Wednesday, October 14, 2020

October 14, 2020

Alaska

Retail seafood sales continue to surge during Covid pandemic and are likely to continue
Fis.com by Laine Welch - October 14, 2020
One unexpected constant amid the Covid uncertainties is that people continue to buy and cook more seafood. Since March, when the pandemic led to lockdowns in the U.S. and elsewhere, consumer buying habits have busted several long held beliefs, including that Americans are reluctant to cook seafood at home.
https://fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=109966&ndb=1&df=0

North Pacific Council Sees Latest Efforts to Tie Bycatch in the Bering Sea to Halibut Abundance
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - October 13, 2020
This week the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council will see and hear from scientists, fisheries managers, and stakeholders on recent model results, a new landscape from motions made last February, and from the fleets that target flatfish and sole but sometimes catch halibut and the fleets that target halibut directly.

This is a story that could be described as yawn-inducing “inside baseball” but how the mostly-Alaska council decides could set a precedent for bycatch management in other areas of the nation and world.

What makes this problem unique is the same reason it has taken five years to get this far: Pacific halibut is broadly managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) but managed in detail, including allocations among user groups, by the federal management councils. Two of them in this case, the North Pacific and the Pacific Fisheries Management Councils.

In Alaska’s Bering Sea, however, halibut bycatch has for years been ‘taken off the top’ of annual halibut assessments by the IPHC, based on the previous year’s bycatch. This arcane practice stems from an unknown precedent, as no other bycatch species is managed in this way.

The practice is an anomaly on many levels, but the first and greatest one is the bycatch amounts allowed in the Bering Sea are not tied to abundance of the Pacific halibut resource.

In 2015, three years after a major correction in stock size by the IPHC and continued decline in size-at-age of halibut, the primacy of bycatch in the Bering Sea began impacting halibut fishermen in ways that could not be ignored. The halibut fleet based in the Bering Sea and those vessels historically fishing there from Seattle were looking at not having a season because their IPHC catch limit would be so small, based on the bycatch that is taken from that area.

Members of the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, bolstered by other halibut longliners, the sports charter sector, and other small boat users of halibut in Alaska, pleaded their case before the Council. The panel, made up of representatives from Alaska (a majority), Washington, Oregon, and the  federal government, agreed to lower the bycatch caps from 4,426 mt to 3,515 mt, a 21% reduction that included lowering prohibited species catch (PSC) limits among four different groups of groundfish users.

What followed was a textbook case of earnest effort on the part of the bottomtrawl fleet, often referred to as the Amendment 80 fleet from the amendment that established them as a recognized receiver of a portion of the Bering Sea flatfish resource, among other fish. They began a deck-sorting experiment to reduce mortality of bycaught halibut and established internal practices to avoid large schools of the fish.

In the years to follow, a Working Group within the Council staff was formed with participants from the IPHC and NOAA Fisheries, tasked with options for the council to consider. Although the process followed best practices within the council, battle lines were drawn outside of that process that remain influential today.

This afternoon and tomorrow the Council will be reviewing an analysis that looks at three alternative (four with the obligatory Option 1: Status Quo.) Since February, when the Council agreed to release all groundfish user groups from this action except Am80, the issue became slightly less complex, but also dropped the goal of managing 100% of the halibut bycatch with abundance down to 60% of the bycatch, with 40% of it not tied to abundance.

Now the three alternatives are from (Alt2) the Seattle-based AM80 fleet, (Alt3) the Seattle-based directed halibut fleet, and (Alt4) the Bering Sea-based directed halibut fleet. All three alternatives include four key elements, and four somewhat optional elements.

If you’re going to tie bycatch removals with the abundance of halibut, you need a starting point to set a limit. Each alternative has a different set of starting points. This is a foundational step from which all other calculations flow.

