Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Deadline for Saltonstall-Kennedy

NOAA Fisheries officials have put out a reminder about the October 10 deadline for pre-proposals for the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant program.

Saltonstall-Kennedy is a nationwide competitive grant program to fund projects addressing the needs of fishing communities, optimize economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and increase other opportunities to keep working waterfront viable.

The 2018 solicitation is seeking applications that fall into one of four priorities:

• Marine aquaculture

• Adapting to environmental changes and other long-term impacts in marine ecosystems

• Promotion, development and marketing

• Territorial science

This year’s solicitation consists of two separate submission processes.

All interested applicants must first submit a two-page pre-proposal as directed at the website www.grants.gov. Following the review process, those interested can submit a full application through the same web page.

This past June NOAA Fisheries announced more than $10 million in recommended grants through the 2017 Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant competition.

Recommended projects among the applicants from Alaska included three from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the University of Alaska Southeast, Fishext Research LLC, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Prince William Sound Science and Technology Institute and the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Requested amounts ranged from $78,224 for development of age determination methods for Alaska crab to $299,652 for a 2018-2020 Southern Bering Sea juvenile Chinook salmon survey. ADF&G applied for both projects.

West Coast applications included two from the University of Washington for nearly $300,000 each in marine aquaculture. The first was for development of genetic risk assessment tools and management strategy evaluation for aquaculture of Native shellfish. The second was for modeling transmission of a bacterial pathogen among farmed and wild abalones in the face of climate change and declining wild populations.

An application from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, for about $299,000 was also recommended, for development of combined hydro-acoustic and visual survey.

The complete list can be found at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/mb/financial_services/fy17_sk_grants_successful_applicants.htm

Farmed Atlantic Salmon Spilled from Damaged Net Pen

Washington state salmon managers are encouraging anglers to harvest thousands of Atlantic salmon that escaped after a net pen failure on August 19 at Cooke Aquaculture on Cypress Island, along Rosario Strait between Guemes and Blakely islands.

About 305,000 salmon were in the net pen at the time, although it was initially estimated that only 4,000 to 5,000 fish escaped, state fisheries officials said in a statement issued on August 22.

The state has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to fish with beach seine nets, and encouraged anglers to also harvest fish.

“Our first concern, of course, is to protect native fish species, so we’d like to see as many of these escaped fish caught as possible,” said Ron Warren, who heads the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Program (WDFW).

Warren said there is no evidence that these fish pose a threat to native fish populations, either through disease or crossbreeding with Pacific salmon. He noted that to date there is no record of Atlantic salmon successfully reproducing with Pacific salmon in Washington.

Participating anglers must have a current fishing license and must observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-2018 sport fishing pamphlet, but they do not have to report Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards. To help anglers identify Atlantic salmon, WDFW has posted a salmon identification guide on its webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic.html

In a statement issued by Cooke, and published in The Seattle Times, the aquaculture company said “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse” caused the damage. Cooke said the incident was due to a “structural failure” of a net pen.

The Puget Soundkeeper countered that the fish escaped at a time “when charts show that tides and currents were well within predictions.” The Puget Soundkeeper said Cooke’s statement was misleading, “distracting from their failure to secure the pens safely and to adequately prepare for predictable tide events.

“In fact, over the last month, there were at least 11 days with higher tides than occurred on August 19th,” Soundkeeper said. “And king tides during the winter are routinely much higher than those reported this month.” Cooke Industries meanwhile has plans to expand a net pen site near Port Angeles, and install up to 20 more sites in the Puget Sound area. A hearing is scheduled on the Port Angeles proposal on September 7.

(See our editorial on the subject in the September, 2017 Fishermen’s News.)

Fire Engulfs Peter Pan Plant at Port Moller

A fire of undetermined cause that began late on August 15 engulfed the 100-year-old Port Moller seafood processing plant owned by Peter Pan Seafoods.

Company officials declined to comment but posted on the Peter Pan Seafoods’ Facebook page that all crew and personnel were reported safe and uninjured, and that the damage is extensive enough to halt operations for the rest of the 2017 season.

The company did note that all the processing workers were safely evacuated from the premises. Peter Pan spokesman Dale Schiffler said the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing.

Port Moller, the company’s most remote facility, is a salmon processing plant some 550 air miles southwest of Anchorage, on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula. It primarily processes sockeyes, but also produces small amounts of king, coho and chum salmon. Before the fire, the plant was able to process about 250,000 pounds of salmon a day, in product forms including frozen headed and gutted, fillets, salted fillets and sujiko (salted salmon eggs). During peak production, it employs a crew of 140 people.

Peter Pan was buying fish from and supporting a fleet of 105 drift gill netters and 30 set netters, both resident and non-resident fishermen.

An Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist, Bob Murphy, who is living at Port Moller for the summer, talked about the fire with Dave Bendinger of Dillingham’s public radio station, KDLG. Murphy told Bendinger that plant workers used a fire suppression system, water lines and hoses to fight the fire, but that their efforts were no match for flames fueled by dry timbers from the 100-year-old buildings.

Port Moller has no fire department.

Mine Opponents Rally in Anchorage

Some 200 Alaskans gathered in the pouring rain in downtown Anchorage on August 21 to tell the Pebble Limited Partnership once again that Bristol Bay residents will not help build a mine not wanted in their region of Alaska. “It has been much more than just a decade of deception,” former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford told the crowd. “Pebble has been telling us things that weren’t true over and over again.

