Meeting season underway with halibut, fish board, council
It’s the time of year when Alaska’s fishery meetings kick into high gear — with five set for this week alone.
The industry got a first glimpse of potential 2015 halibut catches when the International Pacific Halibut Commission convenes Dec. 2-3 in Seattle. It’s been a wait and see attitude among fish circles — Will Alaska’s catch limits again be reduced, down already 70 percent over a decade to just 16 million pounds? Or has the Pacific halibut stock started to rebound as some of the science indicates?
A who’s who of experts hosted a what’s what at the Ocean Acidification in Alaska workshop Dec. 2-3 at the Anchorage Marriott.
Satellite listening stations for the workshop are being made available around the state. (Questions? Alaska Ocean Observing System www.aoos.org)
Upcoming changes to the observer program for small vessels is the focus of meetings set for Tuesday, Dec. 2 in Kodiak and Dec. 4 at Homer. NOAA outreachers will hold similar observer update meetings in March at Sitka and Petersburg.
Salmon, herring and state managed fisheries at Prince William Sound and the Upper Copper/Upper Susitna Rivers will be the focus when the Board of Fisheries gets back to business Dec. 3-8 in Cordova. The Fish Board also will review 57 proposals from region stakeholders. Tune into the meetings live at www.adfg.alaska.gov.
Finally, setting next year’s catches and issues surrounding Alaska pollock, cod and other groundfish will take center stage at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting set for Dec 8-16 at the Anchorage Hilton.
Ocean users guide
Planning and mapping ocean uses, both on and under, is a goal of the National Oceans Policy set in place by the Obama Administration in 2010. It is similar to land use planning, but for marine waters, said Kathryn Sullivan, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Think of it like in any community when someone proposes to put more houses in, or to set aside a tract of forest as a preserve or establish a new park. When you get a proposal like that, what do you all want to do?” Sullivan said. “You want to come together and say how does that relate to our schools and what impact will it have on our highway system, and where do we run the sewer lines. All those kinds of questions come to the foreground.”
The buzz phrase has become “ocean zoning,” but Sullivan said it is more correctly called Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), and is intended to bring together all ocean users, along with multiple layers of information, so everyone is literally on the same page.
“It’s using basic Geographic Information Systems to guide community decisions,” she explained in a phone interview. “The central thrust of GIS is that instead of having 12 people each bringing their separate pieces of paper all done to different scales — we can bring them all together into one common, shared view.”
Sullivan said with marine mapping, planners can consider the cumulative effects of ocean uses, make industries more sustainable and proactively minimize conflicts between all users. Ultimately, it helps form common understandings among people from coastal regions.
“So they can make their decisions of where the fishing grounds are and the shipping lanes, and is there going to be some wind energy developed and if so, where is the favorable area and what impact does that have on fishing and the efficiency of shipping in and out of our harbor,” Sullivan said. “It forms the parts of what you are thinking about together when you make those kind of decisions as a community.”
At this time of giving thanks, let’s not overlook the miracles from the deep.
Sponge Bob, for example, could be the next rage in fiber optics. Researchers at Bell Labs have found that a certain type of sponge grows a network of glass fibers far more advanced than any found in today’s telecommunications networks.
New Zealand researchers have found that adding fish oil to animal feed reduces the release of methane gas by 25 percent to 40 percent in sheep. More than 20 percent of global methane emissions come from farm animals. It is a potent greenhouse gas that traps nearly 20 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.
For hundreds of years Asian cultures have used jellyfish to treat arthritis, high blood pressure and back pain. Some jellyfish have a special bio-luminescence useful in medical research.
Chitin, a substance found in the shells of crab, shrimp and other crustaceans, is packed with medical miracles. The carbohydrate that makes up chitin bonds with red blood cells to form an artificial clot, and seals massive bleeding wounds in just 30 seconds shrimp based bandages are now being used by our troops in Afghanistan.
Ground up shrimp shells stirred into a nasal spray are being tested in England as a treatment for allergies and hay fever.
Russian researchers have created a product from enzymes in king crab shells that helps heal severe burns. They say sea urchin pigment is remarkable for its anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. From sea cucumbers comes the basis of a new immunity-enhancing drug; another from brown seaweed reduces damage from radiation exposure.
The venom of the cone snail is being used as the basis to treat severe chronic pain that doesn’t respond to other treatment. Just a few micrograms is said to be one thousand times more potent than morphine. A drug made from the snail toxin was approved a few years ago in the U.S. Also from the ‘sea pharmacy’ — close to 15 drugs derived from marine organisms are in various stages of testing for cancer treatments. The lowly sea squirt appears to be especially promising.
A first lawsuit is challenging a new federal rule that aims to clamp down on the use of hired skippers who fish halibut and sablefish quota shares owned by others. The rule takes effect December 1 and will ban using a hired skipper to harvest any quota acquired after a cutoff date of Feb. 12, 2010.
Since the Individual Fishing Quota plan was put in place in 1995, the number of hired skippers has topped 50 percent and the quota owners have been charging high rents for the fish that has inflated the cost for IFQs. The goal now is to get back to a predominantly owner operated fleet that provides entry level opportunities for coastal Alaskans.
Fairweather Fisheries of Gig Harbor, Wash., and Ray Welsh of Anchor Point, AK filed the 40-page complaint signed by six lawyers against NOAA Fisheries. Welsh claims the new law is discriminatory because he is disabled and can’t fish his quota; Fairweather claims as a corporation, it relies on a hired skipper to harvest its shares. The lawsuit is filed in federal court at Tacoma.
Fisherman-owned Silver Bay Seafoods of Sitka has announced that StarKist and Dongwon Fisheries of South Korea have acquired a 12.5 percent equity interest in Silver Bay. A spokesman said it will help build the Alaska brand from boat to retail shelves. Silver Bay was founded eight years ago and has processing and freezing facilities in Sitka, Craig, Valdez, Bristol Bay and Metlakatla. The company also plans to expand to the squid fishery at Ventura, Calif.