Alaska/Pacific Coast

For Pollock Surveys in Alaska, Things Are Looking Up
Alaska Native News by Rich Press, NOAA Fisheries – May 22, 2015.
Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest—and one of the most valuable—fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries scientists went there to turn their usual view of the fishery upside-down.

Canada and Alaska Challenge NMFS on Halibut Bycatch
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  by Peggy Parker and John Sackton  –  May 26, 2015
Letters from high-ranking officials at Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, both addressing issues around the halibut bycatch caps in the Bering Sea, were sent to NMFS last Friday.

The first letter, from former IPHC Commissioner Michael Pearson, now Deputy Minister for Fisheries Management Operations in DFO, went to Eileen Sobeck, head of NMFS, encouraging her support for significant decreases in halibut bycatch and sharing Canada’s perspective of obligations of both countries as the two signatories of the halibut treaty. That letter can be read here.

The second letter was from Alaska’s Fish & Game Commissioner Sam Cotten, who called for NOAA General Council to conduct a full review of NMFS/Alaska’s recusal determinations that removed the voting privileges of two Alaskan members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Cotten asked that the review occur immediately and findings made public by June 1. Cotten’s letter can be read here.

Both letters upped the ante at the Sitka meeting next week, when final action on reducing Bering Sea and Aleutian Island halibut bycatch caps are expected to take up the majority of the meeting.

Deputy Minister Pearson refers to “the commitments NOAA made to reducing halibut bycatch in Alaskan fisheries in your January 2015 letter to the IPHC” and the two countries’ obligations to “support the sustainability of the resource and to share the responsibility for doing so” under the bilateral treaty “Convention between Canada and the United States of America for the Preservation of the Halibut Fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.”

Pearson’s letter noted halibut bycatch reductions in all areas since 1991, “when Canada and the US first made commitments to reducing halibut bycatch.” In Area 2 (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska) reductions are 85-95% since 1991, in Area 3 (Gulf of Alaska) bycatch has been reduced 60-65%, and in Area 4 (Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands) by 40%.

“For Area 4 to achieve a similar percentage reduction as Area 2 since 1991, reductions in current bycatch caps would be required well in excess of 50%,” Pearson wrote.

Commissioner Cotten’s letter to Mary Beth Ward, NOAA General Counsel in Washington, D.C., termed the NMFS/Alaska Section recusal decision “arbitrary” for two reasons.

First, the decision calculated potential conflicts of interest by including Council members interests in the pollock fishery, “even though NOAA repeatedly emphasized that ‘the options have no direct effect on the pollock fishery’ .”

Second, “the Alaska Section [NMFS] should not have considered each members’ interest in the aggregate of the BSAI groundfish fishery, and instead should have conducted a recusal analysis by individual sector.”

Cotten’s letter provides examples of the effect of the recusal determination allowing a person with more than 10% interest (the threshold that triggers a recusal) in a specific BS groundfish sector being allowed to vote on an alternative for only that sector while another member who has less than 10% interest in that sector cannot vote due to a greater than 10% interest in the aggregate of all sectors potentially affected.

The Council’s advisory groups begin meeting June 1 in Sitka with the full Council convening on Wednesday, June 3 through June 9, 2015.

Despite State Cuts, Salmon Rehabilitation Continues Throughout Norton Sound
KNOM by Francesca Fenzi – May 21, 2015
With salmon season just around the corner, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation is making efforts to bolster its salmon rehabilitation projects in Western Alaska.


US Senate passes major international trade bill
Alaska Dispatch New by Erica Martinson – May 22, 2015
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate passed a “fast track” trade bill late Friday that would give President Barack Obama authority to land a major new trade deal with Pacific Rim nations.


Women Face Glass Ceiling in Fisheries Sector
Fish Site – May 22, 2015
GLOBAL – A new report from the FAO shows that while women are estimated to make up nearly half of all people in the fisheries sector, their work often goes unrecognised and underpaid.

White House Says it Would Veto Don Young’s Current MSA Reauthorization Proposal
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh – May 21, 2015
Just days after Alaskan Congressman Don Young’s legislative proposal HR 1335 to amend and reauthorize the Magnuson Stevens Act garnered support from a comprehensive group of industry participants, the White House issued a statement saying it would veto the current bill if it made to President Obama’s desk.

According to the White House its position on Magnuson is that the law in its current form “provides the flexibility needed to effectively manage the Nation’s marine commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. In contrast, H.R. 1335 would undermine the use of science-based actions to end and prevent overfishing.”

Earlier this month Seafood News Editor John Sackton also took issue with Young’s draft proposal, saying the “revisions create conditions for massive destabilization of US fisheries.”

Sackton wrote in the eight years since the last MSA reauhtorization in 2007 US Fisheries in general have shown remarkeable success, with a few notable failures. Under Young’s proposal Sackton said the management successess could be harder to come by.

The White House’s annoucement follows a separate letter that was sent this week to the Chairman of of the House Committee on Natural Resources supporting passage for most of Young’s proposed bill. The letter was signed by a comprehensive group of US fishing associations, seafood companies, commercial fishing vessels and individual industry participants. It should be noted the signees said they would not support HR 1335 if it passed with an amendment that would place Gulf red snapper management in the hands of the State Councils rather than federal regulators.

“We are opposed to any effort to further amend HR 1335 with language that exempts the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery from the Magnuson Stevens Act. There is a process in place under existing law to deal with the complex issues surrounding this fishery and HR 1335 builds on that process with several provisions that will provide data to inform that process,” the letter said.

The Gulf proposal was one major point of contention included in Young’s MSA proposal that Sackton said carried the potential to change Fishery Councils “from being regulatory bodies that applied science to fishery management to allocation bodies making political decisions about fish based on who can mobilize the most votes and support.”

HR 1335 still has to get Senate approval before it making it to the Oval Office where more changes could be proposed before final passage.

Labeling and Marketing

ASMI looks to expand sustainability certification program
Bristol Bay Time  by John Messick – May 22, 2015
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute elected Barry Collier, CEO of Peter Pan seafood, as the new board chair for the organization earlier this month.

How B.C. halibut became more expensive than Angus beef tenderloin
2014 saw the lowest number of halibut caught in over two decades.
CBC News by Daybreak North – May 21, 2015
Supply and demand has led to a major increase in the price of halibut in B.C. With the abundance of halibut available across the province going down, pricing has skyrocketed over the last decade making the fish more expensive than some prized meat cuts.


Fish to School
A community effort that nourishes and educates the children of Cordova
Cordova Times by Jane Spencer – May 22, 2015
Dozens of tiny Coho salmon fry swim around the fish tank at Mt. Eccles Elementary School, as 5th graders from Gretchen Carpenter’s class look on with excitement and pride. The tank is set up in January each year and the students witness the salmon lifecycle first hand. In the tank, Coho salmon eggs hatch and students are responsible for taking daily water temperatures, feedings and observing the progress of the salmon. Eventually in May, the students release the fry back into streams. The fish tank is a collaborative effort of The Copper River Watershed Project, The Prince William Sound Science Center and the Department of Fish and Game.

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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May 26, 2015