Alaska Fisheries Report
KMXT- March 24, 2016
Coming up this week, the fire that raged uncontrolled in Emmonak last weekend spared much of the cannery there; as powerful boats cruised the sound, Sitkans sought to ensure strong herring runs in the future. All that and The Blob Part 2 – Revenge of The Blob. We had help from KNOM’s laura Kraegel in Nome, KCAW’s Brielle Schaeffer in Sitka, and KTOO’s Matt Miller in Juneau.
UW researchers studying Bristol Bay permit ownership, loss
KDLG by Molly Dischner – March 24, 2016
The numbers are clear. Fewer Bristol Bay residents hold fishing permits now than did when they were first issued. What’s less clear is why that’s happened.
New fee on sockeye fishing proposed to lawmakers
The Associated Press – March 24, 2016
Fishermen have told state lawmakers they want a new fee imposed on personal use and sport fishermen who catch sockeye on two heavily used rivers in the state.
Kodiak Processors Tell City & Borough Wrong Plan for GOA Groundfish Would Devastate City’s Economy
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – March 16, 2016
Kodiak Processors will talk today about the huge impact the wrong groundfish rationalization plan in the Gulf of Alaska would have on the Kodiak economy. Representatives from Trident Seafoods, International Seafoods, Ocean Beauty, Alaska Pacific Seafoods and Pacific Seafood have been invited to attend a meeting of the Kodiak Fisheries Working Group which attempts to protect Kodiak’s interests in matters before the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
At issue is whether the Council’s will adopt ‘Alternative 2’ supported by the previous Alaska governor’s administration, or ‘Alternative 3’ to resolve the issue of bycatch and fish management in the Gulf of Alaska, which specifically addresses bycatch but not an open fishery or the subsequent race for fish. Proponents of Alternative 3, such as Kodiak’s Duncan Fields, argue preserving access to new local Alaskan entrants is the primary longer term community interest. He claims that a IFQ system in the Gulf, similar to those adopted for other groundfisheries and halibut in Alaska, would provide a financial windfall for existing harvesters, and effectively price out new entrants.
On the other hand, the existing trawlers and processors say that without council action, demands to stay within fish quotas and also control by-catch limits simply cannot be done in a way that preserves even a fraction of the current groundish landings from the Gulf of Alaska. They say without the tools to control when and where to fish by individual vessels, which only comes with an IFQ fishery, the council’s goals of conservation and economic use of the Gulf of Alaska resource cannot be reconciled.
The meeting today, facilitated by the Ak Groundfish Databank, an association representing both processors and most of the trawl fleet, is to allow the processing community to make clear to the city the economic factors at stake. Kodiak is one of the few cities in Alaska with year round processing, which allows a large portion of the workforce to live and work in Kodiak. Other Alaska fish processing centers rely on seasonal workers, who mostly come during the peak season, live in bunk houses, and then leave the state. These workers don’t contribute to the local economy, but take their earnings out of state when they leave. The packers are saying that the wrong management plan could put the full time year round employment in Kodiak at risk, leading to a significant population reduction in the city.
The groundfish forum provided some figures from a survey they have done of Kodiak processors.
Trawl deliveries comprise 45-75% of individual company landings in terms of volume. The one exception is Pacific Seafood which buys predominately from fixed gear vessels and only buys trawl landed rockfish.
Click on image for larger view.
The trawl fisheries are also the foundation that allows processors to remain open all year round. Their deliveries “allow us to invest in our operations and spread our indirect costs over the entire year, not just seasonally. There is a lot of connectivity across the seafood industry when marketing our seafood products. The steady year round supply of trawl caught fish species allows our corporate sales offices to leverage sales of other seafood products since our customers are looking for steady product supply and a good product mix,” said one processor quoted in the survey.
Trawl deliveries also have an enormous impact on the workforce.
“Volume fisheries such as trawl caught pollock, cod, flatfishes and rockfish along with the pink salmon fishery are what create high demand for labor hours. The year round landings from the trawl fisheries is what allows processing laborers to live in Kodiak year round. With no or limited trawl landings, our employees would have to be imported during the peak seasons and housed in bunkhouses since there would not be enough work to keep them employed and living in Kodiak year round. In fact, over the years the trawl seasons have been specifically structured to fill in processing voids. Several examples exist – the rockfish program fishery starts on May 1st to fill in the low production months of May and June. The fall pollock and cod fisheries start late August / September so as not to conflict with the salmon fisheries. There are eight different halibut mortality releases to spread flatfish landings over the entire year.”
The following table shows processing employment in Kodiak by month:
Kodiak is somewhat unique in having a very diverse pattern of landings, across multiple species. In this type of mixed fishery, the ability to process different species allows for more flexibility and stability within each fishery. Taking some threads out of the fabric can weaken the whole enterprise.
Click on the image for larger view of the diversity of Kodiak landings.
“When fisheries in the gulf shut down in 2015 for several months due to a misallocation of bycatch to the non-rockfish trawl sector, customer orders were not filled, we lost some markets, cannery employees worked reduced hours, and some workers and their families even left the island because of reduced working hours and lack of income. According to the analysis for the Emergency Rule which allowed the fishery to reopen in August, the closure was estimated to prevent harvest of 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons of groundfish with lost revenue from this forgone harvest estimated at approximately $4.6 million in ex-vessel value and $11.3 million in first wholesale value.”
One of the biggest problems faced by processing workers in Kodiak is the cost of living in Alaska, and getting enough work hours, including overtime, to support a family. Housing costs are very high. Even with full time employment, multiple families are sharing housing arrangements. Lack of work due to lower or erratic trawl landings could topple this whole system, causing a major exodus of processing workers from Kodiak.
