In survey, Alaska fishermen offer guidance for use of pandemic relief funds
Anchorage Daily News by Laine Welch - May 26, 2020
A rapid survey response by nearly 800 Alaska fishermen will provide a guideline for giving them a hand up as the coronavirus swamps their operations.
Regional Pink, Chum, Silver Runs Expected To Be Well Above Average This Summer
KNOM by Davis Hovey - May 26, 2020
Following top five record harvests of silver and chum salmon in the Norton Sound last year, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is projecting even better salmon numbers for the region this summer.
The Alaskan Salmon Industry Faces Off Against COVID-19
Coronavirus recently arrived in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and some local leaders want to cancel the multi-million-dollar sockeye salmon harvest entirely.
Food & Wine by Betsy Andrews - May 19, 2020
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and antioxidants, sockeye is health food for your heart, brain, eyes, and skin. And given the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s careful management of the fishery, it’s a sustainable resource. In 2018, according to the ADFG, 63 million sockeye returned, and a record 41.9 million of them were netted. Bristol Bay is, by far, the world’s largest sockeye fishery, and the biggest salmon fishery in Alaska. It is a well-tended natural bounty valued at more than $1 billion. Along with the other salmon fisheries in Bristol Bay, it returns an annual $14.7 million to local governments and employs a third of the residents in the largely indigenous communities. Norman Van Vactor, President and CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC), estimates that, all totaled, salmon fishing brings up to $200 million into the region each year.
Another COVID-19 First: Five Key Surveys Canceled in Alaska, Sablefish Survey Still Planned
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - May 26, 2020
In an “unprecedented” move, NOAA Fisheries alerted the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council last Friday that it is cancelling five critical surveys this year in Alaska.
“Due to the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unique challenges those are creating for the agency” the Aleutian Islands bottom trawl survey, the eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey, the northern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey, the Bering Sea pollock acoustics survey, and the Fall Ecosystem Survey have all been cancelled.
The annual Alaska Longline Survey for sablefish and groundfish will take place as planned.
The data from these surveys give scientists an annual understanding of where species populations are trending in stock size, geographic location, and individual health. There are other metrics available to create stock assessment models, such as commercial catch and observer coverage, but surveys have been a keystone in the sustainable management of Alaska’s billion-dollar annual fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The species include pollock, which makes up more than half of the annual 2 million metric ton catch in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, cod, bottomfish and crab.
While pollock is the nation’s largest catch in sheer size, and the most valuable in Alaska, how this decision will impact Pacific cod is more of a concern for many industry members.
In a May 22 letter to the NPFMC, Alvin Osterback, mayor of the Aleutians East Borough, said the “lack of any groundfish surveys this year in the Western Gulf of Alaska will exasperate an already desperate situation for our local Pacific cod fishermen.”
The Gulf of Alaska federal cod fishery was closed in 2020 due to a drop in the stock caused by the extreme heat phenomenon known as the Blob that kept the Gulf warm from 2014-2016. Scientists have theorized that two year classes were killed during that event.
Unlike the annual surveys in the Bering Sea, the bottom trawl survey in the Gulf of Alaska is scheduled for every other year. This year is an off year so no survey would have be done anyway. But Osterback noted that “since the US Government Shutdown of January 2019 curtailed the Shumagin Islands portion of the 2019 bottom trawl survey, there is already a crucial data point missing for assessing the strength of the [Western Gulf of Alaska] cod stock.”
NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Science Center says this is inaccurate. "The 2019 federal government shutdown ended before the summer bottom trawl survey was started and did not lead to a shift in the region sampled by the bottom trawl survey in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), which is used to assess Pacific cod and other species," said Marjorie Mooney-Seus, Communications Program Manager for the Center.
There is a state-waters Pacific cod fishery that has been watched carefully during the federal closure.
“This State Pacific cod fishery has been extremely productive recently and the data should be closely examined and accounted for in the stock assessment,” Osterback pointed out in his letter to the Council.
Mooney-Seus said that and other sources of data will be reviewed in detail, as they are each year to assess Pacific cod. "These include the State of Alaska port sampling data from the state fishery catch, the federal fishery catch data, and data from the Alaska longline survey, which will be conducted this year," she added.
