ice thickness and only a slight decrease in total mass of the Greenland ice sheet in summer 2014.

NSEDC communities to receive $2,250,000 in Community Benefit Shares
NSEDC by Laureli Ivanoff – January 7, 2015
Distribution set at $150,000 for each of NSEDC’s member communities to direct toward their highest priorities

Buoyed by another year of strong financial performance, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation’s (NSEDC) Board of Directors has continued their tradition of sharing the success with the organization’s 15 member communities. NSEDC has informed the municipality in each community of a $150,000 distribution for the 2014 Community Benefit Share, continuing its commitment to provide member communities with the financial support to address community priorities.

US king crab prices keep dropping despite Russian material price rise
Undercurrent News by Jeanine Stewart – January 8, 2015
One of the US largest volume importers of Russian king crab is echoing outcries from Japan over lack of king crab supply stemming from the Russia and Japan’s anti-crab poaching treaty, which took effect Dec. 10.


Republican Marco Rubio replaces Alaska’s Mark Begich as chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.


Humpbacks and the Endangered Species Act: A deep dive
KCAW by Rachel Waldholz and Ellen Chenoweth  January 6, 2015
Humpback whales may be coming off the endangered species list soon: federal officials are expected to announce a decision within the next few weeks.

Along with virtually all the great whales, humpbacks were hunted to near-extinction by the mid-20th century. They were one of the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act when it passed in 1973.

Flying Beneath the Clouds at the Edge of the World: the Use of an Unmanned Aircraft System to Survey the Endangered Steller Sea Lion in Western Alaska
AFSC – Alaska Ecosystem Program

map showing 2014 survey sites

Steller sea lion terrestrial haul-out sites successfully surveyed in the Aleutian Islands and western Gulf of Alaska during June and July 2014 by biologists from the ground, hexacopter, and occupied aircraft.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has used occupied aircraft since the 1970s to obtain aerial images of Steller sea lions hauled out throughout coastal Alaska. The subsequent counts of animals captured within those images form the basis for annual population estimates which are used by NMFS for management purposes.  The agency listed   the Steller sea lion as threatened range-wide under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. Seven years later NMFS identified two stocks in the United States and elevated the listing of the western population to endangered due to persistent drops in abundance. Continued assessment surveys indicate that the portion of this population in the western Aleutian Islands has continued to decline.


Labeling and Marketing

ASMI issues reminder that public comment period for RFM Conformance Criteria open until February 3
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] January 12, 2015
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) issued a reminder that the public has until February 3 to review and issue comments on the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management Conformance (RFM) Criteria.

The comment period has been open since December 3, 2014.  All comments will be presented to the Alaska RFM Conformance Criteria Committee who will be formally reviewing the Standard.

“To ensure the review process is inclusive, we are calling upon all parties with an interest in responsibly managed fisheries to review and offer their expertise and comments on the Alaska RFM Conformance Criteria,” ASMI said. “ASMI values all stakeholder input which is important to ensure the Alaska RFM Certification program remains consistent with UN FAO key reference documents.”


Enlow Takes Over as UniSea President
KUCB by Annie Ropeik – January 09, 2015

It’s official: Tom Enlow is the new president of UniSea, Unalaska’s biggest seafood processor. The company made the announcement on Friday.

Enlow’s been in line for the top job for two years as vice president of operations, but his promotion comes a little sooner than expected. Former UniSea president Terry Shaff died last November after 16 years in the role.

In settlement, US agrees to impose its dolphin, whale standards on seafood imports
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [ENS] – January 12, 2015
NEW YORK, New York, In a landmark settlement with three environmental groups, the U.S. government has agreed to adopt new rules that ensure seafood imported into the United States meets high standards for protecting whales and dolphins.

The plaintiffs: Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council – nonprofit groups representing a total of more than two million people – won Monday’s settlement in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York.

The Court of International Trade, established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, has nationwide jurisdiction over civil actions arising out of the customs and international trade laws of the United States.

“The new regulations will force other countries to step up and meet U.S. conservation standards – saving hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney and international program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’ ”

Each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear somewhere in the world. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries.

Whales and dolphins become entangled in tuna nets; they are then crushed and killed in the net-pulling winches of the fishing boats. Or they drown in the nets or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries.

Despite U.S. efforts to protect marine mammals in its own waters, fishing gear continues to pose the biggest threat to whale and dolphin conservation worldwide, the groups maintain.

“It’s time to do what it takes to save thousands of whales and dolphins around the world, and hold our fish imports to the same standards that we require of our U.S. fishermen,” said Zak Smith with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This law will help do that. It provides real, enforceable protections for marine mammals and sets up an even playing field that allows our fishermen to be competitive in the U.S. market.”

The rules implement a 40-year-old provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that prohibits the United States from allowing seafood to enter the country unless it meets U.S. whale and dolphin standards.

Under the Court of International Trade settlement, the U.S. government must make a final decision by August 2016 about how to implement this requirement and end unlawful fish imports.

“If we’d had these standards 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be scrambling today to save the imperiled vaquita. Thankfully, if this law is implemented, other species won’t share their fate,” said Smith.

The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, is being driven extinct by shrimp gillnets in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Fewer than 100 vaquita remain.

Under the new regulations, shrimp from this region would be barred from entering the United States as it does not meet the more protective U.S. marine mammal protection standards.

These standards may include modifying gear and closing fishing in some areas to limit the risk of entanglement of whales and dolphins in fishing nets.

“The public demands and the U.S. can – and by law, must – wield its tremendous purchasing power to save dolphins and whales from foreign fishing nets,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We have the right to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is caught in ways that minimize the death and injury of marine mammals.”

Americans consume five billion pounds of seafood per year, including tuna, swordfish, shrimp and cod. About 90 percent of that seafood is imported and about half is wild-caught.


Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association

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January 12, 2015