Friday, September 20, 2019

September 20, 2019

Alaska/Pacific Coast

At 56.5 million fish, the 2019 salmon season smashes expectations
KDLG by Isabelle Ross - September 19, 2019
Bristol Bay’s 2019 salmon run wasn’t record-breaking. But new numbers released by the state show the season was still astounding; the preliminary exvessel price is the highest in the fishery's history.
https://www.kdlg.org/post/565-million-fish-2019-salmon-season-smashes-expectations#stream/0

Feds seek expanded habitat protection as salmon, orcas battle climate change, habitat degradation
Seattle Times by Lynda V. Mapes - September 18, 2019
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/feds-seek-expanded-habitat-protection-as-salmon-orcas-battle-climate-change-habitat-degradation/


Environment/Science
New study estimates vulnerability of Eastern Bering Sea stocks to climate change
Fis.com - September 19, 2019
Scientists look at potential impacts of changing ocean temperatures and other environmental conditions on Alaska ecosystems.
NOAA scientists and partners have released a Climate Vulnerability Assessment for groundfish, crabs, and salmon in the Eastern Bering Sea. They looked at the potential impacts of changing climate, ocean temperatures, and other environmental conditions on 36 groundfish, crab and salmon stocks. Of these, four rockfish stocks, flathead sole and Tanner crab were determined to be the most vulnerable. Several other fish stocks were seen as potentially more resilient. This is because they may be able to move to areas with more favorable environmental conditions, such as more food and optimum water temperatures for growth and survival.
https://fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=104617&ndb=1&df=0


Labeling and Marketing
Murkowski Continues Fight for Clear Labels on GE Salmon
Alaska Native News - September 20, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a member of the Appropriations Committee, Thursday announced a provision within the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 to prevent the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) salmon to the U.S. market until a consumer study is completed, determining the effectiveness of USDA’s recent labeling guidelines for bioengineered foods.
https://alaska-native-news.com/murkowski-continues-fight-for-clear-labels-on-ge-salmon/44711/


FYI’s
VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide
Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter
The Northern View by Karissa Gall - September 17, 2019
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has released drone footage documenting the work done to help migrating salmon after a disastrous landslide in the Fraser River.
https://www.thenorthernview.com/news/video-drone-footage-documents-work-to-free-salmon-at-big-bar-landslide/

Japanese whale research ship visits Kodiak over weekend
KMXT by Maggie Wall - September 18, 2019
A Japanese research vessel with a history of alleged whaling violations was in Kodiak over the weekend. The Yushin Maru No. 2 was tied up at the Ferry Dock early Saturday.
http://kmxt.org/2019/09/japanese-whale-research-ship-visits-kodiak-over-weekend/


Opinion
The Winding Glass:  What does 40 years in the American Seafood Industry look like
SeafoodNews.com by John Sackton - September 20, 2019
[The Winding Glass is the opinion and commentary column of John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews.]
I am stepping down as Publisher of SeafoodNews at the end of this month, as part of my agreement with Urner Barry and Agribriefing.  However, writing and commentary about this industry is in my blood, and happily, we have agreed that after my retirement, I will continue to write my Winding Glass column for SeafoodNews.

The name winding glass comes from an old ballad (Blow ye Winds) about whaling that starts ‘Tis Advertised in Boston, New York and Buffalo, five hundred brave Americans, a whaling for to go….  After a dozen verses, the last verse is ‘When we get home our ship made fast & we get through our sailing, a winding glass around we’ll pass and damn this blubber whaling …’

We used to sing this song to our kids nearly every night from the time they were babies, and about 15 years ago I experimented with a blog called The Winding Glass.  When I began this column that was the first name that came to mind.

I began in the seafood industry in 1977.  I came to it because I was on Nantucket with my future wife, I loved to fish, and 7 years out of college I needed a better career than being a teamster truck driver and organizer.  I applied to go back to school in the Marine Affairs program at the University of Rhode Island.  Then I set about to learn stuff on my own.  I had some background as a journalist, so I pitched an article to the National Fishermen about NOAA’s Atlantic groundfish survey, called ‘Why Scientists Don’t Fish like Fishermen’.  I pitched the same article to NMFS and was invited to spend a couple of weeks on the survey cruise on the R/V Albatross.  

Remarkably the issues that were hot in 1977 are still hot today.  From a fishermen’s point of view, why would NOAA fish where there are no fish?  Even the fishing crew on the Albatross, all from Newfoundland, thought the scientific bosses were crazy to trawl where they already knew there was no fish.  From NOAA’s point of view, how can they develop a statistical series without consistently fishing in the same spots?  Even today, fishermen routinely see more fish than they think NOAA is counting, largely because no one will spend money or time fishing at a location with no fish except NOAA.

After 40 years, it seems like I would have enough material for a book.. but that is not my intention.  Instead, I will cover some of these things in my columns over a period of time.

If I were doing a book to sum up the last 40 years of the fish and seafood industry, I would have these chapters, starting in 1978.

Wild optimism
Collapsing fisheries
Fishery Management works
The eco-labeling movement
Rights-based management
Rise of Aquaculture
End of small boat fisheries
Consolidation in the industry
Rebirth of Entrepreneurs
Global standards
Losses and Adaptation Due to Global Warming
Fish is our Future

I will take up the first couple of headings today.

Wild Optimism
When I came into the fishery, the Magnuson Stevens 200 mile limit bill had just been passed and in New England, we felt that a great Russian boot had been lifted off our necks.

Until 1976, international law allowed anyone to fish within 3 miles of our coasts, and the Russian fleet practiced pulse fishing.  They would find a healthy fish stock, come in with a massive number of trawlers and motherships that looked like an industrial city at night, harvest virtually everything including all ages and sizes of fish, and leave, not intending to return for 10 years.

