Commercial fishing industry tests COVID plans prior to season
KDLL by Elizabeth Earl - June 11, 2020
With more sockeye salmon coming back into the inlet, commercial fishing season in Cook Inlet is due to get underway in the next few weeks. But this season is different for everyone, from processors to set netters.
Alaska’s Active Cases Highest Since Pandemic Began, Fishery-related Now 40
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - June 11, 2020
Alaska’s total coronavirus curve continues its vertical rise this week with yesterday’s announcement of 190 active cases, the highest recorded since the coronavirus appeared in the state.
Total cumulative cases are now 644 positives: 593 resident and 51 non-resident. Of those 51, 40 are related to the seafood industry.
With a death at an Anchorage extended care center, Alaska’s long-static death count rose to 11 earlier this week.
By Wednesday, Unalaska’s case count rose to eight, seven of which are employees of Icicle Seafoods, all asymptomatic. Icicle flew 38 plant workers in to Unalaska by private charter plane on May 27. All had tested negative for the virus before they boarded the plane in Seattle. All began a 14-day quarantine in Icicle’s bunkhouse and were separated from other workers there.
“All of our employees who are heading to Alaska test in Seattle prior to arrival," Julianne Curry, Icicle’s public affairs manager, explained in a KUCB radio interview earlier this week.
"They arrive at a hotel, they receive a PCR test for COVID by a nurse practitioner, and they quarantine. Once those results come back negative, they're cleared for travel up to Alaska.”
"We then transport them as safely as we can up to the worksite," continued Curry. "Once they arrive at the Northern Victor bunkhouse facility, they are quarantined with their quarantine group. We test our employees again on day six after arrival — as per our company plan, but also as per the recommendations in the State of Alaska Health Mandate 10, appendix 1 as it applies to seafood processing workers. And after the test on day six, we test them again on day 12 prior to their release from quarantine on day 14.”
The first three positive results -- on June 3 and 4 -- were from asymptomatic individuals who were immediately isolated. The remaining 35 workers began another 14-day quarantine period, KUCB reported. Those were tested again Wednesday and four more positive test results were found. All are symptomatic, Curry told KUCB. Because additional members of the quarantine group tested positive, the remaining workers will restart another 14-day quarantine.
Late Wednesday the Unalaska City Council beefed up their local health mandates to remove an exception on quarantining for day-visitors off the ferry, essentially keeping them on the boat while in harbor.
Recent increases in Alaska resident cases came from an employee of Alaska’s ferry system infecting other workers on the M/V Tustemena, the ferry serving the longest route in the state, from Homer out to the Aleutian Islands. A total of six new cases were announced on Tuesday.
King Cove, AK had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a seafood worker, when they began suffering from symptoms and were tested, reported Alaska Public Media on Tuesday. The worker is an employee of Peter Pan Seafoods according to the report.
“I was told that one of the employees that came up to process salmon came up on Saturday on the charter [flight] from Seattle,” Henry Mack, King Cove mayor, told APM. “And apparently they had symptoms either this morning or yesterday and got tested today with positive COVID-19.”
In a related story that did not name King Cove because the population is less than 1,000, Dillingham-based KDLG radio reported that the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation administered the test and immediately isolated the patient who tested positive. Others living in the worker’s facility all tested negative as of Monday night.
“The other members of course, are in quarantine, because they now have been exposed to a known positive case, and the anticipation would be that they will all be quarantined from the remainder of the community,” BBAHCs clinical director, Dr. Cathy Hyndman told KDLG.
BBAHC will provide additional testing in the coming weeks. Hyndman said the person who tested positive is in stable condition.
Wholesale Price of Frozen Alaska Pollock in Korea Soars 58.6% to KRW 53,600
SeafoodNews.com by Tom Asakawa - June 12, 2020
Korea Agro-Trade Center announced on June 5 that the wholesale price of frozen Alaska pollock was KRW 53600/carton of 20kg ($44.68/20 carton or $2.23/kg), according to a fishery coop in Hokkaido. The price rose 58.6% from KRW 33,800/carton ($28.18/carton or $1.41/kg) a year ago, and 33.6% higher than the previous year’s annual average of KRW 41,300/carton ($34.44 or $1.72/kg). The retail price of KRW 2,614/fish ($2.18/fish) rose 20.4% from KRW 2,171/fish ($1.81/fish) a year ago, which is also up 7% from KRW 2,442/fish ($2.04/fish) of the previous year. The decrease in supply is attributed to a breakup of the Russia-Korea fishery agreement, which ousted the Korean pollock fleet from the Russian EEZ. Korea’s annual consumption of pollock is about 380,000 tons.
Korea also imports frozen pollock from Russia, which comprises nearly 95% of the total imports. Frozen pollock from Russia in 2019 decreased by 28% to $141 million and 36% to 122,224 tons. The United States exported a mere 6,627 tons, 5% of Korea’s total import in 2019.
The United States exported $73 million worth of pollock fillets, whereas Russia exported only $462,000. By volume, Korea imported 21,814 tons out of the world total of 22,141 tons.
Japan exports fresh Alaska pollock to Korea. Nearly 98% of the total of Korea’s pollock imports are from Japan. In 2019. Korea imported 2,188 tons valued at $6.7 million from Japan in 2019 out of a 2,240-ton total import. The 2019 import value was down 36% from $10.4 million year-on-year. The import volume decreased by 38% from 3,545 tons of 2018. However, this season, fresh exports to Korea stalled due to the too-small size of the fish harvested in waters off Hokkaido. Processors in Hokkaido freeze the small fish for shipping to Korea, according to informed sources.
COVID concerns thwart NOAA and other researchers’ plans to study a Bering Sea in flux
KNOM by Davis Hovey - June 10, 2020
Several research ventures slated to take place in the Bering Strait Region this summer have been postponed or outright canceled. Additionally, a regional tribal consortium in Nome is calling for all researchers coming in from the outside to reconsider traveling this season.
NOAA has robotic solution to Alaska Pollock survey
Cordova Times - June 10, 2020
Federal fisheries scientists faced with having to cancel Alaska Pollock surveys in the Bering Sea because of a global pandemic will use autonomous surface vehicles to collect the data needed to support management of the nation’s largest commercial fishery.
Gulf of Alaska heating up, not at heatwave yet
KDLL by Elizabeth Earl - June 11, 2020
Temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska are on the upswing again, which could be bad news for fish and other marine animals.
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