The processors are also concerned about the fact that markets for Gulf of Alaska species are very difficult this year. For example, pollock prices are near an all-time low, and the exvessel price this year is 40% lower than last year.
Another processors says “These are some of the toughest times we have ever experienced: fish product markets are poor, our companies are under serious financial stress and labor costs are increasing. 90% of the seafood products consumed in the US are imported. Our markets are therefore almost exclusively based on exports so the global economy and geopolitics are of vital importance to our success and completely out of our control. The Russian embargo on imports, the weakening China economy, the strength of the dollar, even the conflict in Ukraine all negatively affect our markets which are currently very fragile and tenuous. Increasing labor costs due to Alaska increasing its minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act requiring large employers to provide health insurance to their employees has affected our company cost structures and profitability.
In light of this, the processors are very strongly opposed to the current Alternative 3, which would implement an annual system of bycatch sharing and not end the race for fish.
One of the issues that must be faced in any changes in the Gulf of Alaska is how to avoid the disaster that has occured on the West Coast, where the IFQ system along with rigid bycatch individual limits have resulted in a massive reduction in catch, making groundfish processing in some West Coast ports tenuous businesses, holding on by the skin of their teeth. The volume and high prices of the West Coast shrimp fishery have masked these problems. However, the wrong choices on the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery could easily leave Kodiak a ghost town as far as processing is concerned, making it resemble a seasonal outpost like King’s Cove or False Pass where processing only occurs for a few months out of the year.
Alaska trawlers furious about Walker’s council nominations
Alaska Journal of Commerce by DJ Summers – March 16, 2016
Two months after a heated meeting, trawlers are again accusing Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten of short-changing their industry.
Board of Fisheries hopefuls, legislators playing nice in 2016
Alaska Journal of Commerce by DJ Summers – March 23, 2016
The 2016 Board of Fisheries appointees represent no one, and everyone, they insist.
2015 and 2016 took a toll on fisheries leadership. The last 12 months include one botched interview, one forced resignation, three failed nominations – including one denied by the Walker Administration – a fistful of felony charges, and two recent resignations – one of which chairman Tom Kluberton said comes from political burnout and stress, the other, Bob Mumford, coming before he even had the chance to be confirmed by the Legislature.
Alaska Industry Divided on Attending Brussels Show; Some Major Companies and Organizations Pull Out
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton – March 24, 2016
The terrorist attack in Brussels, and the fact that a terror cell may still be at large, is causing a number of US companies to reevaluate whether they will attend the European Seafood Expo in Brussels this year.
In Alaska, many companies are treating this like 9-11. It has been a horrible attack that will have profound business consequences for Alaskan product sales in Europe this year. After 9-11, seafood sales plummeted as travel and tourism collapsed in the US. Many fear something similar may be happening in Europe.
But the overriding issue has been whether companies and employees feel safe. Some major Alaskan and West Coast Companies have already made the decision to cancel. Others have polled their employees and decided to go ahead with their booths and attendance.
Two American export organizations who create the American pavillon and provide support for US exporters, SUSTA and Food Export USA, both confirmed their continued participation in the show, but said the decision as to whether to cancel a booth or not was up to the individual companies.
Ocean Beauty, for example, reached out today to confirm to their customers that they definitely will be at the show.
Tom Sunderland, Vice President of Marketing at Ocean Beauty, said “It’s perfectly understandable that some people may feel uneasy about it, and no one is obligated to go, but when we asked our people if they felt comfortable going, they all stated their desire to do the show.”
Ocean Beauty is taking sensible precautions, particularly in arranging private transportation to the show. However, Diversified said yesterday that they would have a system of shuttles in place, similar to what they had during the transit strike at the show last year. It would be helpful if Diversified outlined a transportation plan as quickly as possible, as taking the crowded subway back and forth from the show is deemed a risk by many people.
Today Diversified announced that the city of Brussels will provide expanded shuttle service at designated pick up and drop off locations between the Brussels Expo and four major zones in the city in addition to the free Metro passes normally offered for the show.
Sunderland said “we have an obligation to the Alaska fishermen and Alaska coastal communities to do everything in our power to raise the value of their fish. We all know it’s not an easy time in the seafood business right now, and it has never been more imperative to find new customers and new markets. And we can only do that by going to the show and meeting the customers who have the power to work with us to turn the markets around.”
“People in our industry take risks every day – we need to respect that and play our part. And on top of that, we all need to stand by the people of Brussels. They’ve really taken a terrible blow, and the best thing we can do is to show our support by being in Brussels and making it the most successful Seafood Expo ever.”
More companies will be deciding what is best for themselves and their employees, with safety one of the biggest concerns.
We will be adding more information about the show as we get confirmation of company plans.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod in the Aleutian Islands Subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/25/2016
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod, except for the Community Development Quota program (CDQ), in the Aleutian Islands subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the non-CDQ allocation of the 2016 Pacific cod total allowable catch (TAC) in the Aleutian Islands subarea of the BSAI.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Reallocation of Pollock in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/25/2016
NMFS is reallocating the projected unused amounts of the Aleut Corporation’s pollock directed fishing allowance and the Community Development Quota from the Aleutian Islands subarea to the Bering Sea subarea directed fisheries. These actions are necessary to provide opportunity for harvest of the 2016 total allowable catch of pollock, consistent with the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area.
Talk of the Rock: ComFish 2016
KMXT – March 22, 2016
On today’s Talk of the Rock, host Kayla Desroches speaks with a ComFish 2016 organizer, Julie Bonney, and two speakers who will give talks at ComFish about cannery history. The Kodiak Maritime Museum’s Toby Sullivan speaks about the murders of two cannery union workers and how they affected legislation about worker rights, and the Baranov Museum’s Anjuli Grantham gives an overview of cannery history in Kodiak.
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