Alaska Study: Pandemic proved very costly to fisheries Health and safety protocols had deep impact on harvester, processor sectors Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - January 23, 2021 Alaska’s commercial fisheries took a direct hit from the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020, in harvesting, processing and overall value, a new report from NOAA Fisheries confirms. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2021/01/23/study-pandemic-proved-very-costly-to-fisheries/ 'Everybody's Worst Nightmare:' Bering Sea Fishermen On Edge As COVID-19 Shutters Second Plant KUCB by Hope McKenney & Nat Herz - January 22, 2021 One of North America's largest fish processing plants is shutting down as a COVID-19 outbreak grows and owner Trident Seafoods struggles to test its 700-person workforce. https://www.kucb.org/post/everybodys-worst-nightmare-bering-sea-fishermen-edge-covid-19-shutters-second-plant#stream/0 Gulf of Alaska Cod Reinstated as MSC Certified, RFM Certification Remains in Place SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - January 26, 2021 Wrangell, Alaska — Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod can now be certified under the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard, announced MRAG Americas, the independent On January 22, 2021, the MSC certification body that audits the fishery. Certification was reinstated as of January 1 this year after seven months of suspensio, allowing all Pacific cod caught this year to be certified. MSC’s suspension of P-cod was triggered when the fishery was closed due two year classes not surviving the warm waters of the two-year-long Blob, a phenomenon of static warm water that reached deep into the ocean. The suspension was “not due to overfishing or a lack of a responsible management response, rather, the depressed stocks of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska below the B20% limit is climate driven and caused by the Gulf of Alaska marine heat wave,” MRAG said in a statement yesterday. From 2014-2016 the Gulf of Alaska experienced the warmest water on record. The marine heat wave reduced food availability for cod and dramatically increased natural mortality. In response, federal and state fishery managers took swift and immediate action to severely restrict commercial fishing efforts — a responsible and precautionary management decision responding to ecosystem uncertainty. In 2018 and 2019, harvests were reduced by 80% to maintain the future viability of the fishery. In 2020, commercial fishing was closed in the federal GOA fishery and the small state fishery was further reduced. Last fall, after a stock assessment indicated that the stock was improving, an expedited audit was done that confirmed the beginning of a rebound. “The decision to lift the suspension comes as a result of an expedited audit that was announced on December 22, 2020. The audit was based on new information on the stock status provided by NOAA Fisheries and decisions by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council,” explains MRAG Americas in its announcement. “As the Client for the Alaska Pacific cod fishery, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) is happy to see the stock of GOA Pacific cod rebounding due to the immediate and responsible actions taken by fishery managers to severely restrict commercial fishing effort,” said July Decker, AFDF’s Executive Director. “This is a textbook example of how responsible fishery management decisions are made and implemented. We are proud to represent an industry that prioritizes the sustainability of the fishery over short-term gains. These are not easy or painless decisions to make,” Decker said. MSC approved a variation request to allow the reinstatement to be back-dated to January 1, 2021, because the information was available at that time and the fishery began on that date. Back-dating the reinstatement of the certification to January 1, 2021, is important, because it will allow all Pacific cod harvested from Alaska in 2021 to be sold as MSC certified, allowing for clarity in the supply chain and to customers purchasing Pacific cod from Alaska. The Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) sustainability certification program is an internationally accredited ecolabel for Alaska fisheries. The RFM certification was not suspended; it’s standard is different from MSC in that it holds up management response to unexpected stock issues. The RFM certification of Pacific cod harvested from Alaska is expected to remain in place throughout 2021 after the normal annual audit is completed later this year. RFM chain of custody (CoC) certification audits can be done in conjunction with those for MSC. Interested companies can find more information on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s website here. [https://www.alaskaseafood.org/rfm-certification/chain-of-custody/] https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1190422/Gulf-of-Alaska-Cod-Reinstated-as-MSC-Certified-RFM-Certification-Remains-in-Place Environment/Science Alaskans Push For Permanent Protection as Pebble Mine Appeals USACE Permit Denial SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - January 22, 2021 Yesterday Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse their permit denial from last November. In response, two groups representing Alaskans across the state have called for permanent protections for the area. “We urge President Biden and Congress to act swiftly and decisively to enact lasting protections for this one-of-a-kind American treasure, which is home to a vibrant Indigenous culture, provides more than 14,000 American jobs, and produces more wild salmon than anywhere else in the world,” read yesterday's press release from SalmonState, a group that safeguards salmon runs across Alaska. The USACE denied a key permit for the mine, saying that it “does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines," and they concluded that "the proposed project is contrary to the public interest." Their decision to deny the Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit was met with widespread, bi-partisan support from Bristol Bay’s Tribes, fishermen, and Alaska U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. “A reversal of this permit denial would put Bristol Bay and the world’s largest salmon fishery back in peril,” said Katherine Carscallen, Director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. Last month Alaska’s fishermen voiced their support for a plan called “Call to Protect Bristol Bay” that lays out a vision for permanent protections of Bristol Bay’s pristine salmon waters. Their vision includes the Environmental Protection Agency using its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine, and secondly asks Congress to cement those Clean Water Act