Monday, April 22, 2019

April 22, 2019

Alaska/Pacific Coast

March Jobs up 0.3% from Last Year; Unemployment Rate at 6.5%
Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Apr 19, 2019.
Alaska Native News - April 2019
JUNEAU, Alaska—March employment was up an estimated 0.3 percent, or 1,000 jobs, from March 2018.
https://alaska-native-news.com/march-jobs-up-0-3-from-last-year-unemployment-rate-at-6-5/41486/

House Fisheries Committee takes testimony on BOF nominees
Sports fishery groups favor, commercial entities oppose Johnstone
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - April 19, 2019
In advance of scheduled confirmation hearings on nominees to the Board of Fisheries April 17 by the Alaska Legislature, the House Fisheries Committee on April 15 questioned and heard public testimony on April 15 on the four people proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
https://thecordovatimes.com/2019/04/19/house-fisheries-committee-takes-testimony-on-bof-nominees/

The impact of poor salmon returns to Haines and the fishing industry
KTUU by Sean Maguire - April 19, 2019
HAINES, Alaska (KTUU) - Salmon fishing is an economic driver in Southeast Alaska, but unpredictable returns have made life difficult for those who rely on fishing for their incomes.
https://www.ktuu.com/content/news/The-impact-of-poor-salmon-returns-to-Haines--508834051.html

Can Magnuson Protect Fishing Communities? Decision Denying Protection to Adak, Atka Causes Doubt
SeafoodNews.com by John Sackton - April 22, 2019
This column from SeafoodNews Founder and Publisher John Sackton is a new feature that may continue as John retires from active management of SeafoodNews. His voice is one of the most respected in the industry, and we hope with this column to be able to keep putting forward his perspective on the news.

In 2016 the North Pacific Council, in a decision approved by NMFS, created a 5000 ton pacific cod set aside in the Aleutian Islands district for BSAI cod, that required that amount to be landed West of 170 degrees (in either Adak or Atka), if processing plants there gave notice that they would operate.

The provision also had a failsafe, which was that if plants had not processed 1000 tons of cod by February 28, the set aside would be terminated and added back to the general Pacific Cod TAC.

The impetus for the action was to encourage the development of stable processing plants in Adak, and ultimately Atka.

The issue of shore vs. at sea landings has flared at different times during the development of Alaska groundfish.  The AFA (American Fisheries Act) in 1998 put an end to the offshore vs. inshore fight for pollock by granting the inshore sector 55% of the TAC, and granting the offshore sector the right to form a co-op and allocate pollock to specific companies based on fishing history.  The result allowed offshore companies to double their productivity on pollock and ended the race for fish.

But with the growth of the flatfish fishery, and the fact that many of the flatfish trawl vessels also have cod allocations, the issue of onshore vs. offshore has flared again. With the high price of cod, there was increasing competition from catcher processors who would normally process their own fish, to act as mother ships and purchase cod at sea from trawlers, who then would not land fish on shore.

The original 5000 ton set aside was not significant when the allocations kept the cod fishery in the Bering sea open longer than the Aleutian Island Fishery, or when both closed at the same time.  In those years, catcher vessels kept fishing on their BSAI quotas.  But in 2018, the reduced catches meant the Bering Sea fishery closed, while the Aleutian set aside was still active.

This prompted some catcher vessels to move into the Aleutian area either to fish themselves and deliver back to Dutch Harbor or to buy from catcher boats who otherwise would deliver to Adak.

The outcry at the council caused the parties to work out a moratorium, and the catcher vessels stood down, allowing the remainder of the cod TAC to be landed in Adak as planned.

Now the issue has been further complicated by a judge’s ruling that the Council’s Amendment 113 was not lawful.  This calls in to question the entire set aside, and the district court judge has ordered NMFS and the council to revisit the issue.

The ruling said that although both national standard 8 and national standard 4 contain language that says supporting the importance of economic activities in the coastal communities dependent on fishing is a primary part of the national standards under the Magnuson Stevens Act, NMFS failed to justify its actions under these standards.

The judge said the interpretation by the Dept. of Commerce specifically prohibited the allocation of fish to specific communities, and this was the impact of the amendment.

