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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Alaska Prince William Sound harvest tops 67M salmon ADF&G: Humpies exceeded forecast Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - September 4, 2021 Commercial harvesters wished they could have had more fishing time at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the season it certainly wasn’t a disaster, said Chelsea Haisman, executive director of Cordova District Fishermen United. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2021/09/04/prince-william-sound-harvest-tops-67m-salmon/ Governor appoints Indy Walton to state Board of Fisheries KSTK by Sage Smiley - September 3, 2021 Governor Mike Dunleavy on Friday announced the appointment of a Soldotna man to fill a vacancy on the state Board of Fisheries. https://www.kstk.org/2021/09/03/governor-appoints-indy-walton-to-state-board-of-fisheries/ Bristol Bay Red King Crab Season Closes For First Time in 25 Years SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - September 7, 2021 The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery (BBRKC) will be closed for the 2021/22 season because there are too few mature females to sustainably open the fishery. The fishery was last closed over 25 years ago in 1994-1995. This year's survey and preliminary stock assessment model information show that mature female abundance continued on its 12-year downward trend and dipped below the 8.4 million animal threshold to open the fishery. Bristol Bay Red King Crab is one of four red king crab fisheries in Western Alaska, but it is the largest and nearly the last remaining. The others are Pribilof Islands and Western Aleutian Islands RKC, which have been closed to fishing for many years, and Norton Sound RKC, with landings that are much lower. In the 2016-17 crab season, fishermen caught 7.62 million pounds of Bristol Bay red king crab, dropping to 5.9 million in 2018-19 and 3.9 million in 2019-20. Last year ten vessels caught 264,000 pounds, and this year the fleet is about 80% through an annual quota of 361,000 pounds. King crab is the largest of Alaska’s four main varieties of crab, with males weighing up to 24 lbs and a leg span of five feet. More information on BBRKC, as well as opilio (snow) and bairdi (tanner), will be available during the Crab Plan Team meeting Sep 13-16. Last April, a complaint was filed by the Public Employees for Environmental Protection (PEER) on behalf of former NOAA Fisheries biologist Braxton Dew, charging that the agency “engag[ed] in sampling bias and data falsification, which inflated annual population estimates and led to a multi-year regime of ruinous overfishing” for BBRKC. The complaint was filed under the Information Quality Act, which requires that information distributed by federal agencies, especially technical and scientific information, be complete and accurate. That Act prohibits a law suit, but what PEER and Dew want is for NOAA Fisheries to correct the record, including rescinding the NOAA Fisheries BBRKC stock assessment and fishery evaluation reports for BBRKC between 2015 and 2020. “Today’s action seems to validate the thrust of our complaint,” said Jeff Ruch, Pacific Director of PEER this afternoon. “Accountability is an elusive quality, particularly with government agencies, but there is a much larger struggle that transcends NOAA, and that is reliance on accurate science — no more alternative facts. President Biden has directed agencies to improve the integrity of their scientific work across the government. “The only remedy here is to correct the record,” Ruch said. “And if they can’t correct the record, at least explain what really happened.” PEER’s complaint said that stock assessments showing steep drops in numbers were attributed to “a drastic increase in natural mortality” and “massive die-offs” when no evidence for that existed. The complaint also pointed to “massive indirect fishing mortality associated with record fishing harvests and multi-ton cod-ends of commercial trawls stuffed with red king crabs. “NOAA Fisheries classified such ancillary deaths caused by fishing as natural mortality; and never admitted that overfishing was occurring or that …. today’s stock was ever overfished,” a statement from PEERS in April noted. “How NOAA Fisheries responds to this complaint will indicate whether the agency will finally be honest and admit what it did – and is still doing,” Ruch said in a statement last spring. Even though PEER’s headquarters are a block away from NOAA Fisheries offices in Silver Spring, Ruch said he has not received an official acknowledgment of receipt yet. Once received, that will trigger a timeline of 60 days to respond.


Chart Credit: National Marine Fisheries Service https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1207309/Bristol-Bay-Red-King-Crab-Season-Closes-For-First-Time-in-25-Years

