Yukon River Silvers On Track For Lowest Runs Ever
KYUK by Olivia Ebertz - September 9, 2021
This season is shaping up to be the worst fall for salmon fishing on the Yukon River in recorded history. It follows the worst recorded summer salmon season ever.
Coast Guard crews remain vigilant during operations in the Arctic region
U.S. Coast Guard sent this bulletin at 09/13/2021
JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrated its commitment to the Bering Sea and Arctic region with deployments of national security cutters Bertholf and Kimball, and a U.S. Arctic patrol by icebreaker Healy.
Buoy tenders next on Coast Guard’s replacement list
KFSK by Joe Viechnicki - September 10, 2021
The Petersburg borough’s lobbyist in Washington D.C. said Monday the community faces the loss of its other Coast Guard vessel under a ship replacement program.
Alaska Sees Highest Spike in Covid, Hospitals Over-Capacity, Vaccinations at 56%
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - September 10, 2021
Alaska’s nightmare scenario is rapidly approaching as daily case counts are now routinely in the high three digits, more people are hospitalized with Covid than at the peak of the pandemic in Alaska, and public health executives have reached out to states that have recently issued “crisis standards of care” which puts doctors in a triage scenario where they must consider how to care for which cases under limited resources.
Yesterday the state broke the 200 mark for hospitalizations of Covid cases, and that number is now at 206, the highest ever. Most of those cases continue to be unvaccinated people.
Alaska is now in the top five states in the nation with the most Covid cases per 100,000 residents in the past week, according to a New York Times analysis. The state’s 14-day change in case counts is +25%, second only to West Virginia with a 7-day change of +57%.
The epidemic curve is steeper than during late 2020 at the peak of Alaska's contagion last year. The model shows a projected 812 cases today. Yesterday it was 793, the day before it was 775. Yesterday’s projected number of cases a week out, on 9/18 was 846. Today the model forecasts 980 cases on September 18.
The state’s overall hospital capacity moved into high alert status for the first time yesterday after multiple hospitals around the state continued to report extremely high volumes of COVID-positive and non-COVID patients, ADN reported.
In Anchorage, residents found little assurance city leaders would provide relief when Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said he will not ask residents to get vaccinated, issue a mask mandate or order other COVID-19 restrictions.
Bronson also said because the hospitals in Anchorage are ‘privately owned’ his office has few options to help ease the strain. He told reporters in an interview last Tuesday that part of the problem is hospital employees are leaving because they don’t want to get vaccinated. The Anchorage Daily News contacted the three main Anchorage hospitals and found that not to be true.
Shirley Young, spokeswoman for Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which operates the Alaska Native Medical Center, said the hospital requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by October 15, but that “Some of our newly hired staff have expressed their appreciation to join an organization that places such a high priority on the health and safety of our patients and staff.”
In an email to ADN, Young added, “ANTHC has seen little to no impact at this time as our deadline for compliance is October 15th. Rather, despite our best efforts to keep each other safe, our communities continue to be plagued by disinformation that is encouraging Alaskans to go unvaccinated. The resulting sharp increases of COVID-19 and the increasing workload for our hospital staff are the primary issues we are responding to at this time.”
Providence Hospital told ADN their policy requires full vaccination of all employees by October 18 unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption, and has not had any resignations due to the policy.
The same is true for Alaska Regional Hospital, where there is not mandate for vaccination, but the vaccination rate among employees is at 70%, ADN reported.
In more remote parts of the state, municipalities and boroughs have institute mask mandates along with social distancing and limits on interior gatherings. Vaccination rates are much higher on average in more remote areas of the state.
Today’s numbers from the state Covid dashboard include 846 new cases, a statewide alert level of ‘high’, 206 hospitalizations, no new deaths, and a definite shift in ages of those testing positive. The top two age groups now with Covid in the state are 20-29 year olds with 27,800 total cases, and 30-39 year olds with 16,900 cases out of a total of 90,271 cases so far.
