Fisheries Society Says Susitna Dam Threatens Alaska’s Wild Salmon
Fishermen’s News – March 17, 2015
Members of the American Fisheries Society say Alaska’s proposed Susitna Dam project, already axed by Gov. Bill Walker, in the face of declining oil revenues, would be bad news for fisheries and aquatic ecosystems in the state’s Susitna River Basin.
NPFMC Gears Up for Bering Sea Halibut Bycatch Decision
Fishermen’s News – March 17, 2015
With Alaska’s commercial halibut fishery underway, for a harvest limit of 18,474,000 pounds, federal fisheries managers are continuing to wrestle with the thorny issue of halibut caught incidentally in Bering Sea groundfish fisheries.
Drifters Balking At Copper Rier/PWS Marketing Assessment, Vote Results this Weekend
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Associated Press] By Molly Dischner – March 19, 2015 –
JUNEAU, Alaska, A growing number of restaurant customers and grocery store shoppers in the country are asking for Alaska’s Copper River sockeye salmon by name.
But the marketing effort that popularized the firm, red fish could be in jeopardy as the commercial fishermen who provide much of its funding decide whether to pull their support.
In 2005, the fleet of Prince William Sound fishermen who hang curtain-like nets from their boats to catch salmon voted to assess itself a 1 per cent tax to fund Alaska’s first regional seafood development association. The fishermen who let out nets from shore joined in 2009.
The Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association has since helped boost earnings for the two groups _ the drifters and setnetters _ by creating brand-name recognition for their fish. It also helped raise the price of the region’s sockeye to the highest in the state.
But some drifters frustrated with the association’s rules and alleged lack of transparency are seeking to eliminate the tax, and have forced a vote on the matter. Ballots were due in early March, and results are expected this weekend.
The smaller setnet fleet has initiated a separate vote.
Association board members say without the drifters’ contribution _ about $545,334 in 2014 _ continuing their efforts will be impossible once current funding runs out. But those who support the vote say the board needs to reassess its operations.
Per Nolan is one of the fishermen who voted to create the organization. Now he supports the repeal.
Nolan, a former board member who’s fished in the region since 1978, said he would like to see the association continue but with more transparency and better program evaluations.
“Hopefully the board refocuses and realizes there is a portion of the members that feel they’re being underserved,” he said.
Nolan said that as a board member, he supported an effort to accept project proposals from outside the board, which gave members a chance to help direct the association’s work.
If the tax is repealed, the organization could operate on grants, or even vote to reinstitute the tax after restructuring, he said.
Bob Smith, another drifter, said he’s particularly concerned with the association’s bylaws, which he said fail to protect the membership’s interest. He also wants more scrutiny of the association’s finances.
Smith has served on the board twice and both times been removed. His efforts to change the organization from within failed, and he wants the tax removed to instigate change.
But the board’s president, drift fisherman Jeff Bailey, said not all the concerns make sense. Members could have brought up changes to the bylaws without calling for a referendum on the tax, he said. The organization is audited regularly by law because it brings in more than $500,000 per year.
Efforts to market Copper River salmon started in the 1980s, and several groups have contributed over the years, said Thea Thomas, another drifter on the board.
The organization formed after the Legislature voted to allow regional marketing associations in 2004, at the recommendation of a task force convened to address a slump in salmon prices.
The association has focused heavily on branding in the Lower 48.
“What a lot of consumers didn’t know was that we fished Copper River sockeye all the way through the month of July,” Thomas said.
The organization does tours each year, which bring journalists, food bloggers and chefs from around the country to Prince William Sound. The visitors meet fishing families, eat salmon, go fishing and learn about the fishery’s sustainability, Thomas said.
Besides its marketing work, the association tries to improve fish quality, including encouraging fishermen to bleed and ice fish, which helps with taste and freshness.
In 2014, sockeye runs were strong in several regions, from Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound all the way to the Columbia River, which runs along the Oregon-Washington border, Thomas said.
“But Copper River held its price _ which was a pretty good premium over the rest of the state _ the whole summer,” Thomas said.
That could change if the association’s marketing stops, Bailey said.
“I think that anybody who produces a resource, whether it be an agricultural product or a wild harvest product, should be marketing their product,” Bailey said.
The setnet fleet initiated its own referendum in response to the drift vote. Setnetters contributed about $18,754 to the organization in 2014. Their vote closes in mid-May, with results due by May 31.
Meanwhile, the Legislature appears poised to cut the budget for the state fisheries marketing association.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute cannot, by law, push one region over another, but it does advocate for Alaska salmon in general. Declining oil prices mean it likely will see decreased funding next year.
Bailey said if the tax continues, it might be time to limit how often members can vote on it. The organization is spending about $10,000 on this election, he said.
“It’s a huge distraction, it’s expensive, and it keeps us from doing the work that a majority of the membership wants us to, and that’s to market and promote their product,” he said.
Governor’s Choice for North Pacific Council Indicates Commitment to Stability
SEAFOODNEWS.COM By Peggy Parker – March 18, 2015
Alaska Governor Walker’s picks for two seats on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council maintains current chairman Dan Hull and replaces recreational representative Ed Dersham with Andy Mezirow, a charter boat owner and operator who also fishes commercially for halibut.
Mezirow has been a key player in recreational fisheries management issues at the Council for several years. He currently serves on the council’s Advisory Panel. In the recent debate on halibut by catch caps in the Bering Sea, Mezirow has advocated for lowering the caps.
