Fisheries disaster money after ‘Blob’ just now being disbursed as new marine heatwave looms
Seattle Times by Evan Bush and Hal Bernton - September 25, 2019
The marine heatwave known as “The Blob” wreaked havoc on Northwest fisheries during 2015 and 2016, Ron Warren, fish policy director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told a Senate committee Wednesday.
Voters to decide on contentious fish tax in special election
KDLG by Isabelle Ross - September 25, 2019
The Bristol Bay Borough's general election was postponed. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 1. A special election will be held Nov. 5.
All Hands On Deck: The room where it happens
National Fisherman by Jessica Hathaway - October 1, 2019
I can’t think of a better place to celebrate National Seafood Month than the great state of Alaska — the source of more than half of our domestic supply of wild fish.
One week from today, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will open its All Hands On Deck annual meeting in Anchorage, Oct. 8-10. The usual suspects at this meeting include most of the top names in Alaska’s seafood processing sector and representatives from state, national and global seafood-related agencies and nonprofits. What is often missing is the seafood industry’s top contributor — fishermen (though there are a few; and if you know Alaska seafood, you probably already know who they are).
As an Alaska commercial fisherman, you want to be in the room where it happens. Let me tell you why.
MSC Urging Americans to Choose Seafood That's 'Good for You and the Ocean Too'
Urner Barry by Ryan Doyle - October 2, 2019
The Marine Stewardship Council is encouraging consumers across the United States to make sure the seafood they choose during National Seafood Month is ‘Good for You and the Ocean too.’
MSC will push for shoppers to choose products that feature the MSC blue label to ensure their food is coming from a sustainable source. To not only ensure the product they are putting on the table is safe to eat, but it will allow for the next generations to enjoy seafood in the future.
MSC cited their GlobeScan study that showed 77 percent of Americans regularly purchase seafood, despite USDA studies showing they don’t meet the recommendation for fish and shellfish consumption.
When it comes to sustainability, consumers are becoming more and more concerned about where their food is coming from. They want a label they can trust and one that doesn’t come from the companies themselves. The blue label provides customers with peace of mind. The MSC highlighted that 10 million tons of fish come from 300 MSC certified fisheries and 3,000 products carry the blue fish label in stores.
Throughout the month, people can engage with the MSC (@MSCBlueFish) and support National Seafood Month by using #FeelGoodSeafood for recipes and seafood prep for blue label products.
Serving Up Seafood: National Seafood Month
NOAA Fisheries - October 1, 2019
Join us for National Seafood Month 2019 and learn how we work to support healthy, sustainable seafood all year round.
October is National Seafood Month, and a fitting time to celebrate that the United States is recognized as a global leader in sustainable seafood—both wild-caught and farmed. U.S. fishermen and fish farmers operate under some of the most robust and transparent environmental standards in the world.
GUEST COMMENTARY: State has multi-year plan for fisheries priorities on federal council
Alaska Journal of Commerce by Doug Vincent-Lang, Guest commentary - September 30, 2019
Alaska’s federal fisheries for halibut, cod, pollock, flatfish, mackerel, sablefish and rockfish are economically important, both on a state and national level.
They form the cornerstones of the economies of many of our coastal communities and provide numerous jobs at the fishing, processing and transportation/shipping levels. Through exports they provide a source of nutrition worldwide. As a result, decisions regarding their management are critically important to our state.
Commentary: Alaska Marine Highway mismanagement impacts Cordova
Cordova Times by Clay Koplin - September 27, 2019
This is an open letter from Mayor Clay Koplin, originally distributed Sept. 18.
To Whom It May Concern
Dear Sirs and Madams:
The future sustainability of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is best achieved by reducing operating costs, growing revenues, and improving customer experience. We grow weary of repeating this admonition. Nearly every legislature and administration have collectively violated this basic service model to varying degrees. None have failed as completely as the current administration or caused as much harm to the strong and growing economy of Cordova, Alaska and coastal Alaskan communities like her.
Opinion: Halibut Bycatch Limits Must Drop to Protect Communities of the Bering Sea
SeafoodNews by Clem Tillion, Halibut Cove, Alaska - September 30, 2019
I sat on the North Pacific Fur Seal Commission; it was created in 1910 to manage and protect the fur seals of the Pribilof Islands. I’m one of the few Commissioners still around, and I’m still devoted to helping the communities of the Pribilofs survive – and thrive. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has the chance this week in Homer to protect the fishermen of St. Paul and St. George Islands in the Pribilofs, and many more, by protecting the halibut they harvest from the Bering Sea.