protections through legislative action, banning any toxic mine waste from large-scale mining projects into Bristol Bay’s sensitive and irreplaceable rivers, lakes and wetlands. “It is clear that until the EPA reestablishes Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, this region and the world-class fishery it supports will not be safe from the Pebble Mine,” said Carscallen. “Bristol Bay’s fishermen have been fighting to save our livelihoods and this incredible source of sustainable wild seafood for more than a decade," said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. "While science prevailed when the Army Corps rejected the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit, this appeal shows that the Trump Administration left the door open for the Pebble Partnership and Bristol Bay is far from safe,” he said. “The first step is for the Biden Administration to reestablish the Clean Water Act Protections previously in place. The second step is for Congress to protect the waters of Bristol Bay in perpetuity, as called for in Bristol Bay Tribes’ and organizations’ ‘Call to Protect Bristol Bay’,” Bristol said. Bristol Bay is the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run, providing more than 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. For six years in a row, it has seen more than 50 million salmon return, with several of those returns record breaking. The Pebble Partnership has been planning for a massive, open-pit gold, copper and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay's pristine river systems for almost two decades. After scientific study and careful consideration, in 2014, the EPA proposed protections for the surrounding waters from toxic waste and destruction from large-scale development of the mine. At the start of the Trump Administration, however, then-Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier had a private, closed-door meeting with then EPA-administrator Scott Pruitt. As a result of that meeting, the EPA withdrew its own proposed protections, which had been requested by Bristol Bay Tribes and fishermen, and strongly supported by Alaskans across the state and millions of Americans. Shortly afterwards, Pebble applied for a permit. Last September, Collier and the CEO of Pebble’s parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals were caught on tape commenting about their relationships with Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, the White House, Army Corps officials and Alaska politicians, when it came to Pebble Mine. They also revealed that their actual plans for the mine were not for the 20-year term they had proposed, but, rather a 200-year mine that would result in more than 10 billion tons of toxic waste being stored behind an earthen dam at the headwaters of Bristol Bay forever. “The proposed Pebble Mine is a toxic, region-killing project proposed and promoted by people who have proven, with their own words, that they are liars who were relying on cozy political relationships to outweigh the documented fact that Pebble would irreparably harm Bristol Bay,” Bristol said. “Even their own investors have sued them for lying. The only way to prevent Pebble from dragging Alaskans through this broken, fatally flawed ‘process’ yet again is for the EPA to follow its own scientific recommendations and to veto the project, and for legislators to follow the leadership of the Tribes, fishermen, and residents of Bristol Bay, and protect its waters in perpetuity. “Alaska’s fishermen call on President Biden, his administration, and Congress to give Bristol Bay’s fishermen and residents the certainty and security we’ve been seeking for years by enacting permanent protections which will ensure that Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery and way of life are never again imperiled by the Pebble Mine,” Carscallen said. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1190241/Alaskans-Push-For-Permanent-Protection-as-Pebble-Mine-Appeals-USACE-Permit-Denial Biden signs ‘milestone’ order on Bering Sea protections, Indigenous knowledge KNOM by Emily Hofstaedter - January 25, 2021 President Joe Biden signed several climate-related executive orders on his first day in office, including some that affect residents of the Bering Sea. https://www.alaskapublic.org/2021/01/25/biden-signs-milestone-order-on-bering-sea-protections-indigenous-knowledge/ FYI’s Seafood Donations to Food Banks Exceeded 8 Million Servings in 2020 Urner Barry by Amanda Buckle - January 22, 2021 2020 was certainly … a year. While there’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic left a lot of Americans struggling, there is at least some good news to come out of it. According to SeaShare, the nation’s leading nonprofit seafood donor to food banks, over 8 million servings of seafood was donated last year. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with our seafood partners this year,” said SeaShare Executive Director Jim Harmon. “The network we’ve built over the last 27 years provided strong results in 2020.” SeaShare’s network includes over 200 partners, from boats to processors, distributors and support companies. With donations and partners in freight, packaging and cold storage, SeaShare was able to send seafood to food banks in 22 states. Looking specifically at Alaska, donations were able to reach 40 coastal communities. SeaShare was able to make this possible by providing freezers to food banks, which allows them to accept and store larger donations of frozen food that is sent by barge, rather than air freight. These freezers, which are in five hub locations in Alaska, also support the surrounding villages that otherwise couldn’t be served. “Food is expensive here, and protein is especially hard for our food bank to get,” explained Barbara Nunn, the manager at Dillingham Food Bank. “We are so thankful for the quality seafood that SeaShare provides. The pandemic is still ongoing, and the seafood industry is dealing with their own pandemic-related struggles, like reduced processing capacity, quarantining of products and crew, and increased labor. SeaShare said that they will continue their efforts to “maximize results for everyone across the supply chain.” “The food banks continue to do incredible work,” added Harmon. “Our seafood partners remain generous. And SeaShare is in a strong financial position to distribute even more seafood in 2021.”
Click here to learn more about donating to SeaShare.
Paul Doremus takes over as acting head of NOAA Fisheries after Chris Oliver departs
Seafood Source by Cliff White - January 25, 2021
Paul Doremus has taken over as acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries following the departure of Chris Oliver, who had served as NOAA Fisheries’ assistant administrator since June 2017.
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