Highest case counts came from Anchorage (264), Wasilla (90), Fairbanks (60), Palmer (46), and the Bethel area (42). In fishing communities, case counts were highest in Juneau (23), Ketchikan (23), Kodiak (25), Soldatna (15), and the Dillingham area (9). No new cases, of residents or non-residents, were reported as related to the seafood industry.
NOAA finds critically endangered whales near Kodiak Island
KMXT by Dylan Simard - September 10, 2021
Right whales are so named because they are the “right” whale to hunt. They’re known for being slow-moving, and they float on the surface after being killed.
2021 Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program Awards
NOAA Fisheries announces $2.2 million in funding for 12 innovative bycatch reduction research projects.
NOAA Fisheries - September 9, 2021
NOAA Fisheries has awarded $2.2 million to partners around the country to support 12 innovative bycatch reduction research projects through its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.
The Winding Glass: Destabilized Supply Chain Here to Stay
SeafoodNews.com by John Sackton, Founder, SeafoodNews - September 14, 2021
[The Winding Glass is the commentary and opinion column of John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews]
The seafood industry has one of the most complex supply chains of all food commodities. Despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic, much of our industry has thrived due to the simultaneous surge in demand for our products. The higher demand has provided the money to cover the costs of extreme disruption, whether that is freight rates and driver shortages, temporary plant closures, or lack of plant workers.
This demand surge has buffered us from the risks in our higher-cost environment. However, longer-term, the reality is that we will be buying and selling seafood in a much more difficult context, and our customers will also be operating with a higher degree of risk.
Those of us who are baby boomers have played out our careers on a relatively level playing field. Of course, there were disruptions, but they didn't change the fundamental nature of our business.
For example, we had plenty of fights over fishery management and quota issues, but we had stable stocks to manage. But you can’t manage a wild stock that disappears. We’ve spent decades conforming our practices to meet the Marine Stewardship Council and other standards. But those efforts have been ineffectual against climate change.
Harvests of Alaska King salmon in all areas are down about 40% using a 4-year moving average. Bering Sea king crab is closed this season, after several years of flirting with the lower bound to open the fishery. The large snow crab recruitment seen between 2016 and 2019 seems to have disappeared while there was no survey in 2020, and the stock abundance curve for 2021 looks nothing like the last five years.
On the East coast, we no longer have cod and yellowtail flounder, two staples of the historic fishery. Soft-shelled clams, another traditional industry, have dwindled to about 30% of their long-term average, although prices have compensated.
What do all these fish shortages have in common? Largely climate change. The stable environment that led these stocks to prosper has evaporated. Whether the problem is high temperatures in the rivers (runs have completely failed on the Yukon this year) or changing bottom temperatures that could cause a crab population to migrate, or the explosion of invasive green crabs northward that feed on soft-shell clams in the mudflats, the common denominator is rapid global warming.
This has upended the premise on which the last 50 years of fisheries science is based. The premise is that over time, recruitment to a fish stock can be measured and reliably forecast. Today we are confronted with stock changes outside of the range of fishery managers’ experience. We can’t predict when a large marine ecosystem kicks into a different state, negating the historical stock analysis.
Climate destabilization will become a greater factor in seafood supply, in aquaculture as well as wild fisheries. Since 2016 recurring Chilean algae blooms during the summer have killed millions of fish due to higher temperature waters. Shrimp production in some Asian locations is increasingly vulnerable to disruption by typhoons. Endemic shrimp diseases in China have caused a boom and bust cycle in shrimp imports, leading to global market impacts.
Furthermore, there is some intriguing evidence that ties the outbreak of Covid-19 to the crisis in the Chinese pork supply caused by African Swine fever in 2019. The article, published and peer-reviewed in Science (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abh0117), makes the case that the extreme shortage of pork in Southern China in 2019, and consequent high prices, led to a surge in sales of substitute meats, including those produced from farmed civet cats, foxes, minks, and raccoon dogs. These animals are raised for their fur, but with high meat prices, their supply, both as live animals and frozen carcasses, increased dramatically at wet markets in Southern China.
