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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Alaska Cook Inlet setnet, sport king fisheries closed; Bristol Bay breaks record Alaska Journal of Commerce by Elizabeth Earl - July 20, 2021 While Bristol Bay has broken its all time record for sockeye, Cook Inlet’s setnetters are already out of the water for the season because of low king salmon numbers. https://www.alaskajournal.com/2021-07-20/cook-inlet-setnet-sport-king-fisheries-closed-bristol-bay-breaks-record Officials: Outbreak-stricken seafood plant had low vax rate Virus spread to plant from general community, not arriving workers Cordova Times by Zachary Snowdon Smith - July 21, 2021 Lack of vaccination has exacerbated an ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, city officials said at a Tuesday, July 20 special meeting of Cordova City Council. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2021/07/21/officials-outbreak-stricken-seafood-plant-had-low-vax-rate/ Recent COVID Outbreaks in Alaska Put the State on High Alert Again, Fishing Ports Vary Wildly SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - July 20, 2021 (Updated 7:50 p.m. PDT.) A resurgence of COVID-19 cases continues for a second week in Alaska with 456 new cases since since Friday and an increase in the number of hospitalizations across the state. But fishing communities that dot Alaska’s coastline are having very different experiences with keeping the virus at bay. Sitka is at high alert with current cases now at 148, more than they’ve had during the entire pandemic. The rise began July 6 with scores of new cases every few days. About a third of the initial active cases are those who have been fully vaccinated. Up to 15 patients have been hospitalized in the past three weeks, but as of last Friday only about half that number were in the hospital. The fact that a third of new cases were detected in fully-vaccinated people is misleading without the context of the vaccination rate in the community. KCAW reporter Robert Woolsey interviewed medical officials in Sitka and clarified what that means. “In Sitka (and elsewhere) we’ve got two populations contracting COVID– two denominators, unvaccinated and vaccinated. Statistically, the 21 breakthroughs out of 87 new infections that Fire Chief Craig Warren was describing are not as significant as the fact that those 21 breakthroughs occurred among a vaccinated population of over 5,000 people. Sitka’s unvaccinated population of around 2,000 (not including children under 12) experienced three times as many cases in the same period. Breakthroughs will always happen, especially as the vaccinated population grows. … It’s not bad odds, and it remains a strong argument for vaccination,” Woolsey reported. Warren also noted that most of the breakthrough cases were asymptomatic. Only one vaccinated patient was hospitalized for additional treatment. Dr. Elliot Bruhl, SEARHC CMO and Sitka’s Incident Commander, along with other team members urged Sitka residents and visitors to get vaccinated. At a Unified Command meeting last week, Sitka Unified Command recommended continued use of face masks regardless of vaccination status and keep 6-foot from others. “We urge citizens to remain diligent and practice proper hygiene measures, such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others. In addition, get tested but stay home if you feel ill, wear a face covering when around others, and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces on a regular basis,” they said. In Cordova, where the spike in cases has reached 70 by Tuesday evening, city administrators raised its public health advisory to Red on July 16. City Manager Helen Howarth wrote a Letter to the Editor in The Cordova Times, encouraging citizens to not “let your guard down” in protecting themselves and the community. “Over the past two weeks Cordova has seen an explosion in the number of COVID-19 positive cases,” Howarth wrote last Friday. “We now have 51 active cases, many who are quite sick, and more are testing positive every day. Other Alaskan communities are in a similar situation but strictly by the numbers Cordova’s outbreak is oversized. “These positive cases are the result of folks letting their guard down, not following the best practices we all learned during the early days of the pandemic, not getting vaccinated, and not staying home when sick, COVID-19 positive or a close contact.” Howarth said the city can “stop the spread of COVID by making small, short-term sacrifices to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our local businesses.” They are: * Wear a mask in all public places especially when indoors. * If you are sick, get tested. * If you test positive for COVID, or are a close contact of someone who has it, please FOLLOW THE QUARANTINE RULES AND STAY HOME. * Get vaccinated.” Howarth said there have been a few vaccinated people who have gotten sick in the recent outbreak, but it’s unvaccinated Cordovans who account for most of the recent cases. “Cordova’s current outbreak is from the delta variant which is twice as contagious as the initial strain. This variant