Fisheries

FISH FACTOR: Salmon winds down, fall fisheries ramp up; cukes against cancer

As Alaska’s salmon season draws to a close, lots of fall fisheries are just getting underway from Ketchikan to the Bering Sea. Southeast is one of Alaska’s busiest regions for fall fishing, especially for various kinds of shellfish. Nearly 400,000 pounds of sidestripe and pink shrimp are being hauled in by a few beam trawlers, and the season for spot shrimp opens Oct. 1. Usually about a half-million pounds of the popular big spots are hauled up in local pots over several months. Dungeness crab fishing also will reopen in Southeast in October, and up to 200 Southeast divers will head down for more than 1.7 million pounds of sea cucumbers starting Oct. 1. A 140,000-pound sea cucumber fishery at Kodiak attracts around 20 divers, and smaller cuke catches in the 5,000- to 20,000-pound range also occur along the Alaska Peninsula, the Aleutians and Bering Sea. Divers, who received about $4 per pound for their sea cucumber catches last year, are likely to get even higher prices. The cukes are considered a delicacy in Asian countries where they are served in many fresh, frozen and powered forms. (See more about the amazing health properties of sea cucumbers below.) A decrease in supply due to a heat wave this summer in China killed most of that country’s production and market reports show that dried sea cucumbers from Japan were recently selling for $126.50 per pound. Alaska longliners have taken 78 percent of the nearly 20 million-pound halibut catch limit since the fishery began in mid-March, with less than 4 million pounds remaining. Seward, Homer and Kodiak were the top ports for halibut landings. For sablefish, fishermen have taken 61 percent of the nearly 26 million pound quota with Seward, Sitka and Kodiak receiving the most deliveries. Both fisheries end on Nov. 7. Fishing for cod, rockfish, flounders, pollock and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea. Pollock reopens in the Gulf of Alaska Oct. 1. Bering Sea crabbers will find out any day the fate of a red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay as well as the catches for snow crab and Tanners. Those fisheries open Oct. 15. Fall also marks the time for some of Alaska’s most important fish meetings. The industry will get a first peek at possible fish catches for next year when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets Oct. 1- 9 in Anchorage. Comments on all agenda items are open through Sept. 28. Finally, the state Board of Fisheries will meet Oct. 15-19 at the Egan Center with an unusual lineup that includes a work session, Pacific cod issues and an open town hall meeting on Alaska hatcheries. In its regular meeting cycle that begins in November, the board will address regulatory issues focused on state managed fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, Chignik, the Aleutians and Bering Sea. Sea cukes and cancer Sea cucumbers have been considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine for centuries and also have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to help aid in many different health problems. In his book “Cancer: Step Outside the Box,” author Ty M. Bollinger calls the spiky, slug-like creates a miracle cure for cancer. “You can cook them for various dishes, but the way it’s found in local health food stores is dried and powdered and in capsule form,” he said, adding that dried sea cucumber extract is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and also has anti-inflammatory properties. “Another of the fascinating things about sea cucumbers is that they are very high in chondroitin sulfate, which is commonly used to treat joint pain and arthritis. To my knowledge, they have the highest concentration of chondroitin of any animal,” Bollinger said in an interview. While customers likely won’t see it on the labels, he added that powdered sea cucumbers also have many cancer curing abilities based on studies over the past 15 years. “Number one, it’s cytotoxic, which means it kills cancer cells, and it also is immunomodulatory. So it has both sides of what I call the cancer killing coin,” he explained. “If you are going to defeat cancer, you need something that regulates your immune system to where it works properly but you also must have something that is going to kill those cancer cells. The sea cucumber does both.” Sea cucumber extract also is used as an adjunct treatment for those undergoing chemotherapy, Bollinger said, because it’s very effective at mitigating the side effects of that cancer treatment. Bigger home for baby oysters Alaska oyster growers at Kachemak Bay near Homer could more than triple their production if they had a new FLUPSY. That’s a “floating upweller system” used to grow millions of tiny oysters after they leave their nursery tanks. It takes up to five years for oysters to grow from microscopic to slurpable size, and the outdated system is taking a big bite out of the potential. Unlike other shellfish growing regions in Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound where farms are widely scattered, a dozen Kachemak Bay farmers used their closer proximity and formed a cooperative