They did this to New England cod and haddock.  With the 200 mile limit, we finally felt the fish was ours.  People raced to outfit boats.  Loans were plentiful.  A young person who either came from a fishing family, or was simply willing to learn and work, was quickly making a decent living from the fishery.

In New England, it was not just Gloucester or New Bedford, but smaller ports as well.  There was a full-fledged herring industry in Maine, with 8 to 10 sardine plants.  Boston’s fish pier was actually landing thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds, with companies like Fulham and Maloney running the F/V Tremont on 14-day trips to Georges Bank, and Kroger’s buyer sitting in his office on top of the Exchange building.

New Bedford was landing millions of pounds of flatfish, sometimes for only a few cents a pound.  Gloucester had whiting, herring, dogfish, cod, hake, swordfish and tuna, virtually everything you could catch with a one- or two-day trip.

At URI’s Marine Affairs program, a number of fishermen had enrolled seeing no conflict between running draggers and getting a master’s degree.

The market side was not as pretty.  It was basically buyer beware.  If someone could sell you 10-day old cod by first rinsing it to kill the odor, he would. If you bought a 5 lb block of green headless shrimp, the weight could be all over the place.  There were a few quality purveyors like MF Foley who made their reputation on high-quality groundfish, but there were so many other operators doing less that the reputation of fish in the market was terrible.  People believed that scallops were actually punched out of skate wings.  Scrod was a catchall name for cod, haddock, or hake.  If fish was going bad, many stores simply froze it.  No wonder consumers thought fish smelled and was “fishy,” or that Catholics saw eating fish on Fridays as penance.

The Collapse
The explosion of effort in New England in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s ran into an unexpected obstacle.  First, the amount of effort did begin to affect the stocks.  But secondly, kicking out the Russians, fishermen found, led to a new master, NMFS, who under Magnuson now was developing fishery management plans to tell people how to fish.

Unlike the West Coast where salmon management had a hundred-year tradition and became the foundation for Alaska’s statehood, or where Halibut had been carefully managed by International Treaty since the 1920’s, there were no comparable managed fisheries on the East Coast.

So when NMFS established quotas on cod and haddock and other species, and said they would shut down the fisheries once these quotas were reached, fishermen here exploded.

Hundreds of people flooded the council meetings, and managers rightly felt threatened.  I attend a council meeting in 1982 at which the New England council made the fateful decision to abandon quotas in the face of hundreds of angry fishermen from both Gloucester and New Bedford. Instead, the council pledged to control fishing effort through other means.

That included gear restrictions, seasonal openings and closures, closed spawning areas, mesh sizes and scallop ring sizes, all designed to keep fishing effort within the parameters sought, without implementing a hard quota after which the fishery would be closed.

They came to this after attempts at quotas were widely disregarded.   In New Bedford, night riders would routinely unload part of their trip unreported, and then report a smaller portion the next morning at the auction, or with their contract buyer.  Carlos Rafael was a product of this period, a man who never stopped believing no one could tell him no.

If an area was closed, often it would be fished and then the catch simply reported as coming from elsewhere.  It was the wild west, and NMFS had little control.

This laid the foundation for the generational distrust between New England fishermen and NOAA.

In Alaska, the situation was totally different.   Most Alaskan fishing was on salmon and halibut.  There was a crab boom, but no Americans fished pollock or cod.  That was for the Japanese.

These species were fished by Japanese vessels who operated off the coast of Alaska when there was no 200-mile limit, and after the EEZ came into being, applied to keep fishing.  The surimi industry in Japan depended on access to pollock.

Some in the US were concerned about closing off so much international water and wrote into the law regulations that would allow foreign access to EEZ’s where the host country was not catching its fish.  If Americans were not harvesting a species, foreign vessels could apply to catch those fish.

Once those were 'American' fish, though, regulation of catches and establishment of quotas quickly followed and was very popular.  If the Japanese were told they could only catch 300,000 tons, both American fishermen in joint ventures and the managers all wanted to ensure the quota was adhered to.

Furthermore, there was a rush on to Americanize the pollock fishery.  First, there were joint ventures with Japan and Russia, and American catcher vessels supplied foreign mother ships.  But Norwegians and others in Seattle knew an opportunity when they saw one, and soon Southern shipyards were cranking out American trawlers, or vessels were being sent to Norway to be cut in half and lengthened, so long as they still had an American keel.

As the fishery became Americanized, adherence to quotas and the regulations in the North Pacific continued.  When the North Pacific Council established a 2 million ton cap for all groundfish, it was done almost as an afterthought and was non-controversial, because the limits applied more to the Japanese surimi industry than to anyone else.

The difference in how the industry works today with the regional councils in both New England and Alaska still harks back to the experience of these first encounters.

Next time I hope to continue thinking about fisheries collapse.  What happened to New England flatfish, Newfoundland cod, Kodiak red king crab, Maine sardines? All these fisheries disappeared or shrunk to a tiny fraction of their former volume.  And boats started to go bankrupt.

By the mid-1980s, I was working for Baader in New Bedford, and the factory in Germany could not crank out processing machines fast enough to meet the demand for filleting machines for Newfoundland cod, flatfish and cod in New Bedford, catfish in Mississippi and most important of all, high speed pollock machines with deep skinning and roe removal for Alaska.  This enabled the pollock industry to move beyond surimi and supplant cod with deep skinned pollock blocks for buyers such as McDonalds who saw cod becoming scarcer and more expensive.
https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1152692/The-Winding-Glass-What-does-40-years-in-the-American-Seafood-Industry-look-like


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