Alaska/Pacific Coast

The Alaska Fisheries Report
Kmxt.org – March 19, 2015
Coming up this week, Sitka herring is being fished as a co-op this year, Foreign roe technicians can once again get a visa to work the salmon season here, and the sockeye forecast for Upper Cook Inlet appears to be deja vu all over again. All that, and what does it take to not blush when you hear the phrase “fish balls,” coming up on the Alaska Fisheries report. We had help from KCAW’s Rachel Waldholz in Sitka, APRN’s Liz Ruskin back in D-C, KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran in Kenai and KUCB’s Lauren Rosenthal in Unalaska.
http://www.kmxt.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6425

Politics

Walker nominates Hull, Mezirow for North Pacific council
Alaska Journal of Commerce by DJ Summers – March 19, 2015
Alaska’s federal fisheries will have a new recreational fishing voice, but the subsistence representation will stay as is.
http://www.alaskajournal.com/Alaska-Journal-of-Commerce/March-Issue-4-2015/Walker-nominates-Hull-Mezirow-for-North-Pacific-council/

Bill to Tilt Alaska Fish Management Toward Personal Use Gets Wider Support from Legislature
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Juneau Resources Weekly] by Dave Theriault – March 18, 2015
A bill to establish a personal use fishing priority that has never gotten very far is getting more legislative support this year.  At a hearing ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten supported setting an Alaska personal use preference. The controversial measure from past years would give personal use fisheries priority found a friendly audience before a Senate panel this week.

Commercial fishermen found themselves in lawmakers’ crosshairs early in the hearing. “We still have this archaic system where there are commercial opportunities that lock up resources that deny Alaskans their right to live off the land,” said Sen. Lesil McGuire. “I’ve always felt that it should be subsistence and personal use first.”

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stoltze, would set a statewide management priority for personal use, placing it ahead of commercial and sport users.

Under current management practices, allocation needs are balanced among commercial, sport and personal use on equal footing.  The measure would have the most impact on salmon management.

Department of Fish and Game leadership has an open mind to setting the personal use priority. “Non-residents are excluded when it is personal use as opposed to sport, which I think is one of your goals, and that’s one of the things that has a lot of appeal to me, setting a resident preference,” said Comm. Sam Cotten. He noted that the Department has taken a neutral position on the issue in the past but has also been open to a preference for state residents. “We’re anxious to work with you on this,” Cotten added.

Personal use fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers has become wildly popular over the past decade with the number of participants and sockeye caught sharply rising.

The Chitina dipnet fishery on the Copper River, the second most popular personal use fishery in the state, and has also seen a recent rise in popularity.

One Senator attributed the precipitous rise in dip netting in South Central to the closures for sport fishing in the Mat-Su area that he represents. “You can’t catch a salmon in the Mat-Su until August because when you drive up the Parks Highway, where a tremendous number of people fish, there are closures,” said Sen. Charlie Huggins.

“If you want a fish, you have to go down [to the Kenai] and do personal use.” Sen. Huggins said he supported the measure.

A personal use priority bill has been brought forward everyone year since 2009 by Sen. Stoltze while he was a member of the House but the controversial proposal never made it out of the first round of hearings.

In a rare committee vote in 2010 at the House Fisheries Committee, members voted the bill down across party lines. Now in the Senate, Stotlze chairs the committee where Senate Bill 42 hearings are being held.

Rod Arno, the Executive Director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, spoke in favor of the bill. “We want to be sure that personal use and opportunity for in-river users is assured during times of shortage,” Arno said.

Public testimony was cut off after the hearing ran over time. Sen. Stoltze said he plans to re-open meetings to public input on the bill at a hearing now scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Rep. Mark Neuman has filed identical legislation in the House. That bill has yet to receive a hearing.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/968457/Bill-to-Tilt-Alaska-Fish-Management-Toward-Personal-Use-Gets-Wider-Support-from-Legislature

International

Costco Switches to More Norwegian Salmon, Cutting Back on Chilean Deliveries
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Undercurrent News] by Tom Seaman  March 19, 2015

US retail giant Costco Wholesale will switch around two-thirds of its fresh farmed salmon fillet supply to Norway, the US retail giant told Chilean packers during the Boston seafood show.

The move from Costco, which buys around 600,000 pounds of farmed salmon a week, will impact several Chilean processors, the hardest hit being Empresas AquaChile, Blumar Seafoods, Pesquera Camanchaca and Multiexport, sources said.