International A new $350 million Bering Sea fish fight could hinge on a miniature Canadian railroad Alaska Public Media by Nathaniel Herz - September 3, 2021 A high-seas legal fight is causing havoc for one of Alaska’s biggest commercial fisheries, the Bering Sea pollock harvest out of Dutch Harbor. https://www.alaskapublic.org/2021/09/03/a-new-350-million-bering-sea-fish-fight-could-hinge-on-a-miniature-canadian-railroad/ Alaska Shipping Firms File Restraining Order Against Jones Act Fines Over $350 Million SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - September 3, 2021 Yesterday Kloosterboer International Forwarding (KIF) and Alaska Reefer Management (ARM) filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, to stop a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement action that threatens to bring shipping of Alaska seafood from Dutch Harbor to U.S. customers on the East Coast through the Canadian port of Bayside, New Brunswick and onward to Maine, to a standstill. Beginning August 9, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began issuing enormous Penalty Notices for alleged violations of the Jones Act, without specific explanations about what part of the Jone’s Act had been violated. According to the court documents, CBP issued more than 170 penalty notices which collectively total more than $350 million in fines covering a time period going back nearly five years. "We are reeling from crippling penalties, Customs has not been forthcoming to share specifics, and Customs' long-standing guidance tells us we are operating in compliance," said Per Brautaset, President of ARM. "We just didn't have a choice but to try and save our business and our partners' businesses, and all the jobs in Alaska and other communities that will be lost.” Until two weeks ago, the industry had no hint that CBP was reconsidering its longstanding approval of the route and preparing notices of penalties amounting to over $350 million dollars. Nothing in the Notices of Penalty provides any specificity about the alleged conduct that constitutes a Jones Act violation, or any rationale for CBP's apparent reversal of its longstanding ruling, the companies said. "We are grateful for the support of many members of the U.S. seafood supply chain and their legislators who are concerned by this apparent shift in interpretation without warning," said Jennifer Adamski, Director of Logistics & Operations for KIF. "We were forced to halt shipping almost two weeks ago, which has created food supply disruptions and economic hardship to our industry, our customers, and our workers -- who risk losing their jobs in Alaska and elsewhere." The plaintiffs also charge that the fines are disproportionately excessive. “The penalties are excessive as they are more than 35 times the highest reported Jones Act penalty of $10 million levied in the over-100-year history of the Jones Act. The penalties are also more than twice the annual value of all frozen Alaskan seafood transported through the Bayside port to U.S. destinations,” the complaint reads. The Notices of Penalties were served on almost all customers and companies operating in the Bayside Program, including shipping captains and vessel insurance companies. The Jones Act dates back to 1920 and ensures that no trade between two U.S. ports is done with foreign vessels. There are a few important exceptions to that; one critical to this case is the Third Proviso, which specifically allows seafood to be shipped from Alaska to Lower 48 ports using non-compliant vessels and Canadian rail lines. When the Act was passed, the route at stake was one from Alaska over Canadian rail to the Great Lakes, then into the U.S. The Third Proviso has been clarified and verified by U.S.Customs and Border Protection, as well as courts of law and the U.S. Trade Representative, in memorandums, regulatory guidance, and legal decisions over the past several decades. The specific route taken by the Bering Sea factory ships has been used for at least twenty years in precisely the same way. It is the details of how the route works that may be behind the new Custom’s Notice of Penalties. Frozen seafood products are loaded in Dutch Harbor on the transport vessel that delivers via the Panama Canal to Bayside New Brunswick. There, the cargo is loaded into truck containers which are then loaded onto a rail car that is part of the Port of Bayside facility and is exactly 100 feet long. The container travels that distance and back on a legally recognized Canadian railway (called New Brunswick Southern Railway “NBSR”) before being loaded onto trucks to carry to the U.S. border. “At the transfer point, NBSR truck trailers were offloaded and then driven into the United States at the Calais, Maine, border crossing. CBP held that this method and route of transport “in part via both foreign-flag vessel and rail trackage in Canada . . . is in accord with the Third Proviso,” the complaint explained. “At all relevant times, CBP was fully aware of the use of Canadian rail trackage in part, in connection with Plaintiffs’ shipments through the Bayside Port, and through its review of bills of lading and customs documentation for every shipment that crossed the U.S. border from Canada. CBP never once raised any concerns or questions to Plaintiffs or any other company in the chain of distribution, until it suddenly completely reversed itself in its regulatory practices, without any notice to the affected parties, by serving the Penalty Notices,” read the complaint. The Third Proviso established a three-part test to determine whether a shipper may use non-compliant vessels in transporting merchandise between two points in the United States: (1) the transportation of merchandise must utilize “through routes in part over Canadian rail lines . . .”; (2) the routes must be “recognized” by the Surface Transportation Board (STB); and (3) rate tariffs for the routes have been filed with the STB. All of these requirements have been met by the plaintiffs, uninterrupted and for years. Alaska Reefer Management LLC (“ARM”) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Seafoods Group LLC. Co-plaintiff Kloosterboer International Forwarding (KIF) n Alaska Limited Liability Company with headquarters in Seattle. The plaintiffs are represented by Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot of Anchorage and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP of New York. https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1207274/Alaska-Shipping-Firms-File-Restraining-Order-Against-Jones-Act-Fines-Over-350-Million

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