NOAA Finally Issues Rules for Offshore Fish Farms in Gulf of Mexico
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Associated Press] by Cain Burdeau – January 12, 2016
NEW ORLEANS, The first-ever federal regulations for large-scale fish farming in the ocean were issued Monday, opening a new frontier in the harvesting of popular seafood species such as red drum, tuna and red snapper.

The new rules allow the farming of fish in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The rules _ in the making for years _ were announced in New Orleans by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the Gulf rules could spur similar rules in other U.S. waters. She said it was time for the United States to open up this new market, which she said could help the U.S. meet its seafood demands.

Fish farming is contentious, with fishermen and environmentalists warning it could harm the marine environment and put fishermen out of work.

Typically, offshore farming is done by breeding fish in large semi-submersible pens moored to the seafloor. The practice is common in many parts of the world, and Sullivan said the United States has fallen behind. About 90 per cent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported and more than half of that is farmed, she noted.

She said expanding fish farming has numerous benefits.

“It’s good for the balance of trade, it’s good for the food security of the country,” she said. She said it could create jobs, too.

The new rules allow up to 20 fish farms to open in the Gulf and produce 64 million pounds of fish a year. The farms can start applying for 10-year permits starting in February, she said.

Sullivan said the fish farms would be kept away from sensitive habitats and fishermen would be allowed to fish near them. She envisioned little competition between the farms and fishermen.

Neil Sims, the president of the Ocean Stewards Institute, an offshore industry group, said the rules were groundbreaking. “It’s a huge step,” Sims said. “It’s the federal government recognizing we must move forward here.”

He said concerns about fish farming causing environmental problems are unfounded. “The beauty of open ocean aquaculture is that you are in deep water far offshore,” he said. “It’s more akin to a Colorado cattle range than a feedlot.”

Rather than import farmed seafood, he said, the nation would be better off producing more of its own.

“We have no idea how it (imported seafood) is farmed, what the environmental standards are, what the animal welfare standards,” Sims said about imports.

Marianne Cufone, executive director of the New Orleans-based Recirculating Farms Coalition and longtime critic of offshore fish farming, warned of polluting the Gulf and hurting wild stocks.

A concern is that domesticated fish _ bred to be larger _ will escape their pens and outcompete wild fish for habitat and food, she said.

Sims dismissed that argument. “Over time, we will indeed select for fatter, slower, more docile individuals,” Sims said. “But then that domesticated animal is going to be hopeless in the wild. A fat, slow, docile, fish outside of a net pen is called bait.”

Sullivan said concerns about escaped farmed fish are real, but she added that the rules require growers to breed fish with the same genetics as local stocks.

Glen Brooks, the president of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association, a group of commercial fishermen, said fishermen fought against fish farming. He said fishermen worry about losing fishing grounds and the potential for farmed fish to escape and hurt wild stocks or cause outbreaks of disease.


Norway Spot Salmon Prices Soar on Cold Weather, Low Harvest Forecast for First Six Months
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  by John Sackton – January 11, 2016
The Norwegian salmon site Ilaks is reportng record salmon prices of NOK 70 per Kg, not seen since the 1980’s, as of  this week.

A Norwegian salmon analyst said Friday that the biomass situation is challenging for the next six months, and that cold weather now flooding Norway will reduce sea temperatures, feeding, and growth with a negative impact over the next six weeks.

“We expect that lower seawater temperatures will negatively affect sales volumes of feed and growth for salmon. Thus, the offer situation is even tighter in the first half of 2016,” said Nordea analyst Kolbjørn Giskeødegård.

The major Polish processors, which all have supermarket contracts at fixed prices, are among those most affected by this.  The fact that they have less fish than they need for their contracts is driving up the price.  However, most don’t expect that this can continue for too many weeks without a business collapse.

A second factor pushing up Norwegian prices is the weakness of the Kroner, which has declined 10% against the Euro over the past eight months, and with oil prices sinking, the NOK even weaker.

“Fish bigger than 6 kilos trades at 72-73 NOK, we have never handled prices like this,” one salmon producer told Reuters, adding that he estimated the average price for all sizes would rise by about 10 NOK to 65-67 crowns per kilo.

“There doesn’t seem to be enough fish,” he said.

An exporter of salmon confirmed prices were rising strongly, estimating an average price of 64 NOK next week.

“There will also be limited quantities available in the next weeks, but after that we expect more supply,” he said.

Costs for salmon production have been rising in Norway due to money spent to control sea lice, and the rising cost of feed.  The Norwegian Seafood Export Council estimates that production costs are around 29 NOK for farmed salmon.


‘The Blob’… on winter vacation or gone for good?
KTOO by Matt Miller  –  January 11, 2016
Is ‘The Blob’ taking a winter breather? Or, is it fizzling out? After over two years, is The Blob finally dead? The giant, persistent mass of warm ocean water seems to have cooled over the last few months, possibly because of another warm ocean phenomenon that is now dominating the Pacific.

West Coast study emphasizes challenges faced by marine organisms exposed to global change
University of Washington by Michelle Ma – January 11, 2016
News and Information
The Pacific Ocean along the West Coast serves as a model for how other areas of the ocean could respond in coming decades as the climate warms and emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide increases. This region — the coastal ocean stretching from British Columbia to Mexico — provides an early warning signal of what to expect as ocean acidification continues and as low-oxygen zones expand.

West Coast whale poop study shows connections between salmon and killer whales
The Canadian Press by Dirk Meissner – January 11, 2016
VICTORIA – Scientists who spent five years collecting and analyzing fecal samples from endangered killer whales near Seattle and Victoria found their diet consists almost solely of Chinook salmon in the summer, confirming the deep connection between them and salmon fishing’s trophy catch.

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Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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January 12, 2016