In addition to charter and longline fishing, Mezirow teaches maritime safety at the Alaska Vocational and Technical Education Center in Seward. He has worked on research vessels for the University of Alaska in the past. Mezirow owns Crackerjack Charters out of Seward.
Dan Hull, a commercial longliner and gill netter from Cordova who currently chairs the Council, has been a member of the Council for six years. Hull holds a masters of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington.
Walker’s letter included alternatives to Hull and Mezirow. For the Small Boat Commercial Representative seat which Hull now fills, Walker nominated as alternates Buck Laukitis and Paul Gronholdt.
Laukitis fishes commercially for halibut and sablefish out of Homer, AK. He was president of the North Pacific Fisheries Association for twelve years and has been involved at the Council and at the International Pacific Halibut Commission for decades.
Gronholdt is a commercial fisherman and lives in Sand Point, AK. He is the Administrator for the Shumagin Village Corporation and serves on the boards of several Aleutian Island municipal and borough governing boards, the United Fishermen of Alaska, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
As alternates for the Recreational Fisher Representative seat, Walker nominated Richard Yamada and Arthur Nelson.
Yamada owns Shelter Lodge in Southeast Alaska and is president of the Alaska Charter Association. He also serves on the Juneau/Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee and the NOAA MAFAC Recreational Fisheries World group.
Nelson is Executive director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Associaiton and serves on the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific nadromous Fisheries Commission, the Alaska Board of Fisheries Kuskokwim Subsistence Salmon Panel and is Chariman of the Steering Committee for Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwm Susbistence Salmon Initiative.
In most cases, the Secretary of Commerce accepts the state’s first choice for council appointments.
Rep. Don Young Takes Helm on Maguson-Stevens Reauthorization
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Fairbanks News-Miner] By Rep. Don Young – March 18, 2015
Almost 40 years ago, without regard for the conservation of our fisheries or the needs of the Alaskan people, foreign fishing fleets dominated the waters off Alaska’s shores and took anything and everything in their reach.
Ask anyone familiar with the times, deck lights of foreign vessels — dozens if not more — could be seen just miles off the coast of Kodiak and other coastal communities. Recognizing the need for change, countless Alaskan fishermen came to Congress to ask for help in pushing the foreign fleets out.
Sen. Ted Stevens and I knew that Alaska’s and America’s interests needed protection and we immediately began working to spearhead commonsense fisheries reforms through Congress. Reforms weren’t easy, but partnerships and friendships were formed — with representatives and senators across state and party lines – to convince our colleagues it was the right thing to do.
After years of work, the foundation of our domestic fishing fleet was born, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Along with the creation of the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone that pushed foreign fleets further from our shores, the MSA “Americanized” our fisheries and created wealth and certainty for our state and fishermen.
Alaska is now home to the strongest, most sustainable fisheries in the world. All across the North Pacific, from Dutch Harbor to Ketchikan, our fishermen and coastal communities have thrived under the policies developed in the MSA. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska’s seafood industry now contributes nearly 80,000 jobs to our local economies; is home to 11 of the nation’s top 20 most valuable commercial fishing ports; and harvests more than 60 percent of the nation’s seafood.
As Alaska’s fisheries continue to flourish, with healthy communities and jobs at sea and on shore, there ultimately comes a time when our laws — even those that are working well — must be reviewed and updated. Just as our fishermen and fisheries must adjust to new dynamic challenges, our laws must also be reviewed to keep pace with changes in our industry and ensure Congress is implementing them as intended.
After more than two years of reviewing the MSA, I have been asked by the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to once again put my fisheries experience to work by leading the charge on reauthorizing this important legislation.
In an effort to ensure a proper balance between the biological needs of our fish stocks and the economic needs of our fishermen and coastal communities, I have introduced legislation with a number of regional cosponsors to reauthorize and strengthen the MSA. H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, provides a number of modest but necessary reforms, including efforts to: provide fisheries managers with increased flexibility and transparency; allow for improved data collection through the use of electronic monitoring; increase accountability for our federal agencies; and create predictability and certainty for coastal communities that depend on stable fishing.
In many ways, the MSA continues to support Alaska fishermen and protect our fishery resource as envisioned. But as I’ve learned in Congress, our laws are not written in stone and we must constantly review them, listen to our constituents and make changes when necessary.
As we move forward on this important legislation and take up separate efforts to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing by foreign vessels, I look forward to once again hearing from the countless Alaskans and Americans who helped us develop these positive reforms.
While I will miss teaming up with Sen. Stevens again during this process, as we did for the first time in 1976 and for the last time in 2006, I will remember him fondly as we work to update the law bearing his name.
Oceans are becoming more and more hostile to marine life
Fis.com – March 19, 2015
Scientists have claimed that warming temperatures are sucking oxygen out of waters even far out at sea, making enormous stretches of deep ocean hostile to marine life.
North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/19/2015
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and its advisory committees will hold public meetings.
IN BRIEF – New Guidelines and Website Help Businesses Evaluate and Source from Fishery Improvement Projects
FIS.COM – March 18, 2015
The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions released on March the 16th of 2015 updated guidelines for fisheries that want to improve their environmental performance so they can sell to customers seeking more sustainable seafood options. The guidelines define the types of fishery improvement projects, or FIPs, members of the Conservation Alliance will consider recommending to their business partners for participation or seafood sourcing.
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