Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Transboundary Issues Prompt Discussion

Alaska and British Columbia are getting closer to reaching a statement of cooperation on dealing with environmental concerns related to potential impact of mining on Transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott said on Sept. 20 that that the SOC will likely be signed by the end of this month or early October. It will serve as a framework for Alaska to work as cooperatively as possible with the relevant ministries of British Columbia to create access for Alaska to their mine permitting processes, Mallott said.

The state’s goal is to assure that habitat critical to these salmon-rich rivers is not adversely affected by mines now operating and planned along the British Columbia side of the Transboundary Rivers.

Alaska concerns over acid mine drainage issues was heightened by recent reports that one of those mines, which has leaked acid drainage for years, is now in receivership. Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is moving ahead with plans to begin a five-year water monitoring effort in Southeast Alaska.

Michelle Hale, director of DEC’s Division of Water, said the plan is for DEC’s Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program to sample lakes, rivers and some coastline. The monitoring effort will include habitat, monitor pH and conductivity, metals in the water column, and metals in the sediment under water, and hydrocarbons.

Hale said that DEC will also work with its British Columbia counterparts through a technical work group, to assure that information collected by both sides can be compared in a meaningful way.

Alaska’s congressional delegation meanwhile has again requested that the State Department get involved under the Boundary Waters Treaty, to protect waterways that are critical to Southeast Alaska’s fisheries, waterways and cultural lifestyle.

The delegation is still waiting for a response.

Better Communications Urged Between Navy and Fisheries Communities

Coastal communities’ concerns over military training exercises scheduled in the Gulf of Alaska next summer have prompted Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska to ask the US Navy to be more transparent about what’s on tap for Northern Edge 2017.

Murkowski chided Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a letter this week for what she said was a lack of transparency, for not discussing proposed mitigation and avoidance techniques with stakeholder communities. She said she wants to ensure greater collaboration and cooperation between communities and the Navy prior to Northern Edge 2017.

The fishing community of Homer, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, has already passed a resolution asking the Navy to refrain from using live ordnance or sonar in many marine protected area, including NOAA Fisheries Marine Protected Areas, state marine protected areas and habitat areas of particular concern. Homer also wants the Navy to relocate its training area to the far areas of the Gulf and away from seamounts, and for the Navy to schedule those training exercises after mid-September and before spring, to avoid impacting migrating salmon and other species.

Those 2017 exercises are scheduled to run from May 1-12. That’s when many species of marine and anadromous fishes are migrating and spawning in the training area, the Homer resolution said.

And the port of Homer is reliant on the fish and wildlife resources in the Gulf of Alaska for livelihoods supported by commercial fishing, the resolution said.

Murkowski told Mabus that she has received over 100 letters from residents concerned about the timing and impact of Northern Edge 2017. Residents of coastal communities, like other Alaskans, are strong supporters of the military, she said, but they need to know that fishery conflicts will be avoided and marine resources will be protected.

The senator urged the commander of the Pacific Fleet, with his partners at the Alaskan Command, to quickly reengage with stakeholders, lest they endanger support for the Navy’s long-term involvement in Northern Edge.

Prince William Sound Crab Test Fishery

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking a new look at the possibilities of reviving the Tanner crab fishery in Prince William Sound, which has been closed since 1988.

A Tanner crab test fishery will be conducted in Prince William Sound from Oct. 20 through Dec. 15, and data collected will be used to evaluate tanner crab abundance in currently unsurveyed parts of the Sound.

ADF&G’s goal is to determine the distribution of Tanner carb outside the current trawl survey area and at historical survey and commercial fishery locations. Biologists will measure catch per pot and begin developing an index of abundance for male Tanner crab recruit categories and females, and collect information on tanner crab size, sex, and maturity status.

ADF&G officials began marking Tanner crab test fishery bid packets available on Sept. 19 at Cordova and Homer. Those bid packets are due back by noon on Oct. 14, and the contract is to be awarded by Oct. 17 to the best-qualified bidder.

ADF&G said bids would be accepted for two individual lots of 300 pot pulls each, with all legal male crab from these pots sold.

Bidders must demonstrate that there is a market for the legal male Tanner crab caught and retained during the test fishery. A processor’s letter of intent will be required from the winning bidders.

The minimum bid price is 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of all Tanner crab paid to the state of Alaska, with the remaining proceeds will be paid out to successful bidders.

Landings in the Prince William Sound Tanner crab commercial fishery declined from a peak of 13.9 million pounds during the 1971-1972 season to some 474,092 pounds in the 1988 season, the last year the fishery was prosecuted.

The fishery has been closed since due to low abundance demonstrated in earlier pot surveys and the current biennial trawl survey.

New Technology Will Help Track Overfishing

Global Fishing Watch, online at www.globalfishingwatch.org, is a new technology platform geared to allow anyone with Internet access to track global fishing activity.

The website, developed through a partnership of Oceana, SkyTruth and Google, was unveiled on Sept. 16 by Academy award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the US State Department’s Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC.

The website analyzes data from the Automatic Identification System, which is collected via satellite and terrestrial receivers, to identify apparent fishing behavior based on movement of vessels over time. Over the course of a year, thousands of vessels, including more than 35,000 known or likely commercial fishing boats, broadcast their position, course and speed through AIS. Fleets of satellites then record these broadcasts and transmit the information to Earth. Users can track and measure both near real-time and historical commercial fishing activity using the Global Fishing Watch heat map, view individual vessel tracks, exclusive economic zones, marine protected areas, and more.