The next two elements are a ceiling and a floor. Given the gloomy situation for halibut abundance due to lack of recruitment, the persistent state of low-size at age, and the uncertainty of warming ocean waters, having a floor could, in a perfect storm, result in all halibut fisheries being closed with only bycatch allowed. Only one alternative asks for ‘no floor’ which would put the burden of conservation, in times of extremely low abundance, on both bycatch and directed catch users. Of course, this entire action is undertaken to share the burden of conservation between the directed users and the bycatch users.

From the perspective of the AM80 fleet, a ‘no floor’ option could also beach their fleet of far more expensive vessels that catch significantly more flatfish (yellowfin sole, rock sole, etc.) so the economic value, even at a fraction of the per pound price of halibut, is dramatically higher.

The next two essential elements are a breakpoint for decline or increase in abundance, followed by magnitude of that step.

The remaining elements include constraints to the flatfish fleet to achieve optimum yield, a look-up table to help calculations of PSC in the future, and element 8, which calls for the ‘no floor’ option in times of extreme low abundance.

While Council staff were asked specific questions yesterday about model outputs, margins of uncertainty, and economic comparisons, today the 11-member Council will begin hearing from stakeholders.

Once such stakeholder is Ray Melovidov from Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea.

“The halibut resource has been declining steadily since 2011, and while PSC limits were reduced in 2015 in response to those earlier declines, the resource still wanes,” Melovidov commented in a letter to the Council.

“Between then and now we have been dodging bullets trying to have a commercial fishery in Area 4CDE. Some years have been easier than others but uncertainty has loomed over our heads and it perseveres. At this point I cannot reasonably consider investing in this fishery and it is a sad reality.

“The current management structure places the burden of conservation on the directed fishery and we’re at a point where we really can’t take much more,” Melovidov said.

“It has been inequitable to have the directed fishery reduce harvest while PSC limits remain at fixed limits. Going forward PSC limits need to be responsive to changes in abundance and reflective of the directed fishery’s dependence on this resource.”

Responding to the alternatives to AM80’s Alt2, Groundfish Forum executive director Chris Woodley wrote a 9-page comment letter advising a course of action by the Council. Part of his compelling argument is how further reductions would impact the sector.

“The alternatives that propose substantial PSC reductions from the existing 1,745 PSC limits (Alternatives 3 and 4) are estimated to result in annual reductions in groundfish catches ranging from 60,000 – 167,000 mt in the first few years after implementation…,” Woodly wrote.

“Reductions of this magnitude (approximately 20-54% of the A80 sector’s catches) cannot possibly be argued to meet the optimum yield mandates of National Standard 1.

“These proposed PSC reductions are estimated to result in annual revenue losses ranging from $70-200M in comparison to the status quo,” he wrote.

There are many other arguments to be considered this week, such as historical use of halibut in coastal communities around the state, and National Standards set in the Magnusen-Stevens Act that guide actions of the Council, many in this case that conflict with each other.
https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1182805/North-Pacific-Council-Sees-Latest-Efforts-to-Tie-Bycatch-in-the-Bering-Sea-to-Halibut-Abundance


West Coast
Four governors agree to work together for Northwest salmon
East Oregonian by Annette Cary - October 12, 2020
PASCO, Wash. — The governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana have agreed to work together to rebuild the Columbia River system’s salmon and steelhead stocks.
https://www.eastoregonian.com/townnews/ecology/four-governors-agree-to-work-together-for-northwest-salmon/article_59ab1136-b7e8-5908-b860-3a06102ee9f5.html


Environment/Science
Legislators ask Dunleavy to work with them on mine permit issues
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - October 13, 2020
Alaska Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, are asking Gov. Mike Dunleavy to stop working directly with the Pebble Partnership on the efforts to get a Clean Water Act permit for a mine that, they say, has no place in Bristol Bay.
https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2020/10/13/legislators-ask-dunleavy-to-work-with-them-on-mine-permit-issues/


Federal Register
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Exchange of Flatfish in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/13/2020
NMFS is exchanging unused rock sole Community Development Quota (CDQ) for yellowfin sole CDQ acceptable biological catch (ABC) reserves in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to allow the 2020 total allowable catch (TAC) of yellowfin sole in the BSAI to be harvested.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/10/13/2020-22548/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-exchange-of-flatfish-in-the-bering-sea-and