Sars-Covid viruses naturally circulate in bat populations, and these scientists believe there are ample opportunities for cross-species transmission from bats to these other captive mammals. Eating the carcass of an infected animal, or handling a live animal, can then lead to transmission in humans. The Chinese government’s push to expand the cold chain and preferential transport for frozen pork meant there were ample opportunities for frozen transport of other animal carcasses as well, expanding their distribution.
If this turns out to be the correct origin theory for Covid, the pandemic that has disrupted supply chains around the world is a knock-on effect of the crisis in the Chinese pork industry from African swine flu in 2019.
Our new reality is that scientists expect that there will be increasing instances of new diseases, affecting both livestock, aquaculture, and humans directly when transferred from other species. This is not the last epidemic for 100 years.
The effects of disruption cascade in many directions. One of the most relevant to our business is the crisis in Foodservice. Restaurants cannot endure a series of starts and stops. In recent weeks as the epidemic returns in full force to many less vaccinated states, restaurants are again seeing a drop in traffic, a turn to take-out, and are increasingly hampered by lack of workers.
OpenTable data on seated diners has begun falling in August. The latest National Restaurant Association performance outlook shows a big jump in operators expecting lower sales over the next six months, and reports around a 4% drop in same-store customer traffic in August.
The work environment in a public-facing setting during the pandemic is risky and toxic when there are no agreed-upon standards of protection, and many people who might normally be happy to work in foodservice simply don't want to take on the risk and the hassle for the pay they can get.
The seafood industry’s foodservice customers are facing big increases in labor costs, and even then can’t attract sufficient staff. They aren't able to operate at full capacity and are less able to overcome supply shortages and high prices for items that in the past had been restaurant staples. They also have a shrinking customer base as people vote with their feet to stay home while the pandemic continues.
The optimism which led foodservice buyers to bid up seafood prices to open earlier this summer is evaporating.
At the same time, other expanded government benefits, from PPP loans to unemployment to rent protection are all expiring, so the buffer they provided last year that supported the growth in demand for seafood is less likely to be there this fall. We should expect retail grocery customers to become more price sensitive.
Finally, the latest news on freight is not encouraging. There is no near-term solution to the container shortage, with some freight executives estimating that it now takes about 15% to 20% more containers to move the same volume, due to port congestion, lack of drivers, and other delays. The containers, made in China, require specialty non-corrosive steel which is in short supply.
This litany is not meant to be gloom and doom. Our industry will survive and can prosper. But that can only happen if we accept that we are never going back to the stability we had for most of the past 40 years.
We are now in a new era of instability and the quicker we understand that it is a permanent state of affairs the more we can come up with creative solutions to today’s problems.
When a business faces a temporary situation, the plan is to manage through it to get to the other side. When we face a permanent change, we need to make investments, change expectations, look at workflows, inventories, evaluate wages, and adapt to a new environment.
Those companies that will prosper are those that realize we are facing a new environment, where old ideas of wage levels, delivery times, and production continuity are out the window, and they make permanent adjustments.
Consumers are already adjusting to living with supply disruptions. As a small example of our own family spending, we now buy like Russians used to: when we see something in the store, we stock up. This summer items as diverse as Wyman’s wild blueberries, flatfish at the fish market, Laphroaig 10-year-old scotch, and a new car all became opportunistic buys.
These things we used to purchase as needed. But now it takes multiple trips to the supermarket, liquor store, or fish market to find things that used to always be there. When things are on the shelf, we buy multiples, and we order more frozen fish. With the headlines about car shortages, I ordered a replacement for my leased car months in advance. It came in early. Instead of arriving in October, the dealer called and told me it was ready to pick up in August. So ordinary families are being whipsawed by these supply disruptions, and I expect that there will be long-term changes in consumer behavior as a result.
All of us must adapt to a new reality of disruption.
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