Alaska/Pacific Coast

Strong runs of Columbia River chinook, Puget Sound pink and coho salmon projected
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – March 02, 2015
OLYMPIA – Fishing prospects look promising for chinook in Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River, as well as for coho and pink salmon in areas of Puget Sound, according to state fisheries managers.
http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/mar0215a/

Fish Board Rejects Chum Troll Proposal
The Daily Sitka Sentinel by Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse – March 2, 2015
One of the most hotly debated issues at this year’s Board of Fisheries meeting was voted down Sunday morning.
http://sitkasentinel.com/7/component/content/article?id=8366:fish-board-rejects-chum-troll-proposal

 

Politics

Alaska’s Congressman Young Hires New Advisors for Fisheries and Military Affairs
Saving Seafood – March 3, 2015
Alaskan Congressman Don Young today announced the following staff changes to his Washington, D.C. staff, which includes the addition of 20-year House Natural Resources Committee staffer Bonnie Bruce and U.S. Army combat veteran Jakob Johnsen of Alaska.
http://www.savingseafood.org/washington/alaska-s-congressman-young-hires-new-advisors-for-fisheries-and-military-af-2.html

 

Environment/Science

Good news: more salmon, and even more wanted
Seattle Times by Tracy Warner – February 28, 2015 at 4:01 pm
We may see change when the great day comes and salmon are not so scarce. We may be inching closer.
http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/good-news-more-salmon-and-even-more-wanted/

 

Labeling and Marketing

The Editors View: Alaska Salmon, Who’s Brand Is It?
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Editor’s View] by John Sackton March 2, 2015

4bWe’ve uploaded the latest in our video series about the Alaska Salmon Miracle today, and in it two industry leaders, Mark Palmer, CEO of Ocean Beauty, and John Garner, COO of North Pacific Seafoods, talk about what the Alaska Salmon brand really means.

This is the third video in this series. The first was ‘Alaska Fisheries Miracle: Birth of the Sustainability Movement. ’ The second was ‘Alaska salmon success grounded in co-operation’. Today’s installment is called Alaska Salmon, Who’s Brand it It?

(All our video’s are archived in this playlist.)

The question asked in the video, produced by Steve Minor, is who’s brand is Alaska Salmon. This gets to the heart of the reason the vast majority of the Alaska salmon fishery left the Marine Stewardship Council program, even though Alaska Salmon was originally courted by the MSC to be one of their iconic founding fisheries.

The heart of the matter is that, as Mark Palmer says, “Certifiers are auditors. ” The standards owners, which stand between the scientists managing the fishery and the public, don’t produce a pound of fish themselves, nor do they conduct independent science. Instead, they audit and report on what a fishery is achieving.

Auditing and certification are important functions in our economy – but they are not brands themselves.

When they act like brands, i.e. promoting their own recognition as defining choice in the market place, they take on a new role.  That is one reason the great majority of the Alaska Salmon producers selected the Responsible Fishery Management Certification System (RFM), recognized as equivalent to the MSC certification by many major US retailers.

Businesses, the government, and fishing communities have built Alaska Salmon as a brand cooperatively, with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in science and management, community sacrifice and willingness to put long term sustainability ahead of short term economic gain.

They have achieved a stellar record of success, and Alaska salmon are one of the few modern fisheries where harvests today more abundant and sustainable than at any time in their more than 100 year history.

This is why consumers love Alaska salmon. It is abundant and harvested sustainably from unspoiled waters and a pristine ecosystem. It represents a connection to a vibrant wild fishery. It is harvested by thousands of independent fishermen and women who love what they do. And because of the circle of care about the fishery and the resource, the quality of Alaskan salmon has increased tremendously over the years.

The Alaska Salmon brand has earned its support based on its track record of success, and the excellent quality of its products.

When standards owners then change their judgements, when there has been no corresponding change in the fishery, it is not the Alaska Brand at risk, but rather it raises the issue of why these standards are being changed, and who is influencing them.

It may not have anything in particular to do with Alaska, but rather changing sensibilities in the communities of standards owners.

So, to answer the question, the Alaska Salmon brand belongs to the buyers and consumers who love what it represents, and to the hard work of those who have made the fishery what it is.