The new contract will start in June.

This was the “cherry on the cake” of a gloomy show for the Chileans, one source said. During the show, it also emerged prices to the US are down, after rising for several weeks.

“In 2014, many pundits where forecasting a very good 2015 for Chile,” one source said.

For various reasons, the latest being the move from Costco, this does not seem to be panning out as forecast.

“All countries have huge, high-cost inventory and there are currency issues with the weak yen, ruble and real, one source said.

In addition, the US market not performing before lent and an expected huge run in Alaska is making the Chileans think that 2015 will be a much more complicated year than expected, sources told Undercurrent.

Although the reasons for the move from Costco are not clear, price and a general shift away from buying products that have been reared with antibiotics were cited by sources.

“They [Cosco] say they got a good deal from Norway, and also this is product with no antibiotics, although this possible reason is not 100% clear. I am sure there are more issues behind this decision,” one Chilean source said.

Several sources also questioned how the Norwegians would fare supplying Costco in big volumes. “This is a huge loss for Chilean packers, but is not clear how Norwegian packers can perform with this unique spec that only Chilean can perform,” one said.

Costso uses a trim F fillet with no fat on it and is notoriously stringent as a customer, sources said.

Norwegians target US

With the Russian market closed to Norwegian salmon and prices down year-on-year, the US market is taking more salmon from Norway.

In addition, the NOK/USD exchange rate has shifted nearly 33% in the last year, because of the fall in the oil price.

Last year, $1 USD returned around 6 NOK, this year it is now 8.2 NOK.  This huge currency gain benefits Norwegian producers.

At the same time, prices from Norway are also down. In week ten of 2014, the price level from Norway was around NOK 43 per kilogram, whereas it is NOK 39/kg at the moment.

Bigger volumes of salmon are going from Norway to the US as a result. For January to February this year, the US has imported 7,259t of salmon from Norway, worth NOK 353.22 million, up 32% in volume and value.

Buck against antibiotics

At the start of March, Reuters reported Costco is working toward eliminating the sale of chicken and meat from other animals raised with antibiotics that are vital to fighting human infections.

Sources at Boston cited this move as part of the picture of the move away from Chile.

Speaking to Undercurrent, Jon Hindar, CEO of Cermaq, addressed the need for a shift away from antibiotics in Chile, which are being used to treat salmon rickettsial syndrome (SRS) and sea lice.

“In Norway and Canada, this [fish health] is currently going quite well,” said Hindar. “In Chile, we have a mixed bag. We have, as always, very good development on coho and a weak development for trout, as well as Atlantics in certain neighborhoods.”

Antibiotics can contain the impact of SRS, but this is “definitely not about throwing antibiotics at the fish”, he said. “Significant use of antibiotics is never a sustainable solution, so you need to find other ways to deal with such problems.”
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/968628/Costco-Switches-to-More-Norwegian-Salmon-Cutting-Back-on-Chilean-Deliveries

Environment/Science

Unusually warm Pacific means less food for marine species
Seattle Times by Hal Bernton – March 17, 2015
Pacific Ocean waters off the West Coast remain unusually warm, and that is expected to mean a reduced food supply this year for salmon, sea lion pups, auklets and other marine species, according to a report by NOAA Fisheries.
http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/unusually-warm-pacific-means-less-food-for-marine-species/

Labeling and Marketing

Survey Finds US Consumers Still Unfamiliar With Aquaculture
The Fish Site – March 20, 2015
US – A new consumer survey coordinated by The Fishin’ Company in conjunction with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) has found that many consumers in the US are still largely unfamiliar with aquaculture.
http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/25317/survey-finds-us-consumers-still-unfamiliar-with-aquaculture

GSSI Makes Huge Advances Towards Benchmark Tool for Ecolabels, with Strong Support of FAO
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – March 19, 2015
The Global Seafood Sustainability Iniative, (GSSI) held an update meeting in Boston that showcased significant progress, after releasing their first draft of a benchmarking tool last summer.

That release identified a range of problems, and the release of the second tool for a pilot project will be made at the Brussels Seafood Show.

GSSI identified the organizations that are committed to a pilot, and explained the revisions they had made in scoring.

First, and most importantly, all ecolabel certification schemes that meet the benchmark standard will be treated equally.   There are eight areas where a certfication scheme must meet GSSI benchmarks, and these requirements are either met or not, they are not graded on a scale.

