Alaska/Pacific Coast

Copper River harvest exceeds 442,000 reds
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – June 13, 2016
Fred Meyer supermarkets in Anchorage had a special promotion of Copper River sockeye salmon, whole and as fillets, to hail the arrival of the popular fish. Photo by Margaret Bauman

Bristol Bay Fisheries Report
KDLG by Dave Bendinger – June 13, 2016
Copper River Seafoods posts a price, Naknek/Kvichak AMB Travis Elison joins, and a greenhorn tells us what she’s expecting for season number one.

Walrus prompt Ugashik boundary change for Bristol Bay fishery
Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, believe moving north line one mile south will offer buffer zone for walrus hauled out at Cape Greig.
KDLG by Dave Bendinger  – June 10, 2016
The Dept. of Fish and Game said Friday that it will be moving the north boundary of the Ugashik commercial fishing district approximately one mile south on account of the walrus hauled out at Cape Greig.

Salmon Slows Over Mild Weekend
KMXT by Jay Barrett – June 13, 2016
The Kodiak Management Area salmon catch is up over 80,000 fish with slow Sunday harvest of just over 4,000 fish added to the season all-species total.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council Moves to Exempt Tanner Crab Fisheries From IPQ Use Caps
KMXT by Kayla Desroches – June 14, 2016
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council just passed an amendment to compensate for the exit of one processor from Tanner crab processing last year.

N. Pacific Council Advances Motions That Restrict Catch Shares
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [News Analysis] by John Sackton – June 14, 2016
The intense debate at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council this week culminated in a series of votes by the council that will likely mark a turning point in consideration of catch shares in US fisheries.

The most significant vote was on a motion made by Glenn Merrill (NMFS) that slightly softened the language ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten had proposed regarding the council’s position against creating new economic assets through quota shares.  Cotten’s language was to “avoid creation of new economic assets” in the bycatch program, and Merrill substituted language that defined the council’s objectives as  “minimizing economic barriers for new participants.”  This motion carried 6-5 after one of the 6 member Alaska Delegation, David Long, voted for it.

The Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawlers must comply with stricter by-catch caps on chinook salmon and halibut. But at the same time they operate in an open fishery, where anyone with a permit can fish. As a result, there is no collective way to change behavior to avoid bycatch, as no single boat can be held accountable for exceeding their share of bycatch.

Recognizing this problem, the council asked the industry to propose a rationalization program more than two years ago. They accepted the industry contention that the bycatch regulations were unworkable without a rationalization program in the Gulf.  The council is considering this plan (called Alternative 2), plus an Alaska plan to allocate only bycatch, called Alternative 3.

During the past two years, the administration in Alaska changed, and a new Commissioner of ADF&G, Sam Cotten, signaled a change in policy that made many of the assumptions of the industry rationalization plan moot.

The council already recognized that harvesters, processors, and the communities where they are based all have a stake in the fishery and that no program that applies only to one sector is acceptable. For this reason, the rockfish program requires a system of co-ops, where in order to fish, a vessel has to join a co-op tied to a processor. The co-op can then allocate fish and bycatch among its members.

Alternative 2, the proposal most like the rockfish program, was moved forward for further analysis by the council, but with a series of policy restrictions. Alternative 3 was moved forward for analysis also.

The key restrictions came from a motion passed by the council that declared the overarching goal of the N. Pacific council’s Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program is that the regulations must minimize “economic barriers for new participants by limiting harvest privileges that may be allocated”.  This language passed on an amendment 6-5, and replaced stronger language that had been offered by Sam Cotten, saying the council wanted to “avoid creation of new economic assets, and must limit the duration of harvest privileges that may be allocated.”

A second motion added “participation in the fishery by harvesters” as a key element in the fair and equitable distribution of access privileges.

In the discussion, a number of the Alaskan representatives on the council made the point that fishing history alone does not confer any economic rights. The history of the past 15 years is no more or less important than the history 50 years ago, or the history some time in the future.

Sam Cotten, ADF&G Commissioner, said that he was unalterably opposed to the creation of an economic asset for the existing users of the fishery that would have to be paid for, i.e. purchased, by future users of the fishery.

The next step is for the council staff to take the policy statements and amendments to both alternatives and further develop them into concrete options for potential council action.

The crab fishery catch share program is seen by these council members as an historic mistake, where 70% of the value of the red king crab fishery now belongs to people who no longer participate in the fishery, while the existing captains, vessels, and crews make do with 30% of the value.

Another caution is the experience of west coast groundfish rationalization. A recent paper in Marine Policy by the University of Washington’s Peter Kuriyama, Trevor Branch et al, showed that the catch rates of target species on the West Coast fell dramatically after the adoption of the catch share program. One of the main purposes of the program was to allocate bycatch, and it was thought that by allocating the bycatch, fishermen would trade quotas and catch the total amount of TAC.

Instead, they are now catching less of the TAC than before the rationalization. Besides hurting vessels, this has cost processors millions of dollars.  They have seen their volumes and their customers evaporate. The entire West Coast groundfish sector has become worse off, in terms of ability to harvest a share of the resource, and to get maximum value out of the fishery.

In BC, by contrast, the share of resource harvested under their catch share program has not declined from before, possibly due to the easier barter and transfer of quota among participants, say the authors.

In New England, the experience of moving to catch shares also has drastically reduced the volume of species caught compared to the TAC, as the mechanisms for transferring quotas are not working well.

These examples show that in a mixed species fishery, simply allocating shares and giving them value is not sufficient to allow the fluidity and flexibility necessary for harvesters to catch the full quota.

The Alaskan council members were not opposed to co-ops or allocation schemes, but they were adamantly opposed to a ‘fishing rights’ scheme that permanently conferred fishing privileges.

They also argued that the Gulf of Alaska fishery was not overcapitalized to the extent of some of the other fisheries that moved to catch shares.

The real message of the meetings in Kodiak this past week is that there are no simple solutions to both manage bycatch and maximize the economic value of the fishery. A simple economic asset approach – ie turn the fish quotas into tradable shares, would obviously create value and lead to a further consolidation in both harvesting and processing. But this efficiency might come at the expense of the existing industry in Kodiak and other Gulf of Alaska communities.

At the same time, restrictions that preserve future access can create so much uncertainty that investments maximizing the value of the TAC are not possible, leading to failure of processors who depend on volume, and the erosion of the fishing community into exactly what they fear: a small number of boats harvesting for one or two plants.

NOAA and Congress likely have a role to play here. NOAA’s failures in West Coast Groundfish have made a bad situation worse. This does not give confidence that the agency can be creative or flexible enough to help the unique structures needed in the Gulf come into being under existing rules. That is why Congress may ultimately have to step in, and make the laws fit the requirements for a healthy fishery, and not allow the agency to kill the fishery to preserve the current regulations.

Like any bureaucracy, NOAA tends to focus on what they already know, and they have fully bought into the catch share model. As a result, they see requirements for other types of programs as threatening, or creating more work. This attitude must be swept away if a Gulf of Alaska program is to be successful.

Note this article has been edited to provide an updated view of council motions and votes.-JS


Russia may lose $1 bln annually due to new US seafood import rules
Prime News – June 14, 2016
WASHINGTON — Russia may lose around U.S. $1 billion annually if new U.S. rules on seafood imports come in force in September, Oleg Rykov, representative of the Federal Fisheries Agency, told PRIME on June 11.

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June 15, 2016