Those who would cease selling wild Alaska salmon due to external changes among auditors that have nothing to do with the fishery need to ask themselves, Who’s brand is it?
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/966153/The-Editors-View-Alaska-Salmon-Whos-Brand-Is-It

 

Opinion

Bigger consumer demand can help save a West Coast fishery
LA Times by Kelly Whitaker – March 2, 2015
Rockfish stuffed with rapini and roasted in my 800-degree wood-fired oven with crushed potatoes is at the top of the list of meals I love to cook, eat and serve. But I don’t just have this dish on my restaurant’s menu because it is delicious. I also do it to save the rockfish and other West Coast groundfish.
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0302-whitaker-sustainable-fish-20150302-story.html

Editors View: Setting the Record Straight About America’s Most Sustainable Fishery
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Editor’s View] By John Sackton and Peggy Parker – March 4, 2015

4a

This Op-Ed appearded in Progressive Grocer today, where we were invited to write about the record of the Bering Sea fishery in light of Greenpeace’s campaign to target retailers who carry seafood from the Bering Sea.  We reproduce it here for our readers, most of whom already know our thinking on the sustainability of the Bering Sea fisheries. The headline was written by Progressive Grocer.Virtually all U.S. retailers have taken steps in recent years to articulate seafood-sourcing principles, sometimes via their seafood department, and others as part of an overall corporate responsibility commitment.

Whichever way these policies have been implemented, they have for the most part been positive for the seafood industry. Partnerships between retailers and suppliers have supported fishery improvements around the world, and have provided many examples of how large-scale seafood sales programs can rely on seafood that is sustainably harvested with minimal environmental impacts.

The common thread through most of these policies is the recognition that retailers are not in the business of science, and therefore have to rely on credible scientific evaluations by third parties to certify that the fisheries they buy from are meeting their commitments to sustainable practices.

In the United States, we are very fortunate in that many of the seafood sustainability principles are enshrined in federal law. Under the Magnuson Stevens Act, which governs all fisheries in federal waters, U.S. fishery managers are required to use the best available science in making decisions about harvest levels. They are required to identify essential fish habitat, and ensure that these habitats are protected, as well as being required to abide by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Act, both of which offer extensive protections from fishing activities that are detrimental to other species.

The experience of the Bering Sea, where over 50 percent of all U.S. seafood is harvested, bears out just how successful these conservation steps have been. Many of the principles in national fishery legislation were applied much earlier in the Bering Sea. For example, the North Pacific Council adopted a precautionary cap on total removals of groundfish in 1981, nearly 35 years ago.

The North Pacific Council has never since its inception in 1977, authorized harvests larger than the limits recommended by its science advisors, even though this did not become required by federal law until 2006.

But even more remarkable, the impact of these decisions can be measured by comparing the Bering Sea, where most U.S. pollock, cod, flatfish, halibut, salmon and crab are harvested, to other ocean basins around the world.

There are four areas of the world where there are major groundfish fisheries capable of supporting harvests of 2 million tons or more. We used United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) harvest data to compare four ocean basins: the Northwest Pacific, fished primarily by Russia; the Northeast Atlantic, fished primarily by Norway, Iceland and the E.U.; the Northwest Atlantic, fished primarily by Canada and New England; and the Bering Sea, or Northeast Pacific, fished primarily by the U.S. off Alaska.

The Northwest Pacific (Russia), from 1985 to 1989, averaged harvests of 5.2 million tons. Today those harvests are around 2 million tons, a drop of 60 percent.

In the Northwest Atlantic (Canada), from 1979 to 1990, groundfish harvests averaged more than 860,000 tons per year. In 2012 they were 88,000 tons, a drop of 90 percent.

In the Northeast Atlantic (Norway, Iceland, Russia), catches averaged more than 4 million tons annually for four years between 2003 and 2006. In 2012 that had dropped to 2.4 million tons, a decline of 40 percent.

In the Northeast Pacific (Alaska and the Bering Sea), since 1981, the five-year period with the highest landings averaged 2.06 million tons, while the latest FAO data from 2012 showed harvests of 1.85 million tons. In 2015 stock levels for pollock are again near record levels. The change from the period of the highest landings to now is less than 10 percent.

Naturally, there will be fluctuations from year to year, and well-managed fishery harvests are adjusted up and down to account for these fluctuations.

But fisheries collapses when harvests collapse over a sustained period, largely due to a previous period of drastic overfishing. Three major ocean basins all experienced heavy overfishing, and fisheries collapsed. The only exception was Alaska.

Today, good fisheries management has reversed previous declines in these areas, but Alaska fisheries management has been successful since its inception, and as a result never experienced a similar crash.