With some three billion people relying on the ocean as their primary food source, the environmental non-profit Oceana is encouraging users of the website to share information when they suspect online evidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity, to help governments facing the challenge of sustainably managing vast areas of the ocean.

The website’s overall goals are to improve decision-making about effective management of the world’s fisheries and oceans, to engage citizens in helping to rebuild and maintain abundant oceans and to provide a powerful tool to show consumers where and by whom their fish are being caught.

New Brewpub

Fishermen in Seattle have a new neighbor. Figurehead Brewing Company (www.figureheadbrewingcompany.com) is open for business adjacent to Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal at 4001 21st Ave West.

Open from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Fridays and Noon to 10:00 pm on Saturdays, the new taproom is the result of hard work by brewers Bob Monroe, Jesse Duncan, and Jesse Warner.

The three share a passion for brewing beer and sharing it with friends, and their goal is to “create a welcoming, non-pretentious place where our neighbors can learn about and enjoy simple, honest, straightforward, quality beer.”

The brewery has three 200-gallon fermenters, and the crew taps a new cask each week and pours until it’s gone. At press time the beers on tap included:

Patersbier: A light Abbey style beer with a malty profile and Belgian yeast character. Dubbel: Inspired by the traditional Trappist beer, this is a bigger and slightly darker Belgian style ale.

IPA: A beer with “tons of hop character but without the sometimes harsh bitterness.” Belgian IPA: This golden beer combines the malt bill and yeast of a Belgian ale, with the hoppiness of a Northwest IPA.

Bigger Brown: An English style brown ale that has been “kicked up a notch.” ESB: A traditional English Extra Special Bitter.

Proprietor Jesse Duncan says dogs and kids are welcome as long as neither bites.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

NMFS GOA Groundfish Plan

A final rule has been implemented to allow reapportionment of unused Chinook salmon prohibited species catch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries among specific trawl sectors, based on specific criteria and within specified limits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service published the final rule to implement Amendment 103 to the fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska in the Federal Register, effective on Sept. 12.

The complete document is online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/12/2016-21808/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-chinook-salmon-bycatch-management-in-the-gulf-of.

Reapportionments of unused Chinook salmon PSC may not exceed 3,342 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Western GOA pollock sector, 9,158 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Central GOA pollock sector, 600 Chinook salmon to the rockfish program catcher vessel sector, and 1,250 Chinook salmon to the non-rockfish program catcher vessel sector.

The final rule also acknowledges that NMFS’s ability to reapportion unused Chinook salmon PSC does not offer any certainty for any pollock or non-pollock sector that a fishery will remain open. Kodiak harvester and processor Duncan Fields, who recently completed his tenure on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, noted that there was general recognition that the council’s previous actions to reduce Chinook bycatch in pollock and non-pollock fisheries had been substantial, and that individual processing facilities can opt to donate the PSC Chinooks to SeaShare, the Seattle entity that accepts and distributes large quantities of donated seafood to food banks and other entities in need.

While SeaShare does a wonderful job, the percentage of total salmon and halibut bycatch that is donated to SeaShare is relatively small, Fields said. “I think that salmon and halibut bycatch should be better utilized. While I appreciate that donations to SeaShare are voluntary, I also see the need for more directive regulations with regards to the SeaShare program.”

Fields noted that he had twice moved for 100 percent retention of PSC and having it donated to SeaShare, but some companies did not want this because they wanted to have the choice of whether to process and donate bycatch, based on their economics and capacity. They told the NPFMC that making retention of and donation to SeaShare of all PSC took away from the spirit of the program, Fields said.

Push for SE Alaska River Protection

Alaska fishermen are renewing their pursuit of State Department action to protect transboundary watersheds in Southeast Alaska from adverse affects of mining.

Fishermen are calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to secure agreements with Canada to protect transboundary rivers and indemnify from loss those who could be harmed by mining activity along the border, says Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trawlers Association.

Kelley’s comments came in the wake of a fourth letter sent by Alaska’s congressional delegation in early September seeking a meeting with Kerry along with his efforts to ensure that British Columbia institutes appropriate safeguards to prevent potential negative impacts from mining to fisheries habitat.

The transboundary watershed conservation entity Rivers Without Borders meanwhile noted that Chieftain Metals Corp., owner of the defunct Tulsequah Chief mine in the transboundary Taku watershed since 2010, is in receivership, and that the majority of directors of the company had resigned.

The court order resulted from West Face Capitol, which owns about one third of Chieftain, issuing a repayment demand in August for $26 million in loans to Chieftain that the company has not paid back. Since the mining companies have been unable to halt the ongoing acid mine drainage into the Tulsequah River, which has been going on for over two decades, it is time for the government of British Columbia to honor the promises made last August by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and clean it up, said Chris Zimmer, Alaska Campaign Director for Rivers Without Borders.

Bennett had visited the site in August 2015 and pledged to do something about it.

A spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines had no immediate response on what action, if any, the ministry planned to take.

In their letter to Kerry, the Alaska congressional delegation expressed their frustration over seeing little action from the State Department regarding transboundary waters.

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