has also resulted in some vaccinated people testing positive. Even so, it is scientifically proven that vaccinated people who contract COVID have milder symptoms, and are 99% protected from severe disease, hospitalization or death,” she wrote. Vaccination rates in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area for 1 or more doses is 61%. While there is no Cordova vaccination rate available yet, the city has Meanwhile, fishing communities like Dillingham, Unalaska, and Petersburg have given residents the “All Clear” message (in Petersburg)or relaxed travel, quarantine, and mask mandates (Dillingham). As of late Tuesday, Petersburg showed 13 active cases on their online dashboard, and a positivity rating of over 5%, the rate the World Health Organization advises communities should stay at or below for at least 14 days before re-opening businesses. Petersburg’s Emergency Operations Center was disbanded on June 30. Dillingham no longer require masks, mandatory quarantines, testing or travel forms under Emergency Order 3.0 that went into effect starting Monday, June 19. In Unalaska, the city council agreed to provide updates only after meeting, which means the most recent one was late June and the next one will be late August. At the late June meeting, city leaders agreed to “continued the declaration of local emergency through the end of the calendar year, primarily so that operation of the Isolation Facility for the benefit of local industry can continue, and also to have the ability to quickly respond with mitigation measures in the event there is a change in the local risk level.” Of the 436 newly reported resident cases statewide over the weekend, there were 221 in Anchorage, 36 in Sitka, 21 in Wasilla, 17 in Eagle River, 15 in Juneau, 15 in Soldotna, 14 in Cordova, 12 in Homer, nine in Chugiak, nine in Kenai, eight in Kodiak, eight in Seward, seven in Fairbanks, five in Anchor Point, four in North Pole, four in Palmer, four in Petersburg, two in Delta Junction, two in Kotzebue, two in Nikiski, two in Valdez, and one each in Bethel, Dillingham, Douglas, Skagway, Utqiagvik and Wrangell. Among smaller communities, there were four in the Dillingham Census Area, two in the Aleutians East Borough, two in the Kusilvak Census Area, and one each in the Bethel Census Area, the northern Kenai Peninsula Borough, the southern Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Mat-Su Borough and the North Slope Borough. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1203791/Recent-COVID-Outbreaks-in-Alaska-Put-the-State-on-High-Alert-Again-Fishing-Ports-Vary-Wildly Bristol Bay on Brink of Shattering All Time Record Salmon Run in 2021 SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - July 21, 2021 The total numbers since July 19 for catch and escapement have not yet been summed, but when they are it’s all but certain that Bristol Bay’s 2018 all-time record of 62.95 million sockeyes will be shattered⁠—the second time in four years. Catch and escapement numbers in the Bay have been kept since 1893. As of July 19, and poised to be updated later today, Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s total run number is 62.8 million sockeye. Daily catches and escapement have dropped off in the past week, especially the numbers on July 19, compared to July 18. But even that one day drop brought in more than 540,000 sockeye, and only 200,000 sockeye stand between July 19th’s numbers and an all-time record. The July 19 totals include catch of 38.3 million, which stands at 2 million more sockeye than forecast, and escapement for all five districts of 24.5 million, almost twice as much as forecasted prior to the season. Final numbers for value in this year’s Bristol Bay season are months off, but with the record-breaking return could be a record-breaking value. Peter Pan Seafoods increased its base price from $1.10 — which they set prior to the season, perhaps for the first time in the history of the Bay — to $1.25, meeting the previously announced base price from OBI Seafoods earlier this week. Catch totals now are at: 17.5 million for the Nushagak District 8.3 million for Naknek Kvichak 7.7 milion for Egigik 4.6 million for Ugashik 301,000 for Togiak Escapement in the Nushagak River District is now at 9.7 million sockeye, an all time record. All other districts’ escapement levels are above the mid-point estimate established by ADF&G pre-season. