Alaska/Pacific Coast

Southeast’s winter troll season closes in record time
KCAW by Robert Woolsey – March 11, 2016
Winter trolling for king salmon in Southeast Alaska is over — a full six weeks ahead of schedule.
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game says the combination of good prices and high abundance lured more boats than ever to the winter fishing grounds.

Alaska Pollock, Salmon Complete Annual RFM Audit; Statewide Salmon Fisheries Enter Re-assessment
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – March 15, 2016
The Alaska Pollock and Salmon Fisheries have completed their fourth annual surveillance audits to the RFM standard.  Copies of the audit reports can be obtained from the fisheries clients holding the certifications.  For salmon the client is the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation.  For pollock, the client is the Alaska pollock client group, which includes the At Sea Processors, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, and the Alaska Groundfish Databank.  These groups represent pollock both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

Details were also announced for the 5 year re-assessment of the statewide salmon fishery.  This will be done by SAI Global, with the first site visits scheduled for April 16th.

The salmon assessment covers all commercial salmon species in Alaska, and all gears.  Currently all Alaskan salmon, including the pink salmon fisheries in Prince William Sound, are certified to the RFM standard.  The RFM standard has also been recognized as in compliance with the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative, and is now in the final public comment period  before full acceptance.

The controversy over pink salmon from Prince William Sound developed during the confusion over MSC salmon certifications in Alaska, which saw a repeated change of clients and certifiers, leading one certifier to give up on the audit of Prince William Sound fish because they did not have time to complete their work.

The certification issue is whether hatchery fish pose a risk to wild stocks that must  be taken into consideration by certifiers and sustainability standards.  At present, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game is in the midst of a five year study – necessary because the genetics have to be repeated through multiple generations – which should help answer that question.

The ADF&G study will address the question of fitness and survival, to measure whether genetic interaction with hatchery fish reduces fitness or survival in wild fish.  What types of changes in management practices may be necessary will be dictated by the outcome of the study.

The 4th audit of the RFM salmon certification noted that significant studies are underway to address the question of prince William sound pink salmon, and as a result the salmon fisheries remain certified as the process to update scientific information about potential genetic issues proceeds.

In laymen’s terms, both hatchery and wild salmon have the same genes.  However, the different environments in which they first develop lead to turning on or expressing certain genes at different rates.  For example, in more crowded conditions, genes that both wild and hatchery fish have to boost their immune system may get turned on earlier and more strongly in hatchery fish due to the increased risk of infection.  The study seeks to determine if these changes lead to changes in reproductive fitness, or if once in a wild environment, the expression of genes in multi-generations of hatchery fish quickly revert to their wild state.

The studies have nothing to do with other issues raised about hatchery fish, such as whether they compete with wild fish for food resources.  These studies are complex and expensive, as the example of steller sea lion diet research shows.  With steller sea lions, diet studies showed that fishing for pollock and local changes in pollock abundance had no impact on steller sea lion diets.  Accusations made by some groups that hatchery fish are taking food and energy from wild fish need to be addressed with caution, because the fluctuations that naturally occur in food and energy availability due to natural conditions, and the natural variability of wild salmon runs, have far higher impacts than simply adding more fish to the total biomass.

For these issues to be taken up by assessment programs and standards, a responsible way to devise scientific studies must be developed, rather than a piecemeal approach that reacts to the latest paper that fits the bias of the observer.

Labeling and Marketing

About Alaska Seafood
AlaskaSeafood –  March 14, 2016
A video to help kids can see firsthand how amazing seafood from Alaska is.

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Other Hook-and-Line Fishery by Catcher Vessels in the Gulf of Alaska
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/14/2016
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for groundfish, other than demersal shelf rockfish, by catcher vessels (C/Vs) using hook-and-line gear in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary because the first seasonal apportionment of the Pacific halibut bycatch allowance specified for the other hook-and-line fishery by C/Vs in the GOA has been reached.

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/14/2016
NMFS is opening directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using pot gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to fully use the A season allowance of the 2016 total allowable catch of Pacific cod apportioned to vessels using pot gear in the Central Regulatory Area of the GOA.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail:; Website:
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March 15, 2016