Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Processor Fined for Dumping Oil and Raw Sewage

East West Seafoods LLC of Seattle has been fined $50,000 in a judgment handed down by the US District Court in Anchorage for violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the Clean Water Act and the Refuse Act.

The court ruled on March 21 that The F/V Pacific Producer, a large seafood processing vessel owned by East West Seafoods, intentionally discharged oily bilge water and raw sewage into the ocean off the coast of Alaska, and then presented false records to the US Coast Guard.

Acting US Attorney Bryan Schroder in Anchorage said that on March 15, 2013, the F/V Pacific Producer was traveling from Kodiak and grounded near Ouzinkie Narrows. While within three miles of shore, the defendants unlawfully discharged about 1,000 gallons of raw sewage into Chiniak Bay between Long Island and Spruce Island.

Then on March 29, 2013, while departing from the ferry dock at Ouzinkie, crew aboard the F/V Pacific Producer knowingly discharged a harmful quantity of oil into the water within three miles of shore, causing a sheen on the surface of the water, Schroder said. The defendants also regularly used an illegal pump system to knowingly discharge oily bilge water directly overboard, he said.

The defendants also knowingly failed to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book as required, failed to record discharges of oil into the sea through the illegal pump system, and knew that use of the pump system and failure to record the discharges was illegal, he said.

When the Coast Guard boarded the vessel in Kodiak on Jan. 27, 2014, there was raw sewage flowing from piping onto the open weather deck, Schroder said.

The defendants also unlawfully discharged raw sewage into St. Paul Harbor while the vessel was within three miles of shore at Kodiak without a permit, he said.

The 75-percent owner of the seafood processing firm, and operator of the F/V Pacific Producer, Christos Tsabouris, 78, of Kodiak, was fined $10,000 and put on probation for five years for his role in the offenses, as was the company itself. During the probationary period the company will be subject to a heightened level of scrutiny, including warrantless searches of its vessels and places of business based on reasonable suspicion of violation of the law.

Both Sides Working to Resolve Pebble Litigation

A joint motion filed this week by backers of a massive mining project adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed and the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a stay of proceedings in ongoing litigation in hopes of resolving the matter.

The announcement from Northern Dynasty Minerals in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the EPA said that substantial progress has been made in recent discussions and that the two sides intend to continue negotiating the matter directly, rather than through mediation. Federal government representatives engaged in discussions with the Pebble Partnership are focused on achieving a resolution agreeable to both parties, they said.

Meanwhile, the US District Court’s preliminary injunction, issued on Nov. 25, 2014, will remain in effect. The litigation stems from the Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit alleging that the EPA worked with mine opponents in a predetermined effort to stop development of the copper, gold and molybdenum project. The EPA countered that the lawsuit aimed to undermine its effort to protect Bristol Bay from potential environmental damage.

Mine backers say that the EPA is preemptively vetoing the project on land designated for mineral development by the state of Alaska.

The EPA has defended its decision to use Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes the EPA to restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in federal waters, if the EPA determines such sites would have unacceptable adverse impact on various resources, including fisheries.

Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier said the company is confident of achieving a fair resolution that follows the rule of law, supports the interests of the parties involved and allows the project to move into a normal course permitting process.

Mine backers contend that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.

Mine opponents contend that pollution from the mine stands to cause extensive adverse effects to the fishery.

Crab CDQ Fishery Ends, Herring Opens

Harvests in the 2017 Norton Sound red king crab community development quota fishery in western Alaska reached some 37,260 pounds through March 20, and with less than 11,000 pounds of the allocation remaining, the fishery will conclude today. The decision came after a consultation between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC). Fishermen have just until 9 p.m. tonight to deliver their crab catch to the North Sound Seafood Products fish plant in Nome.

ADF&G said the closure date and time was based on recent catch rates, but that there is a possibility delivery rates could still increase.

NSEDC, the quota owner, has authority to implement additional management measures to ensure the CDQ allocation is not exceeded, and has authority to restrict the fishery prior to the closure time.

Any commercial harvest allocation not taken during the winter commercial fishery will be added to the summer commercial fishery allocation.

In Southeast Alaska, meanwhile, the Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery opened in northwest Sitka Sound on March 19, with preliminary reports from processors putting that total harvest at 3,500 tons.

Approximately 9,800 tons of herring were harvested in commercial sac roe herring fisheries conducted in Southeast Alaska in 2016. ADF&G biologists said they anticipate an approximate harvest of some 14,600 tons in 2017.

GOA Military Training to be Discussed at ComFish

Officers from the Alaskan Command and US Pacific Fleet will be in Kodiak on March 30 to discuss plans for the Navy’s Exercise Northern Edge 2017 (NE 17) in the Gulf of Alaska May 1-12.

NE17 is one of a number of forums and events planned for ComFish, which runs through April 1.

NE17 is one of a series of Pacific Command exercises to prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. It is designed to sharpen tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships and develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force.

