Hotly contested Cook Inlet board meeting looms
Alaska Journal of Commerce by Elizabeth Earl - January 15, 2020
In less than a month, fisheries stakeholders from all over the Cook Inlet basin will get together to hash out how salmon should be split up in some of the most populated, heavily-fished streams and marine waters of the state.
GAPP explores Pollock opportunities in China
Cordova Times - January 15, 2020
Representatives of the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers were in Shanghai, China, for early in January to explore opportunities for export, funded in large part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Gulf of Alaska Cod Likely to Lose 2020 MSC Certification Due to Ocean Warming
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - January 15, 2020
Update: The RFM Certification is not under expedited audit for GOA Pcod; only the MSC Certification is. The article has been corrected.
It’s all but certain that Gulf of Alaska cod will lose its MSC sustainability certification in a few months, due to incremental decreases in the stock that now brings it just below a critical reference point. That prompted a federal closure in the Gulf, and now will likely mean a suspension -- the word itself telegraphs misdeeds and penalties -- of the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification of a sustainable fishery.
The closure of the federal fishery and a drastic reduction in a much smaller state-managed fishery are the two most important actions to ensure long-term sustainability of the stock, but those actions win no awards for 2020. Stakeholders and managers who closely monitor the Gulf’s dynamic ecosystem have said populations of Pacific cod in the Gulf could rebound this year, moving above the reference point and opening the fishery for 2021. In that case, MSC would call for another expedited audit to review the survey results and model calculations and, perhaps, declare the fishery sustainable once again.
Certification schemes have always been about giving consumers an easy way (the logo on packages or appearance on a watch list of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fisheries) to determine if their purchasing choices are environmentally correct. Now that climate change is impacting management of fish stocks around the world, it may be helpful for consumers to know the difference between a well-managed fishery that has experienced a decrease in population due to ‘natural’ forces and one that is truly ‘overfished’.
The Gulf of Alaska Pcod fishery has never been overfished. The abundance of caution practiced by the federal and state managers has kept the annual catch below the Annual Biological Catch (ABC) and far below the Over Fishing Limit (OFL).
In addition, the management of GOA cod includes an ecosystem component that requires enough cod must be left in the water every year as prey for Stellar sea lions. This factor was an important one in deliberations by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council last month, when they established the TAC for cod.
With the suspension -- which won’t be official until the expedited audit is complete, a process that includes public comment -- comes the prohibition on using MSC logos on the packages of cod coming from the State managed fishery or from legal incidental catches in non-directed fisheries. Alaskan processors are being notified now that logo use is allowed up to the official determination, expected around April 1, and banned after that until new information on the stock health is released, likely in November 2020, and a second certification audit is completed.
However, the Responsible Fisheries Management certification, a standard owned by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, is scheduled for recertification this year, but not under an expedited audit. RFM accounts for climate-change impacts to fisheries in its standard. So a potential time-certain ban on RFM's certification logo is not an issue at this time.
MSC has been addressing the issue of climate-change triggered suspensions of the sustainability certification.
“MSC criteria to certify fisheries focuses on three main principles that aim to assure 1)sustainable target fish stocks, 2) environmental impact of fishing, and, 3) effective management,” said Jackie Marks, Senior PR Manager for MSC-US in Washington, D.C.
The current audit is on the first principle only.
“Suspensions can occur when fisheries’ score poorly against any of the indicators related to these principles. In the case of Pcod, there’s evidence that above average water temperatures have severely impacted the population recruitment. Regardless of the driver that has reduced the stock, the data shows that the stock biomass is below what is consider healthy by the research and management agencies," she said.
“We recognize that climate change is impacting fisheries across the world and shifting stock dynamics, and currently under our fisheries standard review we are studying different ways that will allow us to better consider climate change. However, currently our standard does not directly addresses climate change, again, it does however monitors changes in the health of stocks and ecosystems and how the management respond to them regardless of the driver of change.
“The CAB will announce any potential suspension based on the report that sustains that decision, thus the announcement will reflect the reasons behind a suspension,” said Marks.
MSC’s website uses two fisheries as examples of MSC-certified fisheries that have been impacted by climate change and lost certification as a result -- North Esast Atlantic mackerel and North Sea cod.
“There has been a rapid change in Atlantic mackerel distribution since 2007. Stocks have moved northward as sea temperatures rise," the website reads. "The change in the movement of mackerel has resulted in disputes between coastal states over how to share fishery resources. With fish moving across geo-political boundaries there is a lack of agreement on how best to manage the stock,” so MSC certification for North East Atlantic mackerel was suspended in March 2019, affecting fisheries operating in eight countries. MSC has added that a new harvest strategy is expected by mid-2020.
Recent declines in the North Sea cod stock has been, MSC reports, “attributed in part to changing climate. This change has resulted in fewer juvenile cod surviving to adulthood. Having fewer adult fish has made sustainable fishing of the cod stock more difficult. Because of this problem, MSC certification of North Sea cod fisheries was suspended in September 2019.”
