Humpy harvest in PWS climbs to 8.4M
Copper River District likely to remain closed to commercial fishing until coho arrive in August
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - July 31, 2020
Commercial fisheries statewide are shifting from sockeye to pink salmon, in a challenging year which has seen the cumulative commercial harvest in Prince William Sound as the fourth lowest harvest to date in 50 years.
Fish Factor: Seafood industry stakeholders must comment soon on several issues
Cordova Times by Laine Welch - July 31, 2020
Alaska’s seafood industry stakeholders have a four-bagger chance to provide input on policy decisions that directly affect their livelihoods: trade, relief payouts for cod and salmon, Board of Fisheries meeting plans and appointees. For several, the window of opportunity is tight.
Senate Commerce Heard from Campbell, Cantwell, Others On Pebble, COVID, and Stock Surveys
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - July 31, 2020
A Senate Hearing to “Examine Building a Stronger and More Resilient Seafood Sector” brought members of three regional councils and leadership at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together to describe the critical challenges before the sector this year.
“I’m reminded of what the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown said,” began ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), in her opening remarks.
“The late Secretary Brown told us here, perhaps in this same room, ‘I’m the Secretary of Commerce, and all the issues that Commerce oversees. But I guarantee you that if a member of Congress is calling me, it’s about fish.”
With that, Cantwell highlighted the economic contributions the nation's seafood industry provides to the economy and the devastating impacts COVID-19 has had on it. She called for a streamlined fishery disaster process — saying it’s about “getting dollars out the door” — not the “slow and inefficient and cumbersome” process it is now.
West Coast fisheries have had a $21 million decrease of revenue already this year, a 40 percent decline compared to the previous five-year average. In January alone, Washington Dungeness crab fishery saw a 37 percent decline in revenue of the prior year.
Overall, U.S. seafood sales have dropped an estimated 95 percent in 2020.
“Despite this staggering economic data, many fishermen have not been able to access the COVID relief funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, the Main Street Lending Program, or even qualify for unemployment based on the nature of their businesses and tax structures,” Cantwell said. “USDA food purchase programs have not been able to provide the support for most seafood products, and some USDA programs, including the Farmers to Families Box Program, specifically block wild caught seafood from eligibility to the program, another blow to the industry.”
Cora Campbell, a member of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and President, CEO of Silver Bay Seafoods, agreed that USDA food purchase programs have been critical.
"Section 32 purchases are a lifeline to the seafood industry in times like this, and we appreciate any Congressional support of this program. We also appreciate that President Trump directed USDA to consider assistance for “other segments” of the seafood industry as it considers financial support for lobster; because we face the same impacts of the same retaliatory tariffs, we ask for the same consideration,” Campbell said.
But Campbell wanted to emphasize the impact the pandemic has had on NOAA Fisheries surveys. The NPFMC cancelled five of six large-scale NOAA assessment surveys this year due to the pandemic.
“These surveys serve as our fundamental data source to support groundfish stock assessments and ecosystem assessments and are NOAA’s most critical responsibility to meet its mission of monitoring the health and sustainability of living marine resources and their habitat.
”The Council is concerned with the potential consequences of not conducting surveys in 2020 due to COVID-19 challenges, which will be even more severe if 2021 surveys are not completed. At our June meeting, our scientific advisors noted that loss of the 2020 surveys will increase uncertainty in stock status and projections. This may result in more conservative harvest levels, particularly for crab, Alaska pollock, Pacific cod, and some rockfish species. These are primary species in the North Pacific, encompassing valuable crab stocks, and groundfish species that comprise more than 82% of our total harvests in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Rapidly changing distributions and populations in recent years, particularly for Alaska pollock and Pacific cod, increases the importance of the baseline NOAA survey effort,” Campbell said.
“The Council is hopeful that our long survey time series and NOAA’s investments in modeling and other data sources will temper the effect of one missing survey year but completing 2021 surveys is an imperative.”
Campbell said a full survey fleet would include 5-6 vessels to cover the Northern Bering Sea, the Eastern Bering Sea, and the Gulf of Alaska.
“We recently sent a request to NOAA for a survey plan for 2021 that includes all of our planned core surveys, and that provides for COVID-19 contingencies related to vessel operations and labor, as well as a plan for funding. We need a robust plan for conducting surveys in 2021,” Campbell emphasized.
Alaska’s annual wild seafood harvest of 5 to 6 billion pounds supports nearly 60,000 jobs and generates nearly $14 billion in U.S. economic output each year. But this economic foundation is eroding, Campbell told the committee.