in 1988 to pool their resources and products. Since then the Kachemak Shellfish Growers Cooperative and its non-profit mariculture arm have grown to share a facility on the Homer Spit for processing, marketing, slurping, shipping and most recently, culturing local oyster seed. “We should be independent from seed to plate. We are doing that now,” said cooperative president Marie Bader. Roughly 3 million microscopic seed oysters are held in five 500-gallon nursery tanks where they feed constantly on algae for three months before transferring to the waters of Kachemak Bay. That’s where the FLUPSY comes in. The floating raft is run by a paddle wheel pump that provides a steady flow of water and algae to porous bins that hold the baby bivalves for a year. “We no longer feed them when they go into the ocean. They depend on the water for their nutrients,” Bader explained. The baby oysters are cleaned and graded throughout their year in the FLUPSY; when they reach fingernail size, they are sold to the farmers who grow them in floating lantern nets for at least two more years before they are marketable. The Kachemak growers sold 150,000 dozen oysters last year. Orders online are advertised at $21 per dozen but sell locally for $14 to $16 at retail and “a bit less for restaurants,” Bader said. “At Pike’s Place Market in Seattle oysters are selling for $19 to $20 a dozen, so it’s a pretty darn good value.” The group also sells oyster seed at $40 to $45 per thousand to oyster growers in Alaska and elsewhere, where demand exceeds supply. As the Pacific Ocean acidifies, oyster growers in Washington, California and British Columbia have struggled to get larvae to grow into seed, the stage when shells form, and are turning to Alaska. Upgrading their nearly 20 year old FLUPSY would help fill that need. “Instead of 3 million, we might up it to 10 million, and we could space out the baby oysters more so they weren’t so congested in the few bins we have,” Bader said, adding that the FLUPSY is “on its last legs.” “It’s been in salt water, it’s open to the elements, our workers have to boat over to Halibut Cove and are outside in rain and snow keeping that paddlewheel going in the middle of winter. We need a new facility that is enclosed so that our workers are out of the elements and our seed is protected,” she added. A new FLUPSY is on Homer’s 2019 capital improvement list for a total cost of $175,000. City Manager Katie Koester called the co-op’s oyster businesses a “sparkling year-round addition” to Homer and said that “every cooler of oysters delivered to the dock represents $150 to the grower.” Koester added that the local hatchery and new FLUPSY also can provide a great educational lab for high school and university students, who currently must travel to Seward for mariculture studies. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Kelp-based beer latest entry to Alaska’s ‘Blue Economy’

Gov. Bill Walker christened Alaska’s first kelp-based beer during a recent swing through Kodiak. The beer was created at the Kodiak Island Brewery using local kelp from Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed grown by Stephanie and Nick Mangini. “Steph mentioned seeing a kelp craft beer on the internet and I told her to bring me 100 pounds,” said brewery “flow master” Chrissy Johnsrud, who created the new blend. The beer, called Kelp Sea Level Gosé, is a sour, German wheat beer made with coriander and salt. Brewery owner Ben Millstein said the seaweed was an easy fit. “We used the amount of kelp that we thought would replace the amount of salt. It’s working really good,” he said. The new beer was nearing its final stage as Millstein filled glasses with a small amount for tasting. He explained that there are over 150 different styles of beer and it is important to “calibrate one’s palate” before forming an opinion. “Shift your mind into neutral and take a couple sips,” he instructed. “Then sit with it for 30 seconds or a minute and try not to judge. Let it in and let it go. Try to disengage and give it a calibration rest and then see what you think after that.” The kelp beer had a pleasing briny taste and it won the governor’s approval. “I like it. It’s very good,” Walker said, adding that he plans to add it to his kelp repertoire. “I’ve got a kelp salsa story about how I helped get that Juneau product into Safeway, and now we have kelp beer to go with the salsa,” Walker said. “We are making it happen in Alaska as far as the blue economy. It’s right here in front of us.” The Kelp Sea Level beer was set to be added to Kodiak Island Brewery’s 13-tap lineup any day. “I think it’s going to be a huge hit,” said Johnsrud. “You can just smell the salt air and the seagulls. It’s similar to holding your ear up to a shell.” More gov goings-on While he was in Kodiak, Walker also signed House Bill 56 sponsored by Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz that expands the state Revolving Loan Fund to create new financing options for fishing and mariculture businesses. He also re-established the Alaska Mariculture Task Force as an advisory body with a goal of growing a $100-million mariculture industry in 20 years. “The fiscal crisis is on the