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Friday, April 16, 2021

Alaska FISH FACTOR: Union seeking seafaring apprentices Alaska Journal of Commerce by Laine Welch - April 14, 2021 Alaska fishermen displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic are being recruited for seafaring jobs aboard U.S. cargo barges, tankers, towboats, military support vessels, research and cruise ships and more. https://www.alaskajournal.com/2021-04-14/fish-factor-union-seeking-seafaring-apprentices Abundance-based Management of Halibut Bycatch Draws Focus of NPFMC This Week SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - April 14, 2021 For six years the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has grappled with shifting the management of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea trawl fleets by limits set with no correlation to halibut abundance to pinning the limits — and therefore the use of halibut as bycatch — to an abundance-based policy. The stakes in the fundamental question are high: can the Amendment 80 (A80) fleet catch their annual allotment of flatfish in the Bering Sea throughout the year without exceeding abundance-based limits? The A80 fleet is one of the jewels in the Council’s crown of fisheries management, perhaps second only to the pollock fleet that makes up more than half of the 2 million metric ton sustainable harvest of the Bering Sea. A80 has built a fishery and a market for Bering Sea flatfish as well as other species, but when they are on schools of yellowfin sole and northern rock sole, they also inadvertently catch high levels of halibut, a prohibited species catch (PSC) that they must throw back. However, in the 13 years since A80 was implemented, the fleet has never exceeded their halibut PSC limit. In 2015, when Pacific halibut stocks were declining, halibut fishermen and processors petitioned the Council to lower the limit, if not the use, of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. As the halibut industry, which looks to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) to manage the North Pacific stock of Pacific halibut, had been forced to lower their catches, the level of halibut bycatch took an increasing portion of the available resource. The Council did lower the limits, and use levels also fell. New initiatives were introduced, but the idea that halibut bycatch should also be managed under an abundance-based policy was held high by the council and since 2016 a hard-working group of Council and IPHC scientists (the Work Group) have been analyzing options on how to do it fairly and efficiently. Today, the Council will get advice from their Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) on the latest version of the analysis that covers four possible alternatives for how to put halibut bycatch under an abundance-based scheme. Tomorrow they will hear from industry stakeholders — more than 250 letters have been entered into the record — on what the Council’s next steps should be. The Council may select a Preferred Preliminary Alternative (PPA) at this meeting before the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is sent to NOAA Fisheries for publication this summer, but it isn’t required to, according to some experts familiar with the procedure. One reason the Council may wait before choosing a PPA is to get more clarity on aspects of the analysis that were provided yesterday afternoon by the SSC. “Best available science” is a standard mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and one invoked by a letter to the Council from attorneys for The Groundfish Forum (TGFF), which represents the A80 fleet. In the letter, attorney Linda R. Larson of the firm Nossaman wrote that the “GFF specifically requests that the Council charge the SSC with resuming its review of the model, and making a timely determination as to whether the model complies with the requirements of National Standard 2.” The model Larson mentions had been dispensed with at the October 2020 Council meeting, but certain results from the model remained in use in the latest version of the analysis. “Given the high stakes involved for all of the affected fisheries, it is imperative that the public and the Council have confidence that the model and its results have been thoroughly vetted and are the best available science,” Larson wrote. Yesterday’s minutes of the SSC specifically note the importance of Best Scientific Information Available (BSIA), but articulate different uses for decision-making Council members. They first say “The SSC noted that guidance regarding the evaluation of BSIA is presented in a publication entitled “Defining and Implementing Best Available Science for Fisheries and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management” (Sullivan et al 2006), which is very helpful.” Then they note the importance of how BSIA is used. “In particular, the use of conceptual and simulation models for informing management by providing an objective exploration of possible consequences and risks associated with alternative scenarios. The closed-loop simulation is presented here as contextual, but used prescriptively in the look-up table process. “Key factors such as weight-at-age were fixed for computational efficiency and to focus on alternatives. This approach is understandable but runs counter to the contextual use of the closed-loop simulations. As currently employed, the SSC finds that the simulation does not provide an objective exploration of possible consequences and risks associated with the alternative scenarios before the Council,” read the minutes (emphasis in the original.) Other key advice given by the SSC to the Council include (all emphasis in the original): “The SSC finds the current DEIS to fall short in its consideration of this possibility [that PSC catch is independent of the abundance indices], and recommends that the DEIS be revised to include more empirical evidence to clarify this issue.” Regarding the impact of changes in PSC on the fishing communities of the Bering Sea who rely on halibut, the SSC included a recommendation that “… additional discussion be added