Alaska/Pacific Coast


Board of Fisheries again refuses peninsula meeting
The Board of Fisheries has again snubbed the Kenai Peninsula for its Upper Cook Inlet regulatory meeting in 2020.
Peninsula Clarion by Elizabeth Earl – October 20, 2017
The members of the fisheries regulatory board voted during a work session Thursday to hold the next Upper Cook Inlet cycle meeting in Anchorage, as it has done for the past two decades. The decision divided the seven-member board, with four supporting a meeting in Anchorage and three supporting a Soldotna meeting.
http://peninsulaclarion.com/news/local/2017-10-20/board-fisheries-again-refuses-peninsula-meeting

As king runs lag, fishers consider cause and prevention
KMXT by Kayla Desroches – October 23, 2017
Concern over poor king salmon runs across the state drew a panel of fisheries experts together at a recent meeting in Anchorage.
https://www.ktoo.org/2017/10/23/king-runs-lag-fishers-consider-cause-prevention/

In Their Own Words: West Coast Sablefish Gear Switching Part 2
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Susan Chambers – October 24, 2017
Gear switching — using pots or longlines to catch sablefish using trawl quota — has been a part of the West Coast groundfish trawl catch shares program since it was implemented in 2011. That provision is also the most controversial, for various reasons.

Fishermen and processors from different parts of the coast have diverse reasons for wanting to retain, modify or eliminate gear switching as the whole individual fishing quota (IFQ) program goes through it’s first five-year review. When it comes to valuable groundfish species, sablefish garners the most value per pound. It’s also valuable because it’s caught in association with other species.

On Monday, Seafood News ran some deeper background on the issue and the perspective of Jeff Lackey, a trawl vessel manager from Newport, Ore.

Today, we run the perspectives of Michele Long Eder, also from Newport, whose family members are fixed gear fishermen who have made investments in the trawl program, and Mike Okoniewski, who works for a processor that depends on trawl groundfish, in their own words.

Tomorrow, we will run the last piece of this series by Chris Hoeflinger, a fixed gear fisherman from Southern California who has not made investments in the trawl program but has been affected by it.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is struggling with this issue as everyone — fishermen, processors, advisory bodies, the public — seek solutions.
— Susan Chambers

In her own words: Michele Longo Eder, fixed gear, from Newport, Ore.:

Under Amendment 20 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, which created the trawl individual quota (IQ) program, the Pacific Fishery Management Council approved an option to switch gear types, stating that recipients of trawl quota shares would be free to use those shares with any legal groundfish gear, including longline and pots. The Council’s reasoning was specifically set forth in the environmental impact statement (EIS) and stated that in allowing gear switching, it was the Council’s intent to reduce bycatch, as well as reducing the potentially adverse environmental impacts of trawling. It also expected that fixed gear operations would enter the trawl IQ fishery.

And like a number of other fishermen, that’s exactly what we did. In 2011, we purchased the F/V Timmy Boy, a trawl vessel that had fished for sablefish with both pots and trawl gear. As permitted by the Council and NMFS, we chose to use pots to catch our trawl sablefish quota. Since buying our boat, permit and quota, and making significant new investment in the vessel, we’ve purchased more sablefish quota. We also lease sablefish quota from willing trawl-net operations who want us to catch their sablefish.

It’s important to note that we’ve established a two-way street with our trawl net colleagues during the course of this program. Like other fishermen, we’ve leased to trawl net fishermen millions of pounds of species valuable to them, the processors and the public, such as petrale sole, canary rockfish, lingcod, Pacific ocean perch, Pacific whiting, darkblotched rockfish, etc., that we don’t catch with pots.

Over the last year there have been comments presented to the Council from trawl net fishermen and shore-based processors that seek to limit the use of gear switching. There have been claims made that gear switching somehow impedes their ability to harvest species such as Dover sole. That testimony, unsubstantiated by evidence, ignores the fact that trawl net fishermen left over 380,000 pounds of sablefish on the table last year. And in 2017, as of October 21, there’s still over 1.3 million pounds of trawl sablefish to be caught.
For seven years, trawl net fishermen have had the same opportunity as every other fisherman to lease or buy more sablefish quota, if needed, to suit their individual operations. In attempting to restrict gear switching, trawl net fishermen and processors are attempting to take, by regulation, what trawl-permitted fishermen using fixed gear have bought and paid for.

The gear switching issue has been difficult for everyone. No one likes to disagree with neighbors and friends. And we all try to disagree without being disagreeable. In that vein, we’ve put forth a few ideas to address some trawl net fishermen’s concerns.

We suggest removing the management line at 36 degrees N. latitude, and treat the trawl sablefish quota as the coastwide species that it is. In 2016, only about 186,000 pounds of a 1.5 million quota in the south was caught. In 2017, to date, only 220,000 pounds have been caught, with 1.6 million still available to be landed. While we want our brethren to the south to have access to those fish, removing that artificial boundary for the trawl quota could address a problem in the north, relieve the stranding of this valuable fish, and provide economic benefit to the fishery and the nation.

We also suggested, and the Council has acted to set a control date of Sept. 15, 2017, after which no new participation by trawl permitted fixed gear fishermen may count toward any possible changes in the program. That’s a start.

And finally, to cap participation in the trawl program by vessels using fixed gear, we suggest the Council implement a fixed gear endorsement for a trawl permit. If a permit has been used to catch trawl sablefish with fixed gear, it would be noted on the permit and only vessels with a “trawl-fixed gear” endorsed permit could deliver sablefish using fixed gear.

