Monday, January 18, 2021

Alaska Nation's sole heavy icebreaker arrives in Unalaska KUCB by Hope McKenney - January 15, 2021 The nation's sole heavy icebreaker arrived in the Aleutians last week for the first time since 2013. The U.S. Coast Guard's Polar Star is preparing to patrol Alaska's Arctic waters, including the maritime boundary line separating the U.S. and Russia. National U.S. Fishing and Seafood Industries Saw Broad Declines Last Summer Due to COVID-19 New analysis by NOAA Fisheries provides insights into the pandemic’s early economic impact. NOAA Fisheries - January 15, 2021 The U.S. fishing and seafood sector generated more than $200 billion in annual sales and supported 1.7 million jobs in recent years. It experienced broad declines in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis, according to a new NOAA Fisheries analysis released today. While losses vary by sector, by region and by industry, data and information from this report may help businesses and communities assess losses and inform long-term recovery and resilience strategies. Sysco tightens seafood sustainability policy to require more MSC- and ASC-certified seafood Seafood Source by Christine Blank - January 14, 2021 The Houston, Texas, U.S.A.-based distributor will also expand its current responsible sourcing program for its U.S. broadline business to include sourcing for its specialty and Canadian broadline business, Sysco said in a press release. It is adding new commitments to prohibit the sale of endangered species, advance its traceability work, and help address deforestation. Opinion The Winding Glass: Seafood, Consumers, Climate Change, the MSC and the Government in 2021 by John Sackton - January 14, 2021 [The Winding Glass is the opinion and commentary column by John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews] Last month CFOOD, the website established by University of Washington scientists to explain the science of sustainable seafood, published an excellent summary of the problems facing the Maine lobster fishery due to right whale interactions. There are six lobster fisheries interacting with right whales certified by the MSC in the U.S. and Canada but only the Maine fishery was suspended by the MSC. The Maine fishery lost its MSC certification due to a lawsuit against NMFS charging failure to implement stronger measures to reduce right whale mortality. As Jack Cheney wrote the Maine fishery has the longest track record of sustainability of any of the North Atlantic Lobster Fisheries and is also one of the most decentralized, with the largest number of small license holders and a ban on selling licenses. Yet Maine frozen lobster will now be at a disadvantage at retail compared to Canadian lobster due to the suspension by MSC. This illustrates a bigger problem. One of the silver linings of last year has been a huge increase in retail seafood. Recent data and anecdotes from suppliers suggest that a very large part of this increase has been driven by new households buying seafood. This was the message at the NFI Global Seafood Market Webinar on shrimp yesterday (a highly recommended series of webinars that will continue all year), as panelists indicated new retail seafood consumers were responsible for a major part of overall retail seafood growth. One of the changes from the pandemic likely to last into the future is that retail seafood has increased its share of overall seafood purchases. At the same time, retailers are strongly committed to seafood sustainability. All retailers have sustainability standards, which although flexible, primarily revolve around MSC certification. The new seafood consumers may not be even aware of seafood sustainability issues yet. Nevertheless retailers will remain committed to their standards even if it causes them difficulties in the supply chain. The current structure of the MSC standard could hurt the industry under a democratic administration in the US. We need to pay attention. Cheney outlines some of the issues in his article. The MSC standard on endangered and threatened species is highly dependent on the laws of the particular country, so in the U.S., a lawsuit by the Center for Biological diversity can trigger a suspension, while in Canada, the lack of such a visible lawsuit leaves the fisheries with the same interactions with right whales not suspended. With a democratic administration in Washington, expectations are for a more robust regulatory regime. Under the prior administration’s hostility to virtually all environmental regulation, fishing industry appeals to overturn rules often met with success. For example, the prohibition on fishing in the marine canyon protected areas off new England was overturned, even though this is largely a symbolic rather than an economic issue. Last month, a drift net ban on the Southern California sword fishing fleet was vetoed by President Trump. This kind of industry pushback will likely fall on deaf ears for the next few years. At the same time, the new administration will be swiftly ramping up climate protections and responses to global warming. Depending on how they are crafted, they could help or hurt the seafood industry. One of the key issues is siting of wind farms. Other fights over spatial use in the oceans are likely to escalate as well. For example, if lobster trap fisheries are forced to go to ropeless trap technology, will lobster fishing areas have to be closed to bottom trawling? How will draggers avoid going through lobster trawls on the bottom if they are not marked with buoys? In Alaska we are seeing spatial and seasonal usage issues play out differently as salmon and halibut by-catch caps force changes in harvesting practices including timing and fishing areas. I predict that the Obama era plans to create regional seafood spatial use committees will likely be revived in some form. The original idea was widely panned because it did not include the regional fishery management councils. A new plan over spatial ocean usage will have to have the industry at its center. With this change in adminstrations, there is also an opportunity for mitigation. Most democratic climate and regulatory proposals over coal and oil include assistance to the miners and oil workers. Not all of it is welcome, as some involves transitioning to a different job. But the principle of compensation is there. The seafood industry can make a good case that changes in spatial use of oceans and changes in fishing regulations due to global warming, as will happen with right whale protection, deserve to be compensated under the climate and infrastructure plans the democrats will put forward. A change in strategy may be warranted to search out more opportunities where a restructured industry could thrive if it gets the financial bridge that it needs. Only the seafood industry can determine what combination of incentives and financial help will work. If we don’t pay attention to that, it won’t happen. The one area we need to be very careful of is the push to make 30% of U.S. coastal waters marine protected areas. This goal has been signed on to by former Senator John Kerry, who now will take over a climate role in the administration. This is a solution in search of a problem. The push for MPAs started at a time when there was not robust data about the success of fishery management, so the goal was to take large areas of the ocean out of the management system. Since then the US fishery management system has proved it is very capable of habitat protection, and that stocks are rebuilding faster than expected. A large number of fisheries scientists have recently written to Congress over such a provision in the Ocean Based Climate Solution Act over exactly this ssue. What an MPA does is set part of the ocean as off limits to fishing activities. But this is not flexible. And as climate changes, fisheries move and change as well. So the net impact of an MPA can be to worsen or increase fishing pressure in non-MPA areas, or to destabilize otherwise healthy fisheries that could move with changing conditions. Where does the MSC come into this. The current rise in suspensions of many fisheries happens when these fisheries run into inflexible regulations, or changes in spatial area, or in new interactions with endangered or threatened species. The lawsuits in the U.S., which are the preferred method of adjudicating these disputes, leave the MSC open to pressure to suspend fisheries whenever they are challenged in a way that show a possible change in score in the MSC principles. This leads to instability, as there is no comprehensive overview of the long term ecosystem, simply a series of smaller certification units that can easily find themselves singled out, as happened with Maine lobster. With retailers doubling down on their reliance on certification, MSC instability due to regulatory changes in the U.S. is likely to be a permanent condition. Most retailers will have some of their species moving in and out of MSC suspensions. They can deal with this if they can point to a mitigation plan that is being put into effect. Most will continue to carry products under these circumstances. So we are definitely in for a change, in my view for the better. But we will have to adjust our strategies in terms of how we address a more intensive regulatory regime and new rules coming out of climate change mitigation. One strategy is to take advantage of infrastructure and climate money so that we get the support we need to mitigate these changes that are economically painful for harvesters. Such mitigation plans will also help preserve retail sales channels even when MSC suspensions occur. The quicker we can adjust the more successful we are likely to be.

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