FYI’s
PFMC: November 9-10; 12-13 and 16-20, 2020 PFMC Meeting Notice (Online) and Agenda Now Available
Saving Seafood by Pacific Fishery Management Council - October 12, 2020
The following was released by the Pacific Fishery Management Council:
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC or Council) and its advisory bodies will meet November 9‐10, 12‐13 and 16‐20, 2020 by webinar only, to address issues related to groundfish, Pacific halibut, salmon, highly migratory species, coastal pelagic species, and administrative matters.
https://www.savingseafood.org/news/council-actions/pfmc-november-9-10-12-13-and-16-20-2020-pfmc-meeting-notice-online-and-agenda-now-available/

With One Hurdle Left To Overcome, Ravn Aims To Relaunch Flight Service To Unalaska
KUCB by Hope McKenney - October 12, 2020
Ravn Alaska says it could resume scheduled flights between Anchorage and Unalaska in two weeks, but there's at least one hurdle left to overcome.
https://www.kucb.org/post/one-hurdle-left-overcome-ravn-aims-relaunch-flight-service-unalaska

8 Seafood Organizations To Support During Amazon Prime Day
Urner Barry by Amanda Buckle - October 13, 2020
Forget about Black Friday....Amazon Prime Day is finally here!
Amazon usually holds their big sale in July, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Day event was pushed to October.

Over a span of two days, from October 13 through the 14, Prime members can get a head start on their holiday shopping and take advantage of massive savings. But Amazon Prime Day doesn’t have to be all about scoring deals - it can also be about giving back.

If you’re shopping during Amazon Prime Day be sure to do so through AmazonSmile, a website operated by the e-commerce giant. AmazonSmile is just like regular Amazon, but 0.5% of your purchase goes to a charitable organization of your choice. It’s also very simple to do. Instead of visiting amazon.com, Amazon Prime subscribers should log in through smile.amazon.com. Once logged into the site, users will be able to search for an organization that they would like Amazon to make a contribution to. The website operates just like the regular Amazon site, except that the product details page will display text that reads “eligible for AmazonSmile donation.” The donation is made with no additional cost to you.

So, give back this Amazon Prime Day by shopping through AmazonSmile. Check out 8 seafood industry organizations who are registered with AmazonSmile:

SeaShare: SeaShare is a non-profit founded in 1994 that helps the seafood industry donate to hunger-relief efforts in the United States. To date they’ve helped donate 230 million seafood servings to those in need.

FishWise: FishWise’s mission is to sustain ocean ecosystems and the people who depend on them by transforming global seafood supply chains.

Seafood Nutrition Partnership: The Seafood Nutrition Partnership is a non-profit organization that works to build awareness in the U.S. of the health and nutritional benefits of seafood.

Seafood Industry Research Fund: The Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF) is a non-profit that awards grants to individuals and institutions to conduct forward-thinking research that will advance the seafood industry. To date they’ve provided $3.7 million for over 400 research grants.

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation: The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation’s vision is of healthy marine and aquatic ecosystems; secure seafood supplies; and a thriving responsible seafood economy. Their mission is to engage and catalyze global seafood supply chains in rebuilding deleted fish stocks and reducing the environmental impacts of fishing and fish farming.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute: The Gulf of Maine Research Institute pioneers collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges. They support solutions that will broadly benefit the bioregion and its diverse communities over generations to come.

Oyster Recovery Partnership: The Oyster Recovery partnership is a non-profit that designs, promotes and implements consensus-based and scientifically-sustainable shellfish ecological restoration, aquaculture and commercial fishery activities to improve the environment and expand economic opportunities in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and beyond.

Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance: The Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance’s mission is to foster thriving coastal communities and preserve Maine’s lobstering heritage.
https://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1182775/8-Seafood-Organizations-To-Support-During-Amazon-Prime-Day
 

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