There is a paradox here.  The law highly supports the allocation of fish to companies and individual harvest vessels.  The only requirement is that the allocation has a conservation purpose.

That IFQ’s lead to better conservation is a well-established fact.  Ending the race for fish allows companies to plan their harvest, manage by-catch, and co-operate with other harvesters to avoid bycatch hotspots and take other collective action so as to meet the conservation goals set by the Council for each stock.

This has led to spectacular values for IFQ licenses in fisheries such as crab, halibut, and sablefish.  It has also spawned a system of leasing of quota, which in some fisheries has resulted in shore-based owners controlling the license, and hiring captain and crew to fish for them with little possibility of gaining licenses of their own.  The wealth of the IFQ licenses was at first welcomed in fishing communities, as they saw direct economic benefits.

But over time, the owners have in many cases decamped to Montana, Arizona, or Hawaii, and the local crews left are not able to buy in to establish their own local rights in the fishery.

Communities trying to address the erosion of their economic power have largely been less than fully successful.  In the crab rationalization, St. Paul was able to win a landing allocation, but that was inserted into the law that authorized the program.  Without that guarantee, the large Trident plant in St. Paul could have become uneconomic.

On the West Coast, processing communities were less successful, initially asking for an allocation directly to processors, which could then be traded or leased for promises to continue landing in certain areas.  This was rebuffed, and although the health of the West Coast groundfish fishery is improving, the primary processing plants still depend mostly on crab and shrimp.

With remote communities such as Adak or Atka, the idea of building a plant depends on some sort of guarantee of landings, because otherwise, the costs of competing with more traditional landing areas are prohibitive.

It would be easy for the entire Alaskan groundfishery to be converted to offshore vessels that never landed a pound on shore.   This is the bulk of the cod fishery in the Barents Sea, for example.  Magnuson Stevens modified its goal of conservation of resources with language supporting community economic activity, partly so this would not happen.

However, the Commerce Dept., and the Courts, have been very hostile to the idea of community allocations.  Without the intervention of Sen. Ted Stevens and the creation of the Community Development Quotas, the history of the Alaska fishery would have been one where the Western Alaska shore communities withered and died as efficient fishing vessels worked offshore.

The court ordered NMFS to rewrite the allocation to the Aleutian communities with a conservation reason; saying they could not be arbitrary in their allocations.

The response of the processor in Adak and the community is to go back to Congress and propose specific legislation to carve out the allocation.  Adak already has a congressionally mandated pollock allocation.

But this should not be necessary.  A better solution would be to recognize that communities, as communities, have rights to ensure that a certain level of fishing economic activity flows through the community.  One solution would be to tie harvesting IFQ rights to landing rights, so that part of the economic benefit of owning the IFQ would flow back through the local fishery dependent communities.

Until there are changes that strengthen the idea of community rights to fisheries beyond individual congressional carve-outs and the CDQ program, we will have to live with a piece by piece ad hoc approach.

But the fact that an outcome virtually universally desired by the Council, the Government of Alaska, and the majority of the industry is unworkable due to poor interpretations of Magnuson is something that shows how much it is time for a rethink about the whole manner in which  US fisheries sustainably create and maintain economic value over time.
https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1138928/Can-Magnuson-Protect-Fishing-CommunitiesDecision-Denying-Protection-to-Adak-Atka-Causes-Doubt


Environment/Science
One of Alaska's warmest springs on record is causing a dangerous thaw
The Washington Post by Sarah Kaplan - April 19, 2019
Bryan Thomas doesn't want any more "wishy-washy conversations about climate change." For four years, he has served as station chief of the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, America's northernmost scientific outpost in its fastest-warming state. Each morning, after digging through snow to his office's front door, Thomas checks the preliminary number on the observatory's carbon dioxide monitor. On a recent Thursday it was almost 420 parts per million - nearly twice as high as the global preindustrial average.
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-wp-alaska-spring-20190419-story.html


Federal Register
North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 04/22/2019
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan Team will meet May 6, 2019 through May 7, 2019.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/22/2019-08057/north-pacific-fishery-management-council-public-meeting
 

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail: pspafish@gmail.com; Website: www.pspafish.net
Our office days/hours are Monday-Friday
8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.

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