“Since before COVID-19, our industry has been struggling in the face of tariffs that limit our access to the world’s biggest seafood markets; loss of a critical meal tax deduction; uncertainty in securing a sufficient workforce for large volume fisheries; and habitat threats due to proposed development projects. Now, the pandemic is adding new costs and uncertainties, and exacerbating old ones,” Campbell explained.
“In the past several months, Alaska seafood processors have spent tens of millions of dollars implementing proactive health and safety protocols to ensure we are minimizing risks to Alaska communities, protecting our seasonal and resident workforce, and maintaining operations. These costs include implementing initial quarantines for up to 18,000 workers, which can include hotel, food, and daily medical screening; testing (often multiple times) for every worker; hiring medical professionals to provide daily screening and be on-site at plants; PPE; medical supplies; sanitation supplies; modifications to ensure better social distancing on the processing line; security to maintain closed facilities and chartering aircraft to move workers safely,” she explained.
“These are significant and unique costs due directly to COVID- 19, but they are necessary in order to operate, and protect the food supply chain, the workforce, and Alaska communities.
“Remember, the industry is taking on these costs out of pocket at the same time we are facing severe disruption in key markets and multiple pre-COVID cost burdens. While a fraction of these costs may be reimbursed, we face significant uncertainty because there’s no specific Congressional directive to support health and safety protocol costs for critical seafood supply chains.”
Campbell thanked Congress for their swift action to direct funds to fishermen and the seafood industry, and “strongly urged” them, during the second round of funding, to “clearly authorize funding and spending authority for such costs for the seafood industry, and to ensure that any such financial support extended to farmers and ranchers is also extended to fishermen.
"This should be seen as an investment that not only protects health and safety, but that also retains seafood processing jobs, enables us to take deliveries of seafood from thousands of independent fishermen, and provides access to healthy American product to seafood consumers,” Campbell said.
Other witnesses were Leann Bosarge, member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; Paul Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator of Operations NOAA; and Philip Anderson, Chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Cantwell concluded her opening remarks with a strong comment on the Pebble mine issue.
“In closing I would be remiss if I did not mention my opposition and disappointment in the administration’s actions in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Instead of focusing on getting recovery dollars out the door to protect the seafood sector, the administration is paving the way towards permitting the Pebble mine. Salmon habitat and mining do not mix. The mine will kill salmon and thousands of American jobs that depend on them if any accidents were to occur,” Cantwell said.
“It is beyond unconscionable that the administration continues to threaten the largest salmon fishery in the world instead of focusing on the catastrophic failure that we are seeing because of the pandemic.
“This is like a one-two gut punch to the industry,” she said.
"By failing to engage in this process in a formal manner, NOAA has abdicated its responsibility to salmon management. NOAA has turned its back on 14,000 jobs and a $1.5 billion sockeye salmon sector that is the largest in the world. As I’ve said many times, we must let science lead. And the administration is not listening to science and NOAA is not sticking up for the science,” Cantwell said.
East Coast Fishery
NOAA establishes national-level criteria for observer waivers in wake of criticism
Seafood Source by Chris Chase - July 31, 2020
NOAA Fisheries announced on 30 July that it has identified national-level observer waiver criteria, and that the redeployment of observers in the Northeast U.S. will begin 14 August.
Culvert installation marks first step of multi-year project
Expanded passageways will allow salmon to migrate and spawn more freely around watershed
Cordova Times by Zachary Snowdon Smith - August 1, 2020
The third of three fish-friendly culverts was placed along the Copper River Highway Monday, July 27. The 20-foot-wide “box” culverts replaced narrower culverts which prevented fish from migrating freely around the Copper River Watershed. These three culverts, installed near the highway’s 25-mile marker, were among 13 culverts around the watershed that will be replaced or removed as part of an ongoing project expected to take several years to complete.
Labeling and Marketing
3MMI - Buyer’s Update: The Current Salmon Situation
TradexFoods - August 3, 2020
Alaska's Summer Salmon Harvest reached over 60 million fish last week translating to about 45 percent of the 132.7 million fish forecasted for the 2020 Season. Sockeye harvest in Alaska is nearly complete as the fishing is winding down and fishermen start shifting gears to Pink Salmon. The 2020 Alaskan Chum Salmon Season is being cited as one of the worst in at least 12 years with many processors giving up on holding out for the run.
BOF will accept agenda change requests through Aug. 13
Cordova Times - August 2, 2020
Alaska Board of Fisheries officials are reminding commercial fishing entities that the deadline for submissions for 2020/2021 meeting cycle agenda change requests is Aug. 13.
SE Alaska fishermen donate fish for Oregon food relief
Cordova Times - August 2, 2020
Alaskans Own, a program of Sitka-based small boat fisheries and others, has stepped up to help feed people in the Pacific Northwest hard hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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