to the document on the interannual variability in PSC use among IPHC areas and how it has and may affect directed halibut fisheries.” A key component of the analysis is a four-by-four lookup table that included potential levels of PSC with potential abundance in the Bering Sea. The numbers in the table have been the focus of both A80 supporters and members of the directed halibut fleet. “The SSC strongly cautions against using indices of abundance couched in absolute units for lookup tables,” and later in the minutes advised “treating the indices of abundance as relative values compared to a specific year (or years) in order to eliminate this potential scaling problem and ensure that future use of the tables remains consistent with their intent at the outset.” A final note in the section on ABM provides clear direction to the Council. “Finally, the SSC recognizes that this action has been challenging from the start, as evidenced in the extensive public testimony provided by stakeholders. The SSC encourages the Council to examine lessons learned during this process, and consider ways to work toward improving the efficacy, transparency and consistency in Council PSC actions going forward. "The SSC recommends that both the DEIS and SIA [Social Impact Assessment] move forward for final evaluation after incorporating the recommendations and addressing the comments provided in this review.” https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1196580/Abundance-based-Management-of-Halibut-Bycatch-Draws-Focus-of-NPFMC-This-Week Fishing groups support reinstatement of sport license surcharge KFSK by Joe Viechnicki - April 15, 2021 Both sport and commercial fishing interests are backing a bill to reestablish a surcharge on sportfishing licenses to pay for hatchery maintenance and some king salmon production in Southeast Alaska. https://www.kfsk.org/2021/04/15/fishing-groups-support-reinstatement-of-sport-license-surcharge/ Alaska/COVID U.S. Seafoods apologizes to Unalaska after COVID-positive crew caused widespread exposure at bar KUCB by Hope McKenney - April 15, 2021 A Seattle seafood company has issued an apology to Unalaska after crewmembers from one of its vessels at port in the island community breached isolation protocols to visit a crowded local bar last weekend. https://www.kucb.org/post/us-seafoods-apologizes-unalaska-after-covid-positive-crew-caused-widespread-exposure-bar National/Labor Biden quietly reversed Trump’s ban on worker visas. Will it help or hurt the U.S. economy? Los Angeles Times by Don Lee - April 14, 2021 3:22 PM PT President Biden has quietly relaxed one of former President Trump’s signature immigration bans against foreign workers with skills that U.S. employers say they cannot find in the domestic labor market. https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-04-14/biden-reverses-trump-ban-worker-visas International Russian fishing industry blasts new limits on vessels of foreign origin Seafood Source by Ivan Stupachenko - April 15, 2021 Russian fishing companies are worried a new rules issued by the government banning ships built, purchased, or serviced outside of European Asian Economic Union (EAEU) – Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan – from fishing in Russian waters will cause higher seafood prices at retail and a decline in catch. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/supply-trade/companies-claim-new-russian-ship-regulation-will-lead-to-drop-in-catch Federal Register Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pollock in Statistical Area 630 in the Gulf of Alaska A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 04/16/2021 NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for pollock in Statistical Area 630 in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the A season allowance of the 2021 total allowable catch (TAC) of pollock for Statistical Area 630 in the GOA. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/04/16/2021-07876/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-pollock-in-statistical-area-630-in-the-gulf-of Opinion The Winding Glass: Why is the Seafood Industry Vulnerable to 'Seaspiracy' Lies and Falsehoods? SeafoodNews by John Sackton - April 14, 2021 [The Winding Glass is the opinion and commentary column of John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews] The Netflix documentary "Seaspiracy" was released the last week in March 2021 and was in the top 10 most viewed Netflix movies that week in several countries. It has generated a wave of social media, critical reaction from fisheries scientists, and has been the focus of several industry panel discussions. Much of the criticism is based on the fact the "documentary" repeats a huge number of lies and simplifications that obscure the relationship between fishing and ocean ecosystems, rather than elucidate them. The film was produced by Kip Anderson who made a similar film on beef industry practices called "Cowspiracy," and was focused on the narrator, a young UK film maker Ali Tabrizi, who in a self-centered and cringe-worthy way decided that he alone discovered issues like whaling, plastic pollution, overfishing, and slavery and that he alone had the solution: stop eating fish. None of the major ocean environmental organizations endorse this, including Greenpeace. Tabrizi’s response is that all of them are corrupt, making money from these issues rather than solving them. The film is full of things asserted as facts that are the direct opposite of decades of scientific research, but not once does the film acknowledge this body of work. Examples of the false statements include: -Whale strandings are caused by plastic in the animals’ stomachs, and these strandings represent a threat to the survival of whales. -The film says 1/3 of seafood imported (presumably to the UK) is illegally caught. -The film asserts that no fisheries are sustainable, without giving a definition of sustainability, despite the fact that based on the UN definition some of the largest fisheries in the world, such as Alaska Pollock, have been sustainable for generations. -When confronted with the fact that