wane. It should never have happened in the first place and we should never be in that position again. Now we can get back to building Alaska,” Walker said in an interview. In terms of Alaska’s seafood industry, he said the biggest challenges stem from “unpredictability.” “We have seasonal highs and lows, problems with returns. It is very difficult for businesses to plan. One of our jobs is to make sure we provide the best data going forward as quickly as possible, so people and communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing have the assurance of a more stable future,” Walker said. The governor said our seas are “under assault” from a warming climate and off kilter ocean chemistry. That was the impetus, he said, for forming a climate change action committee that is scheduled to introduce recommendations next month that will build upon past policy initiatives and encourage new ideas. During a town meeting, several Kodiakans commented that Alaska lawmakers by and large “skim over” the economic, social and cultural importance of the seafood industry. “It’s all about attitude,” Walker said. “Commercial fishing was Alaska’s first industry and it drove the push to statehood. We will make sure our fish benefit Alaska and coastal communities. We will show up and be engaged.” Halibut shifts Some big shifts were quietly made last week to the panel that oversees the Pacific halibut stocks, including the addition of a first-ever sportfish seat. Both the U.S. and Canada named “relative newcomers” as commissioners to seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission “during extremely sensitive negotiations on policy issues,” said Peggy Parker, director of the Halibut Association of North America and editor at Seafoodnews.com. The changes to the panel of three Canadian and three U.S. seats came after a rare impasse in determining halibut catch limits for the 2018 season. In the end, all six agreed to lower limits for both countries, but not as a commission. It was the second time in the IPHC’s 94-year history that an impasse could not be overcome, Parker said. The commissioners also agreed to negotiate a resolution to their disagreements, which center on halibut distribution and bycatch accountability, before the annual meeting in January. For the U.S. seats, NOAA Fisheries announced the reappointment of Bob Alverson, director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association. Also, sport charter operator Richard Yamada, president of the Alaska Charter Association, replaced Linda Behnken, director of Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and a halibut commissioner for two years. Yamada is owner of Shelter Lodge near Juneau and has been involved in the charter fishing industry for nearly 40 years. He currently serves on state and federal fisheries advisory committees. Both men were appointed for five months, from Sept. 1 to Jan. 31, 2019. Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries Alaska manager who has represented the U.S. for nearly two decades, was reappointed through September, “but may be replaced after that, according to several people familiar with the process,” Parker said. Both Chris Oliver, current head of NOAA Fisheries, and Doug Mecum, deputy regional manager at the fisheries service Juneau office, have been mentioned as possible replacements. Eat more fish leaves babies behind Seafood nutrition experts are gathering in the nation’s capital next week for a State of the Science Symposium. The non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership hosts the annual event as part of a public health campaign begun in 2015 aimed at getting Americans to eat more seafood. The connection of omega rich seafood to brain health is a trending topic, according to the agenda . “The brain and the retina in the eye are omega-3 organs. As calcium is to the bones, omega 3 is to the brain,” said Dr. Tom Brenna, professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas/Austin and chair of the SNP advisory council. Added to the symposium mix this year, Brenna said, are fisheries managers, aquaculture experts and environmental groups. “And we guys on the medical nutrition side are thrilled,” Brenna said in a phone interview. “There is so much misinformation out there about the state of fisheries and management. Having folks who can speak authoritatively about what folks are doing in U.S. fisheries and around the world is extraordinarily valuable and something we don’t get in any other forums.” The partnership works with local dieticians and uses educational programs and social media to get its health messages across. Brenna said it has yet to come up with a catchy national brand. “We don’t have a good a way of getting across the notion that seafood is such a delicious part of meals. Maybe we should have a contest to find a nice tag line that would identify seafood in the same way as ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Beef, it’s what’s for dinner,’” he said. A focus of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership is moms, but Brenna admitted that fish is missing from America’s baby food offerings. