State says it will provide additional testing to communities ahead of fishing season Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said the state is working to send out several testing machines to rural areas. Along with the standard increase in wildlife troopers, the state is considering how to provide additional security for Bristol Bay communities. KDLG by Isabelle Ross - May 13, 2020 In an effort to address the deep concerns in coastal communities about outside workers and fishermen bringing COVID-19 to their regions, the state is working to support rural health organizations, as people travel to those areas for the fishing season. https://www.kdlg.org/post/state-says-it-will-provide-additional-testing-communities-ahead-fishing-season Alaska fisheries to get $50M in federal aid amid pandemic Seattle Times by Associated Press - May 9, 2020 JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska will receive $50 million in federal coronavirus aid for fisheries, the U.S. Department of Commerce has announced, about half what state officials had expected. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/alaska-fisheries-to-get-50m-in-federal-aid-amid-pandemic/ Top doctor at Homeland Security touring rural Alaska ahead of commercial fishing season openers Anchorage Daily News by Zaz Hollander - May 13, 2020 The senior medical officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is touring Bristol Bay communities and elsewhere in Alaska this week as commercial fishing seasons get ready to open. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2020/05/11/top-doctor-at-homeland-security-touring-rural-alaska-ahead-of-commercial-fishing-season-openers/ Yukon River salmon processor plans to open for summer with pandemic precautions Alaska Daily News by Associated Press - May 12, 2020 BETHEL - An Western Alaska fish purchasing and processing company plans to open this season while reducing interaction with members of the public during the coronavirus pandemic. https://www.adn.com/business-economy/2020/05/12/yukon-river-salmon-processor-plans-to-open-for-summer-with-pandemic-cautions/ Alaska fisheries update: Are you ready for summer salmon? National Fishermen by Laine Welch - May 12, 2020 Alaska’s salmon season officially kicks off on Thursday, May 14, at Copper River near Cordova with the arrival of kings and sockeyes. Other salmon fisheries will quickly follow. Alaska’s total 2020 salmon catch is projected at just under 133 million fish, a significant drop from the 213.2 million forecast for 2019, which resulted in a harvest of 208 million fish. The state’s largest herring fishery at Togiak in Bristol Bay opened on May 3. Icicle is the only buyer for a haul of nearly 39,000 tons of herring caught for their roe. https://www.nationalfisherman.com/alaska/alaska-fisheries-update-are-you-ready-for-summer-salmon/ West Coast West Coast Fishing Group Plans for Whiting Fleet Coronavirus Testing Prior to Season Opening SeafoodNews.com by Susan Chambers - May 13, 2020 A little forethought may help prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the West Coast whiting fleet. At the very least, it will give fishing captains some peace of mind. The Newport, Ore.-based Midwater Trawlers Cooperative partnered with the Oregon Health Authority, Lincoln County Public Health and Samaritan Hospital to provide COVID-19 testing to crew members on Pacific whiting vessels prior to start of the season that starts Friday. Pacific whiting is the largest volume fishery on the West Coast and helps sustain dozens of communities. Motherships and their catcher vessels, catcher-processors and shorebased trawlers participate in the fishery that lasts through the summer into fall and sometimes into December. Many of the trawlers also fish for pollock in Alaska. The testing is taking place this week at the drive-through testing clinic in Depoe Bay, Ore., MTC Executive Director Heather Mann said in an email. This partnership was in the works well before the COVID-19 outbreaks at processing plants in Astoria that began late last week. Plants in Astoria Many whiting vessels are offshore for two weeks at a time participating in the at-sea mothership sector of the fishery where crews are confined to the small quarters of a fishing vessel. “It was really important for vessel owners and the captains to ensure they were starting the season with a clean crew before departing for offshore fishing,” Mann said. Many vessels are already heading to the fishing grounds to start scouting for schools of whiting, also called Pacific hake. Mann said it was a challenge to get the partnership going since the Oregon has strict emergency management protocols in place. Due to a lack of testing kits, it appeared the state was choosing to test only people who were showing symptoms of the virus or who had known close contact with someone who was infected. “We were able to demonstrate that the fishing industry, who is deemed essential, needed to be tested regardless of symptoms because of the unique working environment fishermen operate in,” Mann said. “Once we were in touch with the right people, the partnership came together very quickly and I am so pleased with the cooperation we have received from all partners.” At this point, this is just a pilot program and is focused only on a select group of whiting vessels that are members of the cooperative. Mann is all hopeful the pilot program will result in a successful model that can be expanded into other fisheries in Lincoln County and then to other ports, including processing plant workers, she said. As of Tuesday, 14 MTC vessels have had crew tested for a total of 61 fishermen being tested," Mann said. "We have about 45 sets of results so far, no positives." The second set of results should be back soon. "COVID-19 is shining a bright light on the fragile human infrastructure that keeps the commercial industry operating – from harvesters to plant workers to suppliers, there is a lot of crossover which puts our industry workers potentially in harm's way," Mann said in the email, while acknowledging testing is not the final outcome. "... it is a snapshot in time but it does give us a basis to work forward from and will assist in tracing activities when cases are diagnosed." Contact tracing is proving necessary as plant workers testing positive at both Pacific Coast, in Warrenton, and Bornstein Seafoods in Astoria were traced ack to three counties in Washington and Clatsop County in Oregon. Other processing plants in Oregon and Washington are hiring crews in preparation for high volumes of whiting landings starting May 15. The Daily Astorian reported Pacific Coast is planning to open this week after closing its plant for cleaning and testing its employees. Bornstein Seafood plans returning to operation too, after deep cleaning its facilities. Clatsop County Public Health worked with the company to test all the employees. “The Astoria closures are one reason why we wanted to initiate testing here in a targeted way, so we could get ahead of any similar issues that could happen here," Lincoln County Public Information Officer Susan Trachsel was quoted as saying in a Newport News-Times article. "Staff in Clatsop County would tell our staff in Lincoln if we needed to be aware of people locally that are connected to the Astoria outbreak.” But as the whiting season gets going, some assurance of healthy crews can make a difference. "In the meantime," Mann said, "[testing] is helping us keep producing a healthy protein food source for the nation and keeping people employed – both critically important at this unprecedented time." https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1171109/West-Coast-Fishing-Group-Plans-for-Whiting-Fleet-Coronavirus-Testing-Prior-to-Season-Opening Federal Register Fisheries Off West Coast States; Modifications of the West Coast Recreational and Commercial Salmon Fisheries; Inseason Actions #1 through #5 A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 05/11/2020 NMFS announces five inseason actions in the ocean salmon fisheries. These inseason actions modified the commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in the area from Cape Falcon, OR, to the U.S./Mexico border. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/11/2020-10029/fisheries-off-west-coast-states-modifications-of-the-west-coast-recreational-and-commercial-salmon North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 05/13/2020 The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and its advisory committees will meet June 1, 2020 through June 5, 2020, and June 8, 2020 through June 10, 2020 via web conference. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/13/2020-10209/north-pacific-fishery-management-council-public-meetings
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