Race for Fish in Shortest Bering Sea P Cod Season Pushes Council Towards Rationalization Plan
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - February 8, 2019
In the regional management council process, timing is everything. And yesterday the timing couldn’t have been better for action on the Bering Sea cod trawl fishery.
Last Friday the shortest ever ‘A Season’ for the Bering Sea trawl cod fishery ended after 13 days. The take was 16,000 mt and 331 mt of Pacific halibut, a prohibited species with an annual cap of 361 mt.
Yesterday the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council heard from the heavy-hitters in the Bering Sea fishery, including skippers who flew from Dutch Harbor to Portland, OR to express their need for a better managed fishery.
The council responded with two motions to begin crafting a new management scheme that will limit participation and account for both shoreside and floating processing of Pacific cod in the Bering Sea.
The council was alerted to the problem in April 2017, when a discussion paper was asked for to gauge participation. in 2016, increases in both Amendment 80 vessels acting as motherships and the number of trawl catcher vessels delivering cod to them raised warning flags. Last June the Council adopted a Purpose and Needs Statement that gave direction to the analysis that was at the heart of discussions at this week’s Council meeting.
The analysis offered six alternatives for further review and development. The Council separated Alternatives 1, 2, 3, and 6 from Alternatives 4 and 5 to deal with the mothership issues apart from the harvester issues.
The Advisory Panel, who heard testimony and discussed the issue before sending their recommendation to the Council, described the situation in dire terms.
“Over the last several years, total allowable catch for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea-Aleutian Island has steadily decreased. At the same time, the number of LLP licenses used by trawl catcher vessels to participate in the BSAI non-CDQ trawl Pacific cod fishery has increased.
“The pace of the fishery has contributed to an increasingly compressed season, resulting in decreased ability to maximize the value of the fishery and negatively impacting all fishery participants (catcher vessels, motherships, shoreside processors, and communities).”
But Brent Paine, executive director of the United Catcher Boats, put it into stark relief during his testimony to the Council yesterday.
Using images from AIS vessel tracking on each day of the 13-day season, all 13 focused on the cod grounds near Unimak Pass and showed a chaotic cluster of some 54 vessels jockeying for position and hauling tows. Each day was as crowded as the last until the fishery closed on Feb. 1, Day 13.
“This is a disgrace,” Paine said to the panel. “In a 13-day cod fishery where these boats are all racing for fish, everything was out the door. We couldn’t get halibut data from NMFS, all the avoidance behavior was out the door with no time to do what we’d normally do -- only fish at night, use exluders, tow slower. It all went out the door!
“I’ve worked 28 years for the UBC, and I’ve heard managers talk about how fishermen like competition, but we don’t like this. On Day 11 Krista [MNFS management biologist in Dutch Harbor] is getting calls ‘Where are we at? Whats the cod quota?’ ‘Where are we in halibut quota?’
“This is a serious problem. And I’m begging you to solve it. I’m passionate about this because I’ve been talking about it for a long time.”
Paine asked the Council to “look at the AP Motion. They rolled up their sleeves and gave you some really good advice.”
Paul Gronholdt from Sandpoint, AK has seen issues this contentious before. He, along with 25 other fishermen and processors who testified, supported some form of a better managed fishery.
“I want to thank the staff for their sense of humor in tagging this potentially explosive subject on the agenda as C-4,” Gronholdt said.
One skipper described the choices being made in the last week at Unimak Pass.
“I guess i’m embarrassed of how much halibut was caught, but things that we normally do can’t be implemented when there are so many boats, so close together. We think we need to stay under two percent [rate of halibut bycatch to cod directed catch] to catch the whole [cod] quota, and we did. But some boats didn’t. Some boats stayed in the same area and they caught more. You can’t fault them. If you become a good citizen and run for ten hours to find clean fishing, it gets taken out of your hide, with missed tows.”
The Council’s second motion (after the first one bifurcating the action to deal with motherships first) released the analysis for public review with the alternatives 1, 2, 3, and 6 (renumbered as 4) with changes to the purpose and needs statement outlining their intention to address the “impacts of the recent increases and potential for future growth in offshore deliveries of Pacific cod to Amendment 80 vessels or other vessels operating as motherships, and the potential impacts those increases could have on shoreside processors, communities, and participating catcher vessels. The Council intends to address the activity of vessels acting as motherships.”
This action will have a direct impact on shorebased processors who have seen deliveries of cod diminish in recent years.
Several testifiers spoke to the loss of revenue in communities that heavily rely on fishing for infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and other community services.
The Council will take final action on this issue at the June 2-11, 2019 meeting in Sitka, AK.
American Seafoods Announces Effort to Sell Itself to New Investors, Replace Bregal Partners
SeafoodNews by John Sackton - February 11, 2019
American Seafoods sent out a statement Friday saying the company is hiring investment bankers to seek out investors who would purchase Bregal Partner’s majority stake in the company. Bregal, a Private Equity Firm is the main shareholder in American Seafoods.
The company said “Bregal is entering the market looking for new investors, starting now.” They said “Bregal would like to monetize their investment, on schedule, after about five years.”
Unlike the Pane and Partners private equity sale of Icicle Seafoods to Cooke, which occurred during a period of market weakness, Bregal is preparing to sell its shares at a time when the pollock market has strongly recovered and is experiencing near record prices.
The company said the process of vetting potential buyers will run through the spring and summer and if all goes according to plan, a deal will come together in the fall of 2019.
"American Seafoods is a great company -- we have a leadership position in one of the most on-trend segments of clean protein and we are composed of the most passionate, talented and frankly, brave individuals I know. As we kick off a process to solicit interest from new investors, I am honored to represent its proud heritage and tell the story of our exciting future," said Mikel Durham, CEO, in the statement.
Bregal has reportedly valued the company at $1.4 billion, a multiple of ten times 2018 EBITDA earnings.
American Seafoods has a 17.33% share of the entire Bering Sea Pollock fishery and a 47.37% share of the offshore catcher processor directed fishery. Any buyer from within the existing pollock industry would have to address the caps on ownership where American seafood is at the maximum level.
This means that any CDQ group that might buy the shares may have to divest existing quota, or sell some of American’s six catcher processor vessels.
An outside investor who is not currently in the Alaska pollock industry would be able to purchase the entire company and keep the fleet intact.
Climate change is cooking salmon in the Pacific Northwest
MSN by Howard Hsu - February 9, 2019
Warmer waters in the Pacific Northwest are killing salmon before they can reproduce.
Salmon that have died in Washington’s Wallace River before spawning.
Labeling and Marketing
Pollock producers looking to build brand identity
Cordova Times - February 11, 2019
A trade group aiming to build the brand identity for wild Alaska Pollock in North America has issued a request for partnership proposals to increase interest in the mild flavored white fish, known for its delicate and flaky texture.
Marine Wiring Workshop in Seattle
Washington Sea Grant by Sarah Fisken - February 7, 2019
A chance for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters to learn to safely wire their vessels
Saturday, March, 16.
Washington Sea Grant and the Port of Seattle Fishermen’s Terminal are co-sponsoring a Marine Wiring workshop at Fishermen’s Terminal for commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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