“Move out of the way”: Bering Sea fishing boats report close encounter with Russian military Alaska Public Media by Nathaniel Herz - August 27, 2020 Bering Sea pollock fishermen had a close encounter Wednesday with Russian military vessels conducting pre-planned exercises, according to industry officials and a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman. https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/08/27/move-out-of-the-way-bering-sea-fishing-boats-report-close-encounter-with-russian-military/ PWS harvest season nears a wrap with some 24 million fish Statewide harvest improves, while weak keta and coho landings persist Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - August 27, 2020 Seine fisheries in Prince William Sound are about to wrap up for the season, with humpy harvests still well below forecast, and the overall preliminary commercial salmon harvest compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at just under 24 million fish. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2020/08/27/pws-harvest-season-nears-a-wrap-with-some-24-million-fish/ North Pacific Groundfish: Flatfish landings ahead as rockfish lag National Fishermen by Charlie Ess - August 27, 2020 Groundfish trawlers working the Gulf of Alaska received lower ex-vessel prices in 2020, and the pace of landings for flatfish had usurped last year’s as of July 1. The rockfish harvest, meanwhile, lagged behind last year’s during the same time period. https://www.nationalfisherman.com/north-pacific-groundfish-flatfish-landings-ahead-as-rockfish-lag Local COVID testing program aims to protect seafood processing plants KFSK by Corinne Smith - August 27, 2020 Hundreds of seafood processing workers come to Petersburg every year, which creates a high risk scenario for COVID transmission. The town’s two processing giants–OBI Seafoods and Trident Seafoods–have spent millions of dollars quarantining and testing its seasonal workforce, who live on a closed campus. But there are also local resident employees who work in the plants. The local COVID testing program aims to identify and isolate any positive case before it transmits from town into one of the plants. https://www.kfsk.org/2020/08/27/local-covid-testing-program-aims-to-protect-seafood-processing-plants/ BBRSDA to Fleet: Alaska’s Sockeye Could be Two-Thirds of World Supply in 2020 SeafoodNews by Peggy Parker - August 26, 2020 Bristol Bay’s fleet of more than 2,000 driftnet and setnet skippers and their crews have completed their season and now want some answers — chief among them is why the initial price dropped from $1.50/lb. last year to $.70/lb. this year. Obviously, COVID-19 is a big reason; it would be difficult to be unaware of the extraordinary measures the processing companies took to get plant workers and support staff to Dillingham and Naknek, AK in good health and ready to begin the grueling season. Fishermen also incurred costs, and, like processors, will be eligible for some state and federal relief funds. Yesterday evening, the staff at the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) held a webinar designed to answer some of the fleet’s questions and give their members a recap of the season. Landings of over 39.56 million sockeye averaged to just over 5 lbs./fish. Preliminary estimates for production (final product) in the Bay this year is 196 Mlbs compared to a five year average of 205.6 Mlb. But compared to other sources of wild salmon, Bristol Bay did much better. Russian production is estimated to drop to 67 Mlbs. Canadian production is near zero, and Japan’s estimated production is 5 Mlbs, less than half of last year’s. With an estimated 298 Mlbs in the global supply, Bristol Bay’s landings could represent 66% of it. Ex-vessel prices have increased steadily since 2016 when $.76 was 25-cents higher than in 2015. Prices rose to $1.02 in 2017, $1.26 in 2018, and $1.35 in 2019. In the Bay and elsewhere in Alaska, ex-vessel prices are the first step in payments to fishermen. Many areas have negotiated a second spring payment that reflects a share of the final price the processors get. Since that isn’t known until the spring of the following year, the most recent comparison’s for First Wholesale (FW) price is 2019. But importantly for the fleet, BBRSDA showed that preliminary estimates of ex-vessel and first wholesale prices showed a four year increase in the percentage fishermen received of first wholesale, a share that share grew steadily from 35% in 2016 to 62% in 2019. Now, Andy Wink, BBRSDA’s Executive Director said, the U.S. dollar is roughly 30% stronger than it was in 2013, the last time global sockeye supply was constrained. A stronger dollar makes American products relatively more expensive to foreign buyers. The compressed run in the Bay affected the 2020 product mix, increased headed and gutted (H&G), and to some extent canned product, over more labor-intensive cuts. The H&G price average over 10-years is $3.30/lb. Last year’s price was $3.73, a 29-cent drop from 2018, which was the highest price since 2013. Wink and his team put an estimate cost of COVID-related expenses in 2020 at $15-35 million, or between $.07 - $.17 per round pound. With workforce disruptions and the compressed season, processors could not pack as much of the more valuable single frozen fillets as anticipated. Restaurants and distributors that rely on them are struggling, and the number of buyers has dropped due to the pandemic. With uncertainty in their own future, distributors will have less demand for inventory. Seafood case sales, which are usually purchased for dinner that night or the next, will suffer as buyers are shopping less frequently due to the pandemic. Despite that, BBRSDA’s marketing director Lilani Dunn reviewed the retail and social media campaigns that have been ongoing this year, each resulting in higher sales and greater awareness of Bristol Bay sockeye. The fleet is engaging with processors and with the BBRSDA board to help the group achieve, through a transparent process, more equity on price and better communications with processors. Transparency from the processors regarding this year’s ex-vessel price was the top priority in a survey of the fleet which has just gotten underway. Preliminary results show in lower priority order, goals of “ending the open ticket policy with processors”, bringing more buyers into the Bay, working with an arbitrator on prices, expand custom processing to increase direct marketing, and pursuing legislation that would require profit-sharing with fishermen. Besides those activities, BBRSDA continues to work on government relief from COVID costs and opposing Pebble Mine. As Wink said, “Pebble is stalled, not extinguished.” https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1179324/BBRSDA-to-Fleet-Alaskas-Sockeye-Could-be-Two-Thirds-of-World-Supply-in-2020 International As the world’s population grows, researchers say the ocean and seafood have big roles to play Seafood Source by Madelyn Kearns - August 27, 2020 Seafood production could see as much as a 75 percent leap over the next three decades if certain policy reforms and technological improvements are put in place, according to research conducted by Oregon State University (OSU) in collaboration with a bevy of international scientists. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/environment-sustainability/as-the-world-s-population-grows-researchers-say-the-ocean-and-seafood-have-big-roles-to-play Environment/Science NOAA awards $2.7 million in grants for marine debris removal and prevention Matching grants bring total to $5.9 million for 23 projects across 18 U.S. states and territories NOAA Fisheries - August 26, 2020 NOAA today announced a total of $2.7 million in grants supporting 23 projects to address the harmful effects of marine debris on wildlife, navigation safety, economic activity, and ecosystem health. With the addition of non-federal matching contributions, the total investment in these marine debris projects is more than $5.9 million. https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-awards-27-million-in-grants-for-marine-debris-removal-and-prevention FYI’s Alaska SeaLife Center raises money to fund winter operations The Associated Press - August 27, 2020 The Alaska SeaLife Center has raised enough money to remain open through the winter after a revenue loss stemming from the coronavirus pandemic threatened to permanently shut its doors, an official said. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2020/08/27/alaska-sealife-center-raises-money-to-fund-winter-operations/
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