This is what makes Alaska’s track record, more than 35 years, such an outstanding sustainability success.

So why for eight years now, has Greenpeace asked retailers to cut back or avoid selling Alaska pollock?

The latest iteration of this campaign is called “Bring Balance to the Bering Sea,” in which Greenpeace claims that the sensitive bottom habitat in two canyons on the continental slope is being destroyed by the groundfish fisheries in Alaska, and therefore market pressure is needed to bring about protection.

Because the scientific consensus is so opposite to what Greenpeace is claiming, this campaign is almost Orwellian in its approach.

Retailers in the Crosshairs

In announcing the campaign, Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner Jackie Dragon said, “For far too long, industrial fisheries have depleted marine populations and destroyed sensitive ocean habitat, while major retailers have bought and sold that destruction without any accountability.

“The billboards and posters throughout Seattle urge the companies that sell Bering Sea seafood to share the responsibility for protecting a reasonable portion of the ocean to sustain marine life and humankind into the future,” Dragon said.

This statement may have been true in the past in some areas, but it’s certainly not applicable today, and it’s manifestly not applicable to the Bering Sea.

Greenpeace espouses a goal to protect 20 percent of U.S. waters by 2020. In Alaska, the North Pacific Council has already established bottom trawl closures to protect vulnerable habitat in about 50 percent of all federally managed waters in the Bering Sea. Furthermore, the Council also has closed 25 percent of the continental shelf in Bristol Bay, Southeast Alaska, and portions of the Gulf of Alaska to bottom trawl gear.  It sounds like they are two steps ahead of Greenpeace.

Greenpeace began publishing its annual “Carting Away the Oceans” report card eight years ago, ranking retailers on their sustainability efforts as judged by Greenpeace, and specifically on whether they will reduce or stop selling 19 species Greenpeace put on a red list, including such well-known species as Alaska pollock, Atlantic Sea Scallops and Yellowfin Tuna.

It should come as no surprise that not a single retailer has cutback or listened to Greenpeace regarding these three species, including those retailers to whom Greenpeace gives the highest score.

For eight years, 100 percent of the 26 retailers scored by Greenpeace continue to sell Alaska pollock, yellowfin tuna and warm water shrimp.

Retailer sustainability policies may encourage sourcing from specific suppliers or areas, but all these species can be supplied sustainably in abundance. There is simply no evidence these species don’t comply with the most rigorous sustainability requirements.

There is also no scientific or credible reason to accept Greenpeace’s views on the Bering Sea. It’s the area where the best sustainability practices have been put into effect, and where the reliance on sound science has been 100 percent effective.

This science is currently guiding the discussion on Bering Sea Canyon habitat. After stakeholders – including Greenpeace – raised concerns, NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. science agency managing fisheries, undertook a review of existing data and commissioned a new large-scale habitat study on benthic corals and other organisms.

This review concluded, first, that there was no significant differentiation in the habitat in the Pribilof and Zhemchug canyons to distinguish them from the rest of the Alaskan continental slope. In fact, in areas of high coral concentration along parts of the Aleutian Islands, NOAA has already instituted habitat protection.

Second, NOAA’s benthic longitudinal survey, undertaken with cameras last summer, is the largest effort ever made to map the abundance of deep sea coral and other benthic organisms in the Bering Sea. The results of this survey are going to be presented to the North Pacific Council this June, at which time the Council will consider whether additional protections are needed, and if so, where.

Fishy Publicity Stunt?

To those who have worked to make the Bering Sea the most sustainably managed fishery regime on the planet, it seems like Greenpeace must have other reasons to pursue its campaign, since its claims are debunked by sound science.

In our view, this is a publicity stunt, designed to build public support and awareness of Greenpeace, at the expense of those retailers, seafood producers and scientific managers who have succeeded in making the Bering Sea the world’s model for sustainable fisheries.

The good practices and reputation of fishery managers in the Bering Sea should not be penalized for being the best and most transparent stewards of this national resource.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/966468/Editors-View-Setting-the-Record-Straight-About-Americas-Most-Sustainable-Fishery

 

FYI’s

A special date on the calendar for salmon?
Deckboss – March 4, 2015
State Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, has filed a bill to designate Aug. 10 of each year as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.
http://deckboss.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-special-date-on-calendar-for-salmon.html

 

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
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Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail: pspafish@gmail.com; Website: www.pspafish.net
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March 4, 2015