The source of contention is a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine that commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, major environmental groups and others contend has the potential to destroy fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

“They know they don’t have local support,” Halford said. “The fact is that salmon are life to Bristol Bay. They feed everything from the tiniest microorganism to the brown bear. They feed the heart, the soul and the faith of everybody there. And they feed the dreams of people worldwide.”

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, described the mine project advocated by British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, of which the PLP is a subsidiary, as “a cloud over Bristol Bay’s head for more than a decade. “Enough is enough,” Van Vactor said. “Bristol Bay has a robust economic engine that is sustainable –our fisheries. Just this year the commercial fishery harvested more than 37 million sockeyes.” That’s the economy we will fight to preserve.”

The mine opponents gathered outside the Hotel Captain Cook, where the PLP’s advisory committee planned to hold a private meeting about the mine.

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole said several people from groups opposed to the mine were invited to the meeting to share their views but that they all declined.

Heatwole said the PLP is in the midst of active discussions with potential investors in the project and that it plans to begin filing for permits for the mine by year’s end. He acknowledged that approval of permits would be needed from more than 60 classifications, and that every stream crossing permit would need approval from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Heatwole also said that no final decision has been made on the gas fired electrical plant needed for the mine, but said the PLP planned to resolve that issue before submitting permit applications.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

AMSEA Urges Safety for Vessels and Crews

In the midst of the 2017 commercial fishing season, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association is urging harvesters to take a little time out and think about further reducing risks to their vessels and crews.

This advice from Jerry Dzugan, executive director of AMSEA, comes in a year that has already resulted in nine commercial fishing fatalities, plus swamping of several vessels in Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, due to weather and overloading, but fortunately with no loss of life.

Dzugan’s words of advice include having respect for icing and anything that raises the vessel’s center of gravity, keeping vessels and crew afloat, paying attention to weather forecasts, and getting sufficient sleep.

“In the 15-year National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study, out of 210 fishermen who fell overboard and died, not one was wearing a PFD,” he said.

“There is no reason for crew members on deck to not wear one of the many types of comfortable and snag resistant PFDs that are now on the market.”

As for weather watching, if there’s a storm forecast, don’t go! It’s not worth it,” Dzugan said. And find the highest risk item on your deferred maintenance checklist and fix it, he said.

“When we ask the Coast Guard or others to rescue us, it puts them at risk as well, Dzugan writes. Instead, he advises to take preventive measures now to save family members and friends from attending another fishermen’s memorial services. “They are all depending on you to come back alive,” he said. Read his entire article online at http://www.amsea.org/single-post/2017/08/01/Time-Out

Alaska Salmon Harvest Edges Toward 160 Million Fish

Harvests of pink salmon in Alaska’s commercial fisheries have reached more than 86 million fish, bringing the total preliminary salmon catch total to date to nearly 160 million salmon.

The statewide catch also includes upwards of 51 million sockeyes, 19.7 million chum, 2.5 million coho and 242,000 Chinook salmon.

In Southeast Alaska, 20,732,000 of the 30,071,000 salmon delivered to processors are humpies. The forecast for Southeast Alaska’s pink salmon was for an estimated 43 million fish. An actual harvest of 43 million pinks would be just above the recent 10-year average harvest of 39 million pink salmon.

ADF&G fisheries researcher Andy Piston, in Ketchikan, says it’s still too early to say how the humpy harvest in Southeast Alaska will add up this year.

Right now, he said, it looks like it will come in around the low 30 million range. Why the odd-year harvest is lower than anticipated is an unknown. “Nobody knows what combination of factors in the ocean is influencing pink salmon survival, in localized areas especially.

The whole dynamic in the ocean is extremely complex and even with an unlimited budget, which they don’t have, it would be extremely difficult to pin down, he said.

In Prince William Sound, 35,809,000 of the 42,648,000 salmon harvested to date are humpies.

In Alaska’s Westward region, harvesters in the Alaska Peninsula have now delivered 22.5 million salmon to processors. Kodiak area harvests have brought in another 15.8 million salmon, and Chignik has added over 4 million more salmon.

The catch of chum salmon on the Lower Yukon River has reached more than 677,000 fish, and on the Upper Yukon, another 163,000 chum have been caught.

In Bristol Bay, the harvest stands at over 39 million fish, while Cook Inlet’s total salmon harvest to date is approaching 4 million fish.

AK Board of Fisheries Releases Proposal Book

In advance of its work session in Anchorage in October for the upcoming meeting cycle, the Alaska Board of Fisheries has issued its 2017-2018 proposal book, which includes 227 proposals for review at these sessions.

The proposals will be under discussion during the board’s Prince William Sound finfish, Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish, and statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, and other miscellaneous shellfish regulatory meetings. The proposals constitute proposed regulatory changes for identified regions and species.

Download the proposals individually, in sections, or for entire meetings at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.proposalbook.

During the work session at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage Oct. 17-19, the board will consider agenda change requests, cycle organization, and stocks of concern. Work session comments are due by Oct. 3. Check online for several ways to send comments.

From Dec. 1-5, the board will meet at the Valdez Convention and Civic Center to take up Prince William Sound finfish issues. The comment deadline is Nov. 17.

From Jan. 11-23, the board will meet at Harrigan Centennial Hall in Sitka on Southeast and Yakutat finfish and shellfish matters. The comment deadline is Dec. 28.

The board’s final meeting of this cycle will be back at the Egan Center, March 6-9, to discuss statewide (except Southeast and Yakutat) Dungeness crab, shrimp, other miscellaneous shellfish and supplemental issues. The comment deadline is Feb. 23.

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