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1203909/Bristol-Bay-on-Brink-of-Shattering-All-Time-Record-Salmon-Run-in-2021 West Coast Oregon Bill Aims to Fund Actions Supporting Fisheries, Communities in face of Changing Ocean SeafoodNews.com by Susan Chambers - July 20, 2021 Oregon is taking healthy oceans seriously. The state legislature passed House Bill 3114 in what proponents call a historic Oregon first in the fight against ocean acidification and hypoxia. It will help retain the successful sport and commercial fisheries on which coastal economies depend, proponents say. It also shows Oregon leaders' awareness of the importance of healthy oceans, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Oregon is an epicenter for acidification and hypoxia and was one of the first places in the world to observe direct impacts of ocean change when oyster hatchery production collapsed in 2007 from ocean acidification. The bill provides $1.9 million to fund important research and monitoring along the Oregon coast and estuaries, develop best management practices, and conduct outreach and education. ODFW will directly receive $470,000 of this funding to assess shellfish and habitat in estuaries and map estuaries to document long-term OAH impacts. "This legislative investment helps ODFW keep a finger on the pulse of our estuaries by increasing our capacity to survey shellfish and estuary habitats more frequently," Dr. Caren Braby, ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager and Co-Chair of Oregon's OAH Council, said in the statement. "Estuaries provide important nursery habitat for many ocean species and support both commercial and recreational fisheries as well as oyster mariculture operations." The Oregon Ocean Science Trust will receive funding to support monitoring and management of estuarine and ocean resources including acidification and hypixia monitoring in Oregon's Marine Reserves and monitoring in Yaquina Bay. The Science Trust, established by the state legislature in 2013, will work with Oregon's OAH Council to distribute approximately $1 million in competitive grants from the $1.9 million the bill provides. The Science Trust board met July 7 to start the planning process to call for funding proposals in eight project areas, as directed by the bill. Ocean acidification is caused when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enters the ocean and chemically reacts with ocean water, making the ocean more acidic (lowering the pH). Hypoxia, or low oxygen, occurs when deep ocean waters with less oxygen rise and are pushed closer to the shore by northerly winds, and then near-bottom waters are robbed of oxygen by decaying organic matter, the ODFW said in the release. This happens more frequently than normal due to climate changes that heat the land and ocean waters and change normal wind patterns - like this year. "This bill's passage is very timely," Dr. Jack Barth, with Oregon State University and Co-Chair of Oregon's OAH Council, said in the statement. "This year, we're seeing early upwelling and expect a more severe than average hypoxia season during late summer. These low-oxygen events can hurt marine life that can't escape fast enough." Barth said OSU will receive funding that leverages existing long-term projects that monitor ocean conditions and support shellfish research and industry. Liu Xin, manager of Oregon Oyster Farms, Inc. in Newport, said these projects will help the oyster industry better understand OAH-resilient oysters and improve oyster production in the hatcheries with oysters sourced from OSU's Molluscan Broodstock Program. "Oregon has been producing the majority of oyster larvae for the oyster industry on the West Coast since the industry was established in 1900. It's been challenging on larvae production the last few years due to OAH," Xin said, "and the bill's funding will help us understand OAH impacts and work to improve oyster production in the face of changing ocean waters." Laura Anderson, chairwoman of the Trust and owner of Local Ocean Seafoods restaurant and fish market in Newport, is concerned about environmental and commercial fishing impacts from OAH. "As a seafood business owner, I am very worried about rising OAH levels. It puts the entire marine food web that our coastal communities love and value at risk," Anderson said. Oregon's coastal economies rely on a vibrant marine ecosystem and Oregonians value and enjoy seafood throughout the year. The nearshore waters are home to sport and commercial fisheries, all of Oregon's mariculture operations, and contain critical nursery grounds for economically important species including rockfish, oysters, salmon, pink shrimp, clams and Dungeness crab. Together, these fisheries are valued at $137 million per year in primary sales with many times that value in economic stimulus supporting local communities. House Bill 3114 sets out a cohesive plan that implements recommended priorities established in the OAH Council's 2018 Legislative Report and the Oregon OAH Action Plan (adopted by the Governor for 2019-2025) that supports fisheries, industry, and coastal communities. More information can be found on the OAH website. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1203730/Oregon-Bill-Aims-to-Fund-Actions-Supporting-Fisheries-Communities-in-face-of-Changing-Ocean Federal Register Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Kamchatka Flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 07/22/2021 NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Kamchatka flounder in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2021 Kamchatka flounder initial total allowable catch (ITAC) in the BSAI. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/07/22/2021-15602/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-kamchatka-flounder-in-the-bering-sea-and

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