Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11, 2019

Alaska/Pacific Coast

Canada Boosts Wild Pacific Salmon Support by $15 Million Annually
Urner Barry by Ryan Doyle - September 9, 2019
The research and management of wild Pacific salmon received an additional $15 million in annual funding on September 6.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson announced the increased support meant to protect the species through scientific information while considering the impacts of climate change.

“We know that our wild salmon populations are facing urgent threats – from warming waters caused by climate change to the loss of important habitat that they migrate through,” Wilkinson said in a news release. “That’s why our government is working with partners to protect these at-risk salmon populations.”

The funding will be used in three areas. First, it will be used to improve stock assessment by providing more detailed information on the health of salmon stocks in the country. Second, it will allow the country to implement enhanced coded-wire tagging and recovery program. Lastly, the money will go towards improved recreational catch monitoring.

The decision also supports Canada’s Pacific Salmon Treaty with the United States which is designed to ensure the department is working with First Nations and other stakeholders to manage the salmon population.

“Through these partnerships, I am confident that can make substantive progress together that will enhance our wild fish stocks and strengthen our fishing industry for today, and for generations to come,” Wilkinson said.

Underwater Cameras Tackle Fishing Gear Interactions, Entanglements by Susan Chambers - September 6, 2019
One of the tough realities of commercial fishing is that fishermen and seals sometimes compete for the same fish. And when they do, interactions between the animals and fishing nets can occur, leaving fishermen with ruined catches and damaged fishing gear, and seals with the possibility of lethal entanglements.

To come up with new ways to prevent such interactions between marine animals and fisheries, ocean scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Center for Coastal Studies are working with local fishermen on Cape Cod to understand exactly what happens when seals and other marine mammals invade a fishing net to forage.

“Fishermen are a great source of knowledge and a big part of the conservation equation here in New England, where the commercial fishery is so important,” Alex Bocconcelli, a research specialist at WHOI, said in a press release. “But they are also facing hard issues related to both lost catch and lost fishing opportunities from depredation. So, we’re leveraging the strong relationships we have with the local commercial fishing industry to figure out what’s going on, and more importantly, what can be done to help reduce the economic and ecological impacts.”

Mitigating impacts
The costs of depredation—when marine animals prey on fish caught in nets—can be high on both fronts. On the economic side, it can reduce the amount of sell-able fish and lead to torn fishing nets.

“A five-inch opening in the net can quickly become a 15-inch hole when a seal gets caught and tries to free itself,” said Doug Feeney, a commercial fisherman based in Chatham, Massachusetts. When fishermen spend time mending nets and sorting through their catch for fish they can sell, they often lose valuable fishing time, which compounds the financial hit.

From an ecological standpoint, the incidental by-catch of gray seals, which occurs even when they’re not preying on fish caught in the net, is a leading cause of mortality among these and other protected marine mammals.

“With the successful rebound of marine mammal populations in New England—seals in particular—fishery interactions and resulting frustrations build," Andrea Bogomolni, a faculty member of Shoals Marine Laboratory who previously studied marine mammal and ocean health science at WHOI, said in the statement. "We’ve worked with our commercial fishing partners to ask questions and design experiments together, relying on each of our unique areas of expertise to address these interactions."

A sustainable collaboration
Bocconcelli and Bogomolni have been working with Feeney and scientists from CCS to document the behavior of seals and other animals in and around fishing nets just east of Cape Cod—an area that has seen steady growth in gray seal populations over the past few years. The team has mounted an array of five underwater cameras across the top or “headrope” of a gillnet to get an unprecedented view of the encounters. They are also relying on the use of a remotely operated vehicle to periodically survey the nets. The ROV takes real-time video snapshots of activity below the surface to supplement the top-mounted cameras.