Military officials say that environmental protection is an integral part of the exercise and that the military in Alaska have conducted thorough environmental analysis of the activities to be conducted. Captain Anastasia Schmit, public affairs director for the Alaska Command at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage, said in an interview that the Navy posts lookouts aboard ships during the exercise and if they encounter sea mammals all activities would stop. Schmit said military officials have also worked hard with local coastal communities for greater mitigation measures, and that everything they do is coordinated with the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Still their plans have raised concerns, as in past years, from seafood harvesters and environmentalists, over potential adverse impact of the military exercises on migrating fish and sea mammals.

Marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner of Anchorage said there is a need for independent observers aboard participating military vessels to provide independent verification of the Defense Department’s compliance with permit requirements and mitigation practices.

While they are not planning to use bombs or missiles, they will likely use exploding shells, and the duration of use of the Mid Frequency Active Sonar on beaked whales worries him, Steiner said. He and others would also like to see these training exercises moved to winter, reducing or eliminating the potential risk to marine mammals, seabirds and fish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

204 Million Salmon Forecast for 2017 AK Harvest

Alaska’s statewide run forecasts and harvest projections for the 2017 salmon fisheries are out, with a harvest forecast of 204 million fish, compared with the 112.5 million salmon harvested commercially in Alaska in 2016. If realized, that harvest boost would be owing in great part to the catch of many more humpies.

The overall commercial harvest last year, valued at $414.2 million, included just 39 million humpies. The projected harvest was about 80 million pinks, compared with about 140 million this year. In 2013, the commercial pink salmon harvest came in at a record 219 million fish, compared with the forecast of just under 120 million.

The 2017 total commercial salmon harvest of all species is expected to include 80,000 Chinook salmon in areas outside of Southeast Alaska, 40.8 million sockeyes, 4.7 million cohos, 141.9 million humpies and 16.7 million chums. The projected pink salmon harvest is about 102.7 million more than harvested in 2016. The projected forecast also includes about 12 million fewer sockeyes, about 778,000 more cohos, and about 1.2 million more chum salmon than were harvested a year ago.

The complete run forecasts and Harvest Projects for 2017 Alaska salmon fisheries and review of the 2016 season is online at

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/FedAidPDFs/SP17-08.pdf

Statistics compiled by ADF&G on harvests and ex-vessel values of Alaska commercial harvests dating back to 1994 can be found online at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=CommercialByFisherySalmon.exvesselquery

Senators Call for Protection of Coast Guard Budget

A bipartisan group of 23 senators is urging the Trump administration to stop proposed plans to cut $1.3 billion from the US Coast Guard budget, citing its importance to national and economic security and halting the flow of illegal drugs.

According to reports, the FY 2018 presidential budget request could amount to almost 12 percent of the Coast Guard’s budget being cut, the senators said in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Administrator Mick Mulvaney.

“We are concerned that the Coast Guard would not be able to maintain maritime presence, respond to individual and national emergencies, and protect our nation’s economic and environmental interests,” the senators told Mulvaney.

“The proposed reduction… would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump Administration. We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment.”

The letter cited many other accomplishments and missions of the Coast Guard, including securing 95,000 miles of American coastline, preventing thousands of cases of illegal immigration, and seizure of a record 469,270 pounds of illegal drugs in 2016.

The letter noted that the Coast Guard had maintained active and vigorous anti-terrorism and national security operations around our nation’s oceans, rivers and ports, and around American ships, boundaries and interests in the melting Arctic, through the Maritime Safety and Security Team and Maritime Security Response Team.

Coast Guard funding has already been allowed to slip well below the levels necessary to fulfill its mission and maintain its equipment and infrastructure, the senators said. Between 2010 and 2015, the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget fell by some 40 percent.

The fleet of cutters and patrol boats that intercept drugs and guard the nation’s waterways are aging at an unsustainable rate with no prospect of replacement, they said. The situation is particularly dire in the Arctic, where the U.S. will be without a heavy icebreaker for eight years, and the only Arctic nation without such a resource, if no action is taken to correct that problem, they said.

GSSI Recognizes the Marine Stewardship Council

The Marine Stewardship Council has become the third seafood certification scheme to be benchmarked against the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s Global Benchmark Tool and to achieve recognition. GSSI made the announcement this week, and congratulated MSU for its successful completion of GSSI’s rigorous benchmark process. “MSC’s recognition is a powerful signal to market actors who seek transparency and represent considerable progress toward our common objective of a level playing field in seafood certification,” said Bill DiMento, GSSI co-chair, and a vice president of High Liner Foods.

David Agnew, director of science and standards at MSC, said the process reaffirms the organization’s commitment to maintain world leading, science based standards that are widely applicable and help to drive real change.

London-based MSC is an international nonprofit organization established to address issues of unsustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future.

GSSI is a global platform and partnership of seafood companies, non-government organizations, experts, governmental and intergovernmental organizations with a mission of ensuring confidence in the supply and promotion of certified seafood, and to promote improvement in seafood certification schemes. GSSI’s Global Benchmark Tool identifies and recognizes robust and credible certification schemes and supports other schemes to improve. To date over 20 retailers, brand manufacturers, traders and food service companies worldwide have committed to including the outcomes of the GSSI Benchmark Process in their daily operations. More about GSSI is online at www.ourgssi.org

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