Historically, residents of St. Paul Island, most of whom are Unangan (Aleut), were conscripted by the Russian and then the United States Government in the commercial fur seal harvest. After the commercial fur seal harvest was phased out in 1983, St. Paul Island’s residents turned to commercial fisheries for their survival, with the encouragement of the US and State governments. The Pribilofs are the only Aleut region that does not have access to salmon, so the islands were granted all the halibut Community Development Quota (CDQ) in the management area surrounding them (4C). This, in turn, justified critical federal, state, local, and private infrastructure investment. Examples of these investments, which were built in part to support the halibut fishery, include the Small Boat Harbor, concluded in 2010 at a cost of almost $21 million, and the Saint Paul Harbor, which with recent improvements totaled almost $100 million.
In addition to the harbor investments, St. Paul upgraded and built a number of infrastructure facilities and utilities critical to the development of a fisheries-based economy, in which the development and pursuit of a halibut fishery weighed heavily. A bulk fuel farm; an outfall/sewer utility; water and electric utilities; a landfill; airport and road upgrades were all built over a period of 40 years at a considerable cost to the public and to the community. These investments are in the range of $30-40 million. Much of the debt on this infrastructure is still owed by the City.
All in all, over $150 million in public funds were invested on St. Paul Island after 1983 to help develop a fisheries-based economy and provide local fishermen with the infrastructure to develop and pursue the halibut fishery. Individual fishermen in turn invested their families’ futures in boats and equipment and halibut quota, and developed a thriving local halibut fishery.
The halibut fishery is currently the primary source of employment and income for St. Paul residents. Of the 391 residents of St. Paul Island, 75 participate directly in the CDQ/IFQ halibut fishery in the summer months, and depend on a viable halibut fishery for their livelihoods and survival. This figure—which includes 14 to 16 fishermen/vessel owners who each hire an average of 5 to 6 crewmembers and baiters per vessel—represents more than 35 percent of the St. Paul Island’s working-age population.
Numerous other residents of St. Paul are employed in businesses that provide support services to the halibut fishery and fleet, including fuel, storage, groceries, and catch processing and packaging. Like the fishermen, these individuals are also directly dependent upon a viable and economically sustainable halibut fishery. No source of employment is more important to the economic prosperity of the community’s residents. Unfortunately, the income generated and the participation in the local halibut fishery has fallen in the past five years to below the long-term average, as the halibut resource has declined.
St. Paul Island’s reliance on the halibut fishery is not limited to direct employment in the fishery itself. St. Paul Island is a unique community that has the largest concentrated population of Unangan and Unangam Tunuu (Aleut-speakers) in the world. As such, halibut is an important and culturally significant subsistence fishery that is key to St. Paul Island’s cultural and psychological wellbeing.
Moreover, the fishermen/vessel owners who are engaged in the directed halibut fishery are the community’s only small business owners. They are the source of economic opportunity, as well as the community’s political and business leadership. The opportunities in the halibut fishery have also attracted some younger residents back to St. Paul Island, and their children help sustain the St. Paul School. St. Paul Island’s halibut fishermen are the community’s compass holders.
Unfortunately, St. Paul Island’s economic and cultural base is in jeopardy yet again. Having transitioned its economy to halibut with the US Government’s sponsorship, the same government’s failure to place appropriate and necessary limits on halibut bycatch (Prohibited Species Catch or PSC) now threatens to deny the people of St. Paul Island continued access to the resource they were encouraged to depend upon.
From 2012 to the present, the groundfish fleets in IPHC areas 4CDE (much of the Bering Sea) have caught as bycatch in their target fisheries – and discarded as waste – more halibut than the fleet that catches halibut commercially.
Specifically, bycatch mortality in this period has been two and a half times the amount of directed halibut mortality.
The North Pacific Council has been working for four years on a new way to manage halibut bycatch, based on halibut abundance. All groundfish and salmon fisheries in the state and federal waters off Alaska, and the directed halibut fishery, are managed on species abundance. Salmon PSC limits are driven by salmon abundance.
The Council is charged with developing a program for responsible management of halibut bycatch. The groundfish harvesters must be bound by the same principles as directed users. When halibut abundance declines, commercial and sport halibut limits go down. Bycatch limits should also go down, protecting the halibut-dependent peoples and communities of the Bering Sea.
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