Some trawl net fishermen have suggested an option to limit the percentage of trawl quota that can be caught by fixed gear, or specifically allocating a percentage exclusively for use by only trawl net fishermen. Such measures, for which there is no biological or conservation justification, defeat one of the fundamental goals of an individual quota program. It would create a race for fish, forcing vessels to fish early in the year, when ocean conditions are the least safe.

We’re hopeful that with the modifications to the program we’ve suggested, we can reach agreement. We’re willing to meet trawl-net fishermen halfway—but not at the cost of stripping value from the millions of dollars of investment in permits, quota, gear, and vessels that many fishermen, using fixed gear, have already made.

In his own words: Mike Okoniewski, a processor whose company, Pacific Seafood, has plants in all three states:

Under the West Coast IFQ program, non-whiting processor assets were not indemnified with non-whiting quota share. In essence, processor assets are valued based solely on the tonnage of fish they can manufacture into ready-to-market products. The IFQ program environmental impact statement (EIS) had an economic goal and objectives that spoke to “full utilization of the trawl sector allocation” and “(to) promote measurable economic and employment benefits through the seafood catching, processing, distribution elements, and support sectors of the industry.” The EIS did not outline a concept to limit full utilization to only a single species. The EIS asserts in the broadest of terms that benefits are to extend throughout the entire fishing community and those dependent on the resource — not just certain quota holders and the fixed gear sector.

Numerous trawl fishermen who worked to institute this program have said the original intent of gear switching was to have an avenue to land sablefish should it ever be constrained by a “choke” species such as Dover sole or thornyheads if either species reached a low stock status and the resulting annual catch limits (ACLs) dropped significantly. This had actually happened prior to the program implementation. But under the IFQ program it is now sablefish that is the constraining species limiting the harvest of Dover and other valuable species.

In 2009, Dover landings had been nearly 26 million pounds In 1982 it topped 45 million. In 2015, Dover landers were 13.75 million, which is after the Dover limit doubled to more than 100 million pounds. This deficit in production has cost Pacific Seafood a loss of 45 percent of their trained fillet crew and other processors have reported similar losses. Each million pounds represents more than 8,000 employee hours. A 12-million pound loss of groundfish is equal to more than 96,000 employee hours.

It requires about one pound of trawl caught sablefish to support five pounds of Dover landings. Some fixed gear advocates state it is processor trip limits that impact Dover harvest; however, it is never the processor’s desire to put trip limits into effect but without enough crew and a shrinking retail market, there is no choice.

The executive summary of the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program Five-year Review – Draft (Fig. ES-3, page 17), part of the five-year review document library, states it best. It accurately portrays the “circle of consequence” when landings shrink. Fewer landings affect infrastructure, hurt employee retention and weaken markets. This generates a perpetuating circle that, left unchecked, creates the death spiral of a fishery. As the supply chain shrinks, markets move to substitutes such as imported tilapia. Trained employees look for work elsewhere.

Credible trawlers and processors have testified in many venues that gear switching is restricting the harvest of other groundfish species. Processing multiple species of groundfish creates many more jobs than solely processing sablefish. These groundfish-related jobs are located in our coastal communities. It is these volumes of landings that secure processor investments.

The Economic Data Collection Shorebased First Receivers report and the draft review report state the non-whiting economic output for the processing sector is lower now than prior to the program. This should be a red alert signal to both the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS. There are now only a few processors left that fillet groundfish.

This situation is truly ironic given the Marine Stewardship Council certification of the trawl fishery and the increasing demand for sustainable seafood. Gear switching has become a de facto allocation to fixed gear vessels. It is not supporting the goal and objectives of the EIS for the trawl fishery. Gear switching may cripple the processors to the point that the trawl program never reaches the intended economic targets. We must restrict gear switching soon before we cannot recover.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1080268/In-Their-Own-Words-West-Coast-Sablefish-Gear-Switching-Part-2

Environment/Science

Biologists: Fisheries at Risk as Bills Target Science-Based Conservation
More than 200 prominent scientists have signed a letter to Congress opposing legislation that would weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the U.S. fisheries law that sets catch limits based on scientific evidence.
Oceans Deeply by Erica Cirino – October 23, 2017
Are fish the next casualties in the war on science?
A group of distinguished marine scientists, including a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), apparently think so. More than 200 scientists have signed a letter addressed to the United States Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the 1976 law that governs management of U.S. fisheries and is credited with preventing the collapse of fish stocks.
https://www.newsdeeply.com/oceans/articles/2017/10/23/biologists-fisheries-at-risk-as-bills-target-science-based-conservation

Federal Register

Western Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/23/2017
The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) will hold a CNMI joint advisory group meeting consisting of the Council’s CNMI Regional Ecosystem Advisory Committee (REAC), CNMI Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) Advisory Panel (AP) and CNMI members of its Plan Team, Fishing Industry Advisory Committee (FIAC), Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and Marine Planning and Climate Change Committee (MPCCC); and a Guam joint advisory group meeting consisting of the Council’s Guam REAC and Guam members of its Plan Team, FIAC, SSC, and MPCCC to discuss and make recommendations on fishery management issues in the Western Pacific Region.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/23/2017-22905/western-pacific-fishery-management-council-public-meetings

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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October 24, 2017