fisheries are highly regulated and there has been strong, but not 100% enforcement against forced labor and slavery, the film asserts that once offshore, vessels are lawless with captains threatening and murdering their crew. But why is this even a public debate? For more than twenty years we have seen scientific fisheries management protects biomass and habitat and has the ability to ensure fisheries sustainability over generations. However, not all fisheries, especially those in non-Western countries without the resources (or will) for robust fisheries management and enforcement, are under sustainable management. Also some tuna populations, subject only to International Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, are still managed by the lowest common denominator and suffer from weak regulation and enforcement and bycatch issues, especially species like big eye. Overfishing and habitat destruction continue to be real problems in some areas such as tropical reef fishing, corrupt exploitation of fisheries in West Africa, weak global protections for shark species, and weak standards on bycatch. But the propaganda targeting the seafood industry takes those problems and paints the entire industry as if nothing has improved over the last 40 years. Why is this not laughed out of the court of public opinion? The reason is that we live at a time of massive disinformation campaigns where lies are routinely promoted with little pushback. This is not handwringing about why people believe the ‘wrong’ things. A combination of the democratization of social media, the ease of entry into public broadcasting though YouTube, Facebook, podcasts, TikTok or twitter along with a distrust of authority based on large scale failures is the information system we live in. This environment allows a significant segment of the US population to believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, despite hundreds of court reviews, audits, recounts, and certifications. Two-thirds of Americans voted in the highest turnout election in 120 years. Yet because of the disinformation ecosystem, a minority refuse to accept that the election was secure and well-managed. There also was not overwhelming acceptance for many years of the scientific facts on climate change due to a deliberate misinformation campaign by supporters of fossil fuels, although that appears to be waning. And there is widespread hesitancy to accept expert medical advice on vaccinations. So we can't expect that the fact that science refutes the claims against seafood to be our silver bullet in the public sphere. We will always live with a subset of people who believe eating fish is bad for the planet, and propaganda films like Seaspiracy will reenforce this belief for those so inclined but will not do much to advance it. Like previous similar films the Cove, about dolphin slaughter in Japan, and The End of the Line, another film claiming fishing is doomed, this film will sink back into obscurity. But that does not mean the seafood industry can be complacent. We have to continually work to position ourselves as champions of health and the environment. As we saw during the pandemic, seafood has a huge appeal to consumers. Overwhelmingly they believe in the health benefits of eating seafood, and also the wild and natural nature of our products. Consumption of seafood is less damaging to natural ecosystems, and less carbon intensive, than industrial agriculture that provides the majority of our food. We need to keep comparing the regenerative nature of harvesting fish stocks in natural habitats to the wholesale ecological destruction of land clearing and crop monoculture. Plant-based seafood would seem to be the primary beneficiary of the film. But it only appears to be more “environmentally friendly” in comparison to natural seafood when the cost of destroying a virgin ecosystem to produce monocultures of soybeans is ignored. The sustainability of industrial agriculture is undermined by discards of nitrogen, other chemicals, and pesticides on continental scales. It is not just trawling that can alter natural ecosystems. Besides health benefits, seafood also is critical for food security, supports local and decentralized fishing as well as industrial fishing, and with the right habitat management, supports biodiversity and climate resilience. The critical public issue facing the industry over the next ten years will be ocean usage for renewable energy and the development of marine protected areas. Within the industry, we understand that climate change is driving fisheries northward, and that the productivity of traditional fishing areas will become much more variable as temperature changes. The basic tenant of climate change adaptation is to protect diversity and provide an ecological buffer so that stressed biological systems have the opportunity to adjust to changing conditions without collapse. With ecosystem management and habitat protections, we have to tools to incorporate these responses into our fisheries management systems, and this is the direction that current US fisheries management is taking. But to set up fixed and permanent marine protected areas without regard to what is being protected risks losing the tools to address the problems of biodiversity. Many marine protected areas are described as no fishing or no trawling zones. But no fishing zones, seasonal closures, and bans on bottom trawling are far more extensive than the network of marine protected areas. The danger of films like Seaspiracy is that they can make us look like the coal and oil industries: implacable foes of needed public action on climate and health. If we work on expanding the tools we already have, the seafood industry can be force for protecting biodiversity. Our sustainable harvests depend on protecting these ecosystems, rather than destroying and replacing them. Projecting this idea in the public sphere is a necessary task. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1196618/The-Winding-Glass-Why-is-the-Seafood-Industry-Vulnerable-to-Seaspiracy-Lies-and-Falsehoods

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