Some of the scoring areas, but not all, will have “indicators’ that will allow a certification scheme to claim a more robust feature.  For example, if one benchmark requires a reliable system of catch reports, and a certification scheme requires a system of real time reporting with 100% observer coverage, the standards owner would be allowed to claim a higher level of compliance with the indicator.

But such a claim would not impact the basic equality of all certification schemes that meet the FAO guidelines.  It would mean the scheme has an aspirational claim that goes beyond the guidelines.

Seven owners of certification schemes will participate in the pilot testing program.  They include:

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Aquaculture Stewardship Council
Friend of the Sea
Global Aquculture Alliance
Iceland Responsible Fisheries Foundation
Marine Stewardship Council
VietGAP

Pham Anh Tuan, Deputy Director General, Directorate of Fisheries Vietnam, VietGAP notes: “VietGAP has been built on the basis of the FAO Technical Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification since 2011. Our government wants to tell importers that aquaculture products are of good quality and traceability by applying VietGAP. Therefore, we are participating in GSSI’s Pilot Testing Program to compare and recognize each other, to review strengths and weaknesses of VietGAP and GSSI, and also we would like to have joint international recognition with GSSI through the benchmarking tool.”

With the increased direct participation of FAO, some of the issues of concern about creating trade barriers have been reduced.  For example, there will be no further indicators in the accreditation and governance section.

This had been a key point of contention, with NGO’s arguing that only a specific system of accreditation and governance recognized by ISEAL should be the standard.  This would have eliminated national or country programs like VietGAP.  The new iteration of the benchmark resolves this in favor of an accreditation section that is much more widely inclusive, and that will not have any additional indicators.  In short, if governance meets the FAO and ISO requirements, no further elaboration will be part of the GSSI tool.

GSSI says the updated Tool includes GSSI Requirements, which seafood certification schemes need to meet to be recognised by GSSI. These are grounded in the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and FAO Guidelines for Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine/Inland Capture Fisheries and FAO Technical Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification.

The Tool also includes GSSI Indicators in some areas, which allow schemes to show their diverse approach and help stakeholders understand where differences exist. These are grounded in the CCRF and related FAO documents, ISO normative standards and ISEAL codes.

There will be no cumulative scoring.  Instead, indicators will be available for those schemes that wish to use them as a differentiation or marketing tool, but the performance on these indicators will not be considered in whether or not a scheme meets the GSSI sustainability benchmark.

This approach grounds the issue of changes in standards to changes in the FAO documents and codes themselves, not in what is currently seen as the most visible supply chain problem.

For example, in some countries social and labor standards are becoming major supply chain issues.  In terms of the GSSI approach, these issues should be addressed through the expert international organizations that focus on that area.. i.e. labor standards and audits.  They are not going to be incorporated into GSSI benchmarks, because the FAO committee on Fisheries is not the body where countries negotiate labor standards.

The pilot testing program, which will consist of applying the benchmarking tool’s initial steps to the participating standards owners, is planned to run from March 2015 through July 2015.

The results will not be made public, but a summary report will be produced by GSSI that describes the issues uncovered in the pilot application of the standard.

There also will be a separate comment period on the new benchmarking tool once it is released in April.

GSSI follows and exemplary transparancy policy, where it publishes all comments and GSSI responses in an open forum.  This is similar to the way comments on fishery management issues are handled in the US, but is not practiced by most NGO’s, including the MSC, who only summarize their conclusions from comments without giving the full context and arguments made by the commentators.

In addition to funding from the German GIZ organization, the Dutch sustainable trade Iniative, IDH has also stepped in to fund the pilot test of the GSSI benchmarking tool.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/968650/GSSI-Makes-Huge-Advances-Towards-Benchmark-Tool-for-Ecolabels-with-Strong-Support-of-FAO

FYI’s

NOAA, Coast Guard team up to re-survey Arctic waters
Alaska Dispatch News by Yereth Rosen – March 17, 2015
As Arctic commerce heats up, more ships are expected to pass by the Aleutian Islands, through the Bering Strait and north into the Chukchi Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard, which is assessing a possible designated Arctic shipping route in those waters, has teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve navigational knowledge about that region.
http://www.adn.com/article/20150317/noaa-coast-guard-team-re-survey-arctic-waters

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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March 20, 2015