“This is the first time anyone has captured video of active sink-gillnet fishing in the northeast U.S. that we know of,” Owen Nichols, director of Marine Fisheries Research for CCS, said. Assessing and documenting depredation by seals and other marine animals is often done by human observation on deck. “In general, we don’t know much about what goes on around the fishing gear until we see what comes over the rail. That’s when we can see the bite marks and other catch damage in the net, as well as occasional damage to the fishing gear itself.”

Getting a clear view
The underwater imagery has the potential to facilitate a shared learning experience between the scientists and fishermen, but capturing clear footage isn’t without its challenges. The gillnet site is so rich with marine life, the cameras are often filming through a thick fog of fish biomass. Turbulence from surrounding ocean currents can distort the view even more by pushing suspended sediment and organic material around like confetti. Fortunately, the cameras are mounted on tightly-anchored nets, which helps minimize the amount of camera movement and resulting visual noise.

Once the nets are pulled up, the team examines the catch for bite marks and other visible injuries that may have occurred.

“Seals will often bite into the belly of the fish to eat the livers,” Bocconcelli said.

Then, the researchers review the video footage for any depredation events and can later correlate the imagery with stomach content analysis data if necessary to verify what a particular animal was feeding on. Gray seals aren’t always the culprits—spiny dogfish and harbor seals are among the other predators known to scavenge from fishing nets as well.

A level playing field
The study, funded through grants from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Marine Mammal Commission, was launched last summer and is expected to run through the end of 2019.

Feeney says the collaboration so far has been strong, something he credits to mutual respect between him and the scientists.

“We’re all on the same even playing field, and no one is pulling the ‘I’m a scientist’ or ‘I’m a fisherman’ card,” he said. “Commercial fishermen and seals need to coexist, so we’re all just working hard to come up with answers.”

The cameras have collected close to 100 hours of video footage, which is still being analyzed. The researchers feel the camera array will be invaluable for documenting the behavior of seals engaged in depredation and thus help to inform commercial fishermen on measures they can take to prevent these costly interactions.

“If we see that most interactions happen at a certain time, it might help the fishermen tune their fishing to maximize their catch without having to worry as much about the presence of predators,” Nichols said in the release. “Or maybe they can reconfigure their gear if they see a lot of interactions happening at the top or bottom of their nets. It puts the knowledge and decision-making ability in the fisherman’s hands.”

Bocconcelli agrees and says another measure that fishermen could take is shortening their soak times to give seals and other predators less time to get at the catch. This could also lower seal mortality rates associated with entanglements.

Advocates sound alarm on unfolding disaster in salmon fishing industry
The Canadian Press - September 9, 2019
VANCOUVER — First Nation and union leaders say there is a desperate need for relief for commercial salmon fishermen on British Columbia's coast.

Bristol Bay Salmon Are in Hot Water
This past summer, high water temperatures contributed to the deaths of more than 100,000 salmon.
Hakai Magazine by Nick Rahaim - September 11, 2019
I stood on the deck of a fishing boat this past summer, soaked from sweating inside my rain gear after an hour of picking sockeye salmon from our gill net at the mouth of the Nushagak River on Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Fishing is hard enough work, but an early July heatwave sizzled the region, making for grueling conditions on deck. The temperature in southwest Alaska pushed 32 °C. Smoke blowing in from wildfires burning hundreds of kilometers east blotted out the mountains on the northern horizon. Nothing about the conditions was normal.

Federal Register
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pollock in Statistical Area 610 in the Gulf of Alaska
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 09/11/2019
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for pollock in Statistical Area 610 in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the C season allowance of the 2019 total allowable catch of pollock for Statistical Area 610 in the GOA.

NPFMC meets in Homer September 30 – October 9
Saving Seafood by North Pacific Fishery Management Council - September 10, 2019
The following was released by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in Homer for the first time since July 1983, when Homer-area resident Clem Tillion was then serving as Council chairman. The Council will be in Homer again September 30 through October 9, 2019. Fishery managers, commercial and recreational fishermen, fishing families, and other local and regional stakeholders are all encouraged to attend.

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

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