Managers of North Sea cod have committed to measures to rebuild cod stocks over the next five years.
Meanwhile, Dr. Steven Barbeaux of NOAA Fisheries, the lead author of the most recent stock assessment of Gulf of Alaska cod, described in detail the specific impact of the high ocean temperatures on the survival of cod during the years 2014-2016.
First, he wrote, the marine heat wave of 2014-2016 in the Northeast Pacific was unusual in how high the temperature rose, that it stayed warm through the winters, and how deep it reached. More food is needed the hotter the ocean is. Cod can mitigate this by moving to cooler waters or findings areas with more food. Without that, “decreases in growth or increases in mortality may occur,” he said.
“In fact, Pacific cod did need more food in the GOA during 2014-2016. Stomach fullness of Pacific cod sampled from the GOA summer bottom trawl survey was lowest to date in 2015, and diet composition varied from earlier years with a 48% drop in bairdi crab and an absence of capelin which had been abundant, particularly in smaller Pacific cod, during 2011 and 2013.
"In order to survive during those warm years, Pacific cod would have had to eat 6-12% more every day...” Barbeaux wrote in the assessment.
Because the impact was felt on those year’s adults and young, there is some evidence of increasing recruits in the year’s since the waters cooled, beginning in late 2016. Scientists will know more after the data is compiled following the summer surveys in the Gulf of Alaska.
How Seafood Fits Into The Phase One Trade Deal With China
Urner Barry by Amanda Buckle - January 16, 2020
On Wednesday the United States and China signed the "Phase One" economic and trade agreement, a deal that requires "structural reforms and other changes to China's economic and trade regime in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange." A fact sheet released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative boasts that the agreement will "provide U.S. fishermen and seafood companies expanded access to China's rapidly growing market for imported seafood products."
The partial trade deal with China, which also includes a commitment from China to purchase an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods over the next two years, was welcomed by National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly.
"The National Fisheries Institute commends the President for completing phase-one of this vital trade effort," said Connelly. "Knocking down nontariff barriers, cracking open markets, and ensuring China follows through on global commitments are essential for American fisheries to succeed globally. We urge the Administration to work swiftly towards a phase-two solution that sees tariffs, import and export, removed so jobs in all sectors of American fisheries benefit."
Seafood falls under the agricultural goods category. Out of the additional $200 billion in U.S. goods that China agreed to buy over the next two years, CNBC reports that the number includes $12.5 billion for agricultural goods in 2020, and $19.5 billion for agricultural goods in 2021.
When looking at seafood specifically regarding the deal, the USTR reports that China has agreed to the following terms:
-Approve 26 species of seafood for importation into China. This list includes Antarctic Krill, Chinook/ King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Coho Salmon, Pink Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Freshwater Drum, Bowfin Roe, White Shrimp, Western White Shrimp, Southern White Shrimp, Alaska Skate/ Skate Wings, Conch Meats, Harlequin Rockfish, Widow Rockfish, Shortraker Rockfish, Rougheye Rockfish, Redstripe Rockfish, American Shad, Pollock (oil), and Pacific Whiting (oil). Find the list on page 91.
-Allow imports from U.S. seafood and fishmeal facilities that re in good standing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
-Ensure it updates seafood and fishmeal facility registrations within 20 business days of receipt from the FDA and NOAA; and
-Ensure the continued use of existing bilaterally-agreed certifications issued by NOAA.
In addition to the above achievements that the agreement makes, China will no longer require routine audits or inspections of U.S. aquatic product facilities. With that said, China will be able to perform "risk-based audits," but only in coordination with relevant U.S. authorities.
As for tariffs? Don't expect them to be reversed until a "Phase Two" trade deal, which President Trump says will likely be finalized after the November election.
"I'm leaving them on because otherwise we have no cards to negotiate with," Trump told the press. "But they will all come off as soon as we finish Phase Two."
More information on exporting seafood to China can be found here and here.
Plastics: US Senate takes another shot at marine debris
Alaska Public Media by Liz Ruskin - January 14, 2020
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that aims to reduce plastic debris in the oceans.
The bill, called Save Our Seas 2.0, is sponsored by Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. It emphasizes outreach to other countries that are the major sources of plastic marine debris. The bill also has grants for studies to improve domestic infrastructure for waste-handling, and it launches a “genius” prize of at least $100,000 to encourage innovation. It was drafted with the cooperation of the plastics industry.
Labeling and Marketing
Marketing efforts paying off for Bristol Bay sockeye
Alaska Journal of Commerce by Elizabeth Earl - January 15, 2020
In Alaska, Bristol Bay is nearly synonymous with sockeye salmon. But in the Lower 48, marketers are still trying to raise awareness for the brand and increase sales for the famously plentiful fish.
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