Osterback's letter will be considered at the NPFMC June meeting, when the survey decision will be addressed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee first on June 1, then the entire Council on June 8, 2020.
The notice from NOAA Fisheries came after two months of deliberations “and rigorous analysis of various options for conducting surveys this year,” the agency said.
They found “no way to move forward with a survey plan that effectively minimizes risks to staff, crew, and the communities associated with the surveys. For instance, conducting the key groundfish and crab surveys in a limited timeframe would require extraordinarily long surveys, well beyond standard survey operations. Extended quarantines for the survey team prior to and following surveys would also be necessary to ensure survey team and public health and safety.”
Still, the agency will continue collecting acoustic data using unmanned surface vehicles to support the pollock assessment; work with federal, state and industry partners to collect other fisheries, oceanographic, and ecosystem data, and use fisheries observer data.
“NOAA Fisheries is continuing to reassess the status of other surveys and working through numerous survey scenarios relative to community pandemic safeguards and safe work practices, so that we maximize the science available for fisheries management in this challenging year.”
COVID-19 Cases Increase at Snail’s Pace, Seafood Communities and Industry Hyper Aware of Threat
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - May 22, 2020
Alaska’s COVID-19 curve resembles the ripple in a pond -- high where the rock hit the water back in April, with much lower wave crests as the ripple comes to shore. Today’s projected curve shows a slight increase in the coming weeks, with more fishermen and processing workers arriving. The state reported three additional cases this week.
People in Alaska’s coastal communities are as familiar with the changing data as they are with the day’s weather report. Of interest in most fishing towns, as well as with the state’s epidemiological experts, is whether the person is a resident or if the virus came from outside Alaska.
Of the three cases identified Wednesday, two were non-resident seafood workers in Anchorage. Both were tested during their first 14-day quarantine (mandated in Alaska for all visitors) and both were immediately isolated. Their positive results now brings total non-resident cases to 12, seven of which are in the seafood industry.
In terms of geographic location of positive cases, Cordova still has one and Dillingham had one who was relocated to Anchorage for a 14-day quarantine. Both of those cases were asymptomatic. The others are located in Kodiak, Anchorage, and Southeast Alaska, but it is expected each of Alaska’s fishing ports will have positive cases as more members of the industry arrive to fish and process.
The latest state resident positive cases are from Anchorage, Kotzebue and the combined Bristol Bay and Lake and Peninsula boroughs respectively, bringing the state resident total to 402 cases of the disease. With the non-resident cases, that total reaches 414 confirmed cases. Of those, 352 have recovered, 16 active cases are in the hospital, and a total of 37,045 tests have been conducted. All positive cases have been investigated for contact tracing.
Coastal communities, particularly in Bristol Bay which will see an influx of 10,000-12,000 workers next month, maintain their concern that Alaska’s COVID-19 curve will increase as fishing opens up across the state. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink told Dillingham’s KDLG that the state is taking steps to increase non-resident worker testing.
The Native leadership in the Bristol Bay area as well as borough and municipal leaders their, continue to ask the state for further help as the region prepares for the 2020 Bristol Bay salmon season.
The second person to test positive in the Bristol Bay region is not associated with the seafood industry, Louisa Castrodale with the Department of Health and Social Services, told KDLG.
"We are still investigating with partners to figure out the specifics of exposures," Castrodale said.
Meanwhile, the Cordova City Council agreed to a ‘soft’ business opening in the small municipality that is home to the Copper River and Prince William sound salmon fleet. Local leaders have struggled to allow businesses to open and maintain a series of protocal to protect residents from the virus. Any further relaxation of COVID-19 protocols will not happen until June 2.
Testing capacity in Cordova has increased to about 1,100, according to data published May 18 by the city, the Cordova Times reported. Three hundred and fifty-five tests have been conducted, of which 319 have returned negative results and 35 are awaiting results, Cordova’s mayor announced May 19.
Labeling and Marketing
ASMI partners to promote takeout seafood menu
Cordova Times - May 26, 2020
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has launched a promotion to help restaurants in the industry’s changing landscape of food service takeout and delivery with a video series showcasing opportunities to feature seafood to go.
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