NOAA Fisheries reports on early pandemic impact on fisheries
KFSK by Joe Viechnicki - January 20, 2021
A federal agency has put some dollar amounts to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial and charter fishing industries nationwide in the first part of last year.
On Eve of “A” Season, Dutch Harbor Fights COVID-19 Outbreak, Asks for State Help
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - January 19, 2021
The lucrative Bering Sea groundfish season starts tomorrow and two of Alaska’s largest processing plants are struggling to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus on Akutan and Unalaska Islands, 800 miles from Anchorage and on the the far side of Unimak Pass.
A little less than half of the 1.4 million metric ton catch of pollock, plus cod and other groundfish catch will be processed through the two largest plants in the area: Trident Seafoods plant on Akutan Island and UniSea’s plant in Dutch Harbor, on Unalaska Island.
On Friday four roommates from Trident’s Akutan plant, a closed campus operation, tested positive last week, according to a Seattle Times report.
Fifty miles west, at UniSea’s Dutch Harbor plant, CEO Tom Enlow has been battling an outbreak that started a few days after a New Year’s Eve party. Four plant workers who attended the party tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
The next day all non-essential work at the plant shut down and the company began a massive testing procedure for employees.
"We have restricted movement outside of our campus to only essential travel, such as to the clinic or for supplies,” Enlow told Unalaska radio station KUCB on January 6, 2021. The UniSea plant is not a closed campus and is located a short distance from the community of Unalaska, separated from the international port of Dutch Harbor by a bridge. UniSea employees worked with staff at Unalaska’s Iliuliuk Family and Health Services clinic to conduct contact tracing and identified about 50 close contacts who were tested at the clinic, according to KUCB’s reporting.
They were trying to determine whether the outbreak traced back to a "small group" who attended the New Year’s Eve party or if the transmission came from a more widespread source in the community.
Meanwhile, the city council of Unalaska reported nine additional seafood industry-related cases Wednesday. UniSea is the island’s largest plant, but there are half a dozen other processors and cold storage facilities. The city did not name the plants or vessels from which new cases were reported, according to KUCB.
In the days that followed, UniSea tested 475 of its employees, sending swabs to a Seattle company so the local health clinic would not be overwhelmed.
On Friday January 15, another 20 positive tests came back from the UniSea samples.
Enlow told KUCB that all 20 cases can be traced back to someone from the original group of four who tested positive earlier this month.
"I don't think there's a situation with pockets of infected people on campus," he said. "We can trace it back to the original group.”
According to CDC guidelines, once employees test negative they can go back to work. But Enlow and others at UniSea were not entirely comfortable with that approach.
"We'd rather start continuous surveillance testing before they go back to work," he said.
Enlow met with the state of Alaska yesterday to “review our testing plan and strategy for re-opening,” he said in an email last night.
"The State made some good recommendations based on the type of testing we are using and timeline. They also committed to get UniSea and the clinic more testing supplies,” Enlow said, but “is unable to support us with staff, but the clinic has agree to free up staff to help in the testing,” he added.
"We are stretched pretty thin in Dutch because many of the people who we have trained to do the testing and contact tracing are now in quarantine themselves because of close contact protocol,” Enlow explained.
“We need to do a second mass-testing of the individuals that test negative in our first mass-testing last week.
“That will happen this week with results expected back by the weekend. That will give us a good indication of how many people (those who tested negative a second time) plus entry quarantine workers who have cleared to be released by are holding back until we have the results of the second testing,” Enlow added.
Throughout the crisis, Enlow’s efforts are aimed at stopping the transmission and having enough plant workers on hand to take the first deliveries from the “A" season win the coming weeks.
“We hope that we will be able to open things up and return crews to work sometime next week,” Enlow said yesterday.
So far this year, a total of 54 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at UniSea. Twenty-four of those cases are considered community acquired and 30 were identified during their travel quarantine. All but ten of the cases are currently active, reported KUCB.
The city of Unalaska has designated the island at a "high" coronavirus risk level.
Time Running Out for Northwest Salmon Species, Report Says
A Washington report has found one the state’s iconic fish is facing a threat to its existence because of climate change.
US News by Associated Press - January 18, 2021
SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington report has found one of the state's iconic fish is facing a threat to its existence as a result of climate change.
Seafood, retail sales surged during 2020 holiday season
Seafood Source by Christine Blank - January 20, 2021
Retail sales were higher than expected during the 2020 holiday season – and sales of seafood shone as a particularly bright spot.
New Map Shows Dozens of Mine Pollution Threats to British Columbia Fish Habitat
Fishermen's News - January 20, 2021
A new map released in Vancouver, British Columbia by the BC Mining Law Reform Network and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust identifies over 100 known and potentially contaminated mine waste sites that threaten to pollute fish habitat and communities across the province.
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