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what the problem is,” he said. “It seems like it’s a consumer demand question; companies sell what the consumers demand and apparently, we have not done a good job in educating consumers about what they ought to be demanding for their kids. “In nutrition circles, for 30 years we have been discussing that when we transition a baby or toddler from breast milk or formula that contains omega-3s, they are transitioning to foods that have hardly any omega-3s at all. And no fish,” Brenna added. “We should be weaning kids to the foods that are going to be important throughout their lives. And this may be a reason why they are not consuming seafood when they get older. Maybe this is something that we can work on with baby food manufacturers.” The seafood nutrition science symposium is set for Sept. 14 in Washington, DC. Audio and video will be available after the event. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

As costs rise, Walker signs bill to increase fishing loan limits

Alaska fishermen now have a little more leeway to borrow money from the state to pay for new permits, boats, licenses and other equipment. House Bill 56, primarily sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, rewrites sections of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Program to change the cap on allowable amounts of certain types of loans. Fishermen who want to buy individual fishing quotas, or IFQ, limited entry permits or gear can now borrow up to $400,000, an increase from $300,000. Gov. Bill Walker signed the bill into law Aug. 31. Ortiz — who represents a district with a high proportion of commercial fishing and seafood processing jobs — said in a release from the Alaska House Majority Coalition that the bill helps resident fishermen get over the cost hurdle to enter commercial fisheries. “By clearing away bureaucratic and economic hurdles, this bill moves us one step closer towards the goal of helping Alaskans reap the benefits of our sustainable commercial fisheries,” Ortiz said. The House passed the bill in 2017, but it sat in the Senate Finance Committee for the remainder of the contentious and lengthy session before the Senate passed it in May 2018. Ortiz credited Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, with pushing the bill through the Senate this year, despite most of the Legislature’s attention being focused on fiscal issues. The Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Fund is coordinated through the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and is only available to people who have lived in Alaska for at least two years. Fishermen can take out low-interest loans for up to 15-year terms to finance fishing-related expenses like vessel upgrades, gear purchases or permit purchases. The $300,000 amount was set in 1982, Ortiz wrote in a sponsor’s statement to the Legislature. Adjusting for inflation in the 36 years since, that would be about $746,000 today. Alaska fishermen have been facing steeper and steeper thresholds to entry in commercial fisheries over the years. Because of concerns about stock sustainability and overharvesting, Alaska established the limited entry system in 1972 for state-regulated fisheries. The value of permits goes up and down depending on the value of the fishery, but can cost as much as $190,800 for a set gillnet permit in Prince William Sound or as little as $3,300 for a set gillnet permit for salmon in the Upper Yukon River, according to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. That’s not counting boats, gear and fuel. In 1992, federal regulators implemented a quota system for halibut that created IFQ for a similar reason — to preserve the stocks and slow down the fishery while still allowing harvest opportunity. The season now lasts from March until November compared to the “race for fish” in the past when the total harvest could be taken in just days. However, the market-based value of those quota shares has increased so much that small, rural Alaskan fishermen have been pushed out by the cost of purchasing quota, causing significant disruption in those rural fishing communities even two decades later. IFQs have been implemented in a variety of fisheries in Alaska including Bering Sea crab and pollock to achieve the goal of sustainability through limited entry. While that may work for some fisheries, it has shown negative consequences for smaller ones, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August. Courtney Carothers, a University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor who co-authored the study, said in a news release from the university that the study was meant to question whether a broadly applied fishery management tool like the IFQ system, also known as ITQ (individual transferable quotas) works for all fisheries. “Social scientists have been frustrated by the assumption that ITQs are a simple solution for fisheries management across the world,” Carothers said. “We were excited to come together and evaluate some examples of where ITQs work, why sometimes they don’t work, and who is being impacted when an ITQ isn’t the right option for a fishery.” She cited the halibut fishery in Alaska as an example, where some quota shