Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ASMI Partners to Promote Pollock, Sockeye Salmon

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) has partnered anew with two fast food chains in California to promote Alaska Pollock, and a British Columbia supermarket chain to promote frozen and refreshed wild Alaska sockeye salmon.

The renewed partnerships with Del Taco, Jack in the Box and Save-On-Foods were announced in ASMI’s mid-February online Marketing Update, on the eve of Lent, a religious tradition observed every year during the 40 days before Easter. Fish is a traditional staple part of Lenten meals. Patrons of these establishments have come to expect these seasonal seafood specials.

Del Taco restaurants offers a limited time special of beer battered fish tacos featuring wild Alaska Pollock, with the ASMI logo visible in Del Taco promotional collateral across print and digital platforms. The taco comes on a corn tortilla with shredded cabbage, tartar sauce and a lime wedge.

At Jack in the Box, the fish sandwich of Alaska Pollock makes its annual return for the Lenten season, breaded in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried, with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce on a plain bun. Alaska Pollock fish sandwiches are also on tap at Burger King and McDonalds. At Burger King, the fish sandwich has panko breading and is topped with sweet tartar sauce and tangy pickles, on a toasted brioche-style bun. McDonald’s filet-o-fish, with melted American cheese and tartar sauce, is served on a soft, steamed bun.

Wendy’s takes a different twist, serving up a panko-breaded North Pacific cod fillet, topped with a dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles.

In January, Save-On-Foods began a promotion of frozen and refreshed wild Alaska sockeye salmon in 162 stores throughout western Canada. In February, ASMI presented to top Walmart executives at the company’s first Sustainable Seafood Summit. Representatives from Trident, Marine Harvest, Blue Star Seafood and other suppliers participated along with the Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, Best Aquaculture Practices, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

Fisheries Coalition Urges Flexibility in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Alaska harvesters and conservationists are the latest in a wave of members of the Fishing Communities Coalition urging Congress to commit to science-based annual catch limits in all sectors in reauthorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Representatives of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council were in Washington D.C. in mid-February meeting with the state’s congressional delegation. They underscored the need for a scientific basis for setting those annual catch limits and urged a commitment to strengthen other key provisions within the act.

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) is working in Alaska and around the country because all sectors adhere to scientifically-sound annual catch limits. Reauthorization will only provide a bright future for our nation’s young fishermen if all sectors – commercial and recreational – recommit to sustainable harvest through improved stock assessment, better catch accounting, and strict adherence to annual catch limits,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

The Alaska contingent discussed the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, urging them to ensure the bipartisan initiative is signed into law in support of the next generation of commercial harvesters. The Young Fishermen’s Development Act would provide grants of up to $200,000 and a total of $2 million annually through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program for training, education and other assistance to the next generation of commercial harvesters.

Just a month earlier, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition from Cape Cod, Maine and the Gulf of Mexico were in Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers on a similar mission.

The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) is concerned that House Resolution 200, one of several bills from which the new MSA legislation could emerge, would give recreational fishermen more access to fish without requiring them to be accountable for what they catch.

The FCC has proposed mandatory reporting in the recreational sector so that fishery managers know how many fish were harvested. The coalition also contends that H.R. 200, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, does not constitute a genuine national fisheries policy, as it creates different rules for different regions. The same rules should apply nationwide, the coalition said.

OA Researchers Test the Waters Between Bellingham and Skagway

As the largest vessel in the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet cruises on her route between Bellingham, Washington, and Skagway, Alaska – scientists aboard the M/V Columbia are tracking changes in ocean water that may well impact the fishing future of the Pacific Northwest.

“The project wasn’t by any means a new idea,” says Wiley Evans of British Columbia’s Hakai Institute, , “except that it’s just the first time a carbon dioxide system has been installed on a ferry.”

The project involves a surface seawater monitoring system, installed aboard the M/V Columbia to study ocean acidification, which is caused by increased carbon dioxide in the water.

Water is continuously flowing through the onboard system, which Evans helped to install, entering the ship through a bow thruster port, about six feet below the sea surface. It is measured every three minutes for seawater temperature, levels of salt, oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Data being gathered aboard the M/V Columbia since late 2017 is part of an international effort that began in 2014 to understand the impact of ocean acidification along the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska.

Oceans are absorbing about 25 percent of the increased carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by people. According to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network that roughly represents seven million tons of CO2 every day. As seawater becomes more acidic it could impact all commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, as well as wildlife management in Canada, Alaska and the continental United States. Effects of ocean acidification are already being seen in shellfish farms in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

The goal is to detail baseline conditions between Bellingham and Skagway, a distance of about 1,000 miles, Evans said. “Within this domain there has not been very good data coverage, particularly Southeast Alaska and the central coast of British Columbia, there is a need to create baseline conditions and seasonality of the area, and to identify the best places for aquaculture to develop and hot spots for corrosive conditions,” he said.

The current plan calls for the project to extend for five years, which Evans said is long enough to understand how data might differ from one year to the next, but more would be better. “My hope is that this platform and the work we are doing in Alaska goes on at least 10 plus years,” he said.

Harmful Algae Network Works to Assure Safe Shellfish Harvest

A network of state, federal and tribal researchers in Alaska is focusing on better understanding and mitigating effects of harmful algae blooms posing health risks to sea creatures and people. The goal of the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network(http://www.aoos.org/alaska-hab-network/ahab-mission/) is to promote more research, monitoring and public awareness of these toxins.

The toxic algal blooms are generated by certain phytoplankton, also known as microalgae, autotrophic or self-feeding members of the plankton community, which are free floating algae. Like terrestrial plants, they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight to live and grow.

Phytoplankton provide food for whales, shrimp, snails and jellyfish and other sea creatures. When too many nutrients are available, phytoplankton may grow out of control and form harmful algal blooms, which can produce extremely toxic compounds harmful to fish, shellfish, animals, birds and people. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health, climate change is likely to increase the threat of harmful algal blooms. Warmer waters extend the phytoplankton growing season, increasing the likelihood of toxic blooms, and may allow new potentially harmful phytoplankton species to expand their area of reach in Alaska.

Commercially harvested shellfish sold in stores and restaurants must pass federal Food and Drug Administration and state-run toxin testing to assure their safety for human consumption. Testing is not required for personal and subsistence shellfish harvests, but the AHAB Network hopes to eventually develop the ability to forecast such blooms to alert personal use and subsistence harvesters.

The network is coordinated jointly by the Alaska Ocean Observing System and Alaska Sea Grant.

Members include the Alaska departments of Health and Social Services and Environmental Conservation, Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, Axiom Data Science, NOAA’s National Ocean Service and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Apprenticeship Program Offers Salmon Trolling Experience

Applications are being accepted through March 1 for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s (ALFA) crewmember apprenticeship program, offering young people a guided entry level experience in commercial seafood harvesting in Southeast Alaska.

ALFA received a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation late last year to expand this program in Sitka and to support efforts to launch similar programs elsewhere in Alaska.

The grant, leveraged with support from the city of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. Its aim to improve management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting health fish stocks and healthy fisheries.

“With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew and communities,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of AFLA. “Giving young people an introduction to Alaska’s commercial fisheries will help sustain our fishing communities and create the next generation of resource stewards.”

Over the past three years, Sitka-based harvester Eric Jordan of the fishing vessel I Gotta has introduced over 40 young people to commercial fishing as part of the program. Apprentice deckhands are taught the intricacies of commercial salmon trolling, including sustainable fishing practices and conservation ethics.

“The future of our fisheries is dependent on young fishermen learning to love and care for the fish we harvest and the habitat essential to their well-being,” Jordan said. “Our generation’s legacy will be defined as we, Alaskan fishermen, rebuilt and enhanced our fisheries, and how we mentored the next generation.”

ALFA plans to expand the program over the next two years to include more vessels, skippers and crewmembers. Application information is available online at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/

Prince William Sound Cod Fishery Opens
with 992,080-lb GHL

The Prince William Sound area Pacific cod state waters fishery opens at noon on February 15 with a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 992,080 pounds, of which 85 percent (843,268 pounds) is allocated to vessels using longline gear and 15 percent (148,812 pounds) for those with pot and jig gear. A reduction compares to the 2017 GHL of 4,338,141 pounds, which was also down from 4,841,902 pounds in 2016.

A dramatic drop in recruitment prompted fisheries managers’ decisions in December to make more severe cuts for this fishery.

The season is set to open 24 hours after the Prince William Sound P-cod parallel fishery closes to vessels using pot gear and coincides with the National Marine Fisheries Service closure of the P-cod pot gear sector in the federal Central Gulf of Alaska area.

Area registration for the state-waters season is exclusive. It allows no more than 60 groundfish pots to be operated from a vessel and each pot must display a buoy identification tag. A vessel may not participate in a Pacific cod state-waters season and any other P-cod season at the same time.

Following closure of the parallel P-cod season, all groundfish pot gear must be removed from the water, except those on vessels registered for the state-waters P-cod season, which may store theirs per state regulations guidelines. Groundfish storage provisions allow groundfish pot gear to be stored in waters no more than 25 fathoms deep on the north side of Montague island for up to 10 days prior to the opening and 10 days after closure of the state-waters season to pot gear. All bait and bait containers must be removed and all doors secured open at the time of the parallel season closure. After the 10-day period has elapsed, no groundfish pot storage is permitted.

Chinook PSC Limits in Gulf of Alaska Face Another Review

Federal fisheries managers discussed modifying the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch (PSC) limits for non-pollock catcher vessels in the Gulf of Alaska this past week, then recommended another initial review of their analysis.

The action came during the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Seattle, Washington The proposed action would consider increasing Chinook salmon prohibited species limits and establishing an annual rollover of unused Chinook salmon PSC for the Gulf’s non-pollock, non-rockfish program trawl catcher vessel sector and/or the Central Gulf Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector.

National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require that the council balance objectives of achieving optimum yield, minimizing bycatch and minimizing adverse impacts on fishery-dependent communities. Chinook salmon PSC taken in the Gulf by trawl fisheries is a resource concern. The council previously set hard cap PSC limits that are below the incidental take amount that would trigger consultation under the Endangered Species Act. The trawl fishery is closed if the PSC hard cap is reached.

Since implementation of Chinook salmon PSC limits for the Gulf non-pollock groundfish trawl catcher vessel sector in 2015, the fishery has continued to show variable levels and unpredictable timing of salmon encounter, the council noted.

Potential closures and PSC encounter rates that vary from year to year or even week to week have created uncertainty for harvesters, and adversely affect trawl harvesters, crew, processors and coastal communities. The motion passed by the council noted that alternatives to increase PSC limits or to provide more flexibility under the existing PSC limits were offered in light of new information and multiple years of experience fishing under constraining hard caps for these fisheries in a limited access fishery with variable and unpredictable PSC rates.

The proposed action would not modify other existing features of the Gulf Chinook salmon PSC limits for non-pollock trawl fisheries such as PSC rollovers from the rockfish program catcher vessel sector to the limited access catcher vessel sector, and National Marine Fishery Service’s ability to make in-season king salmon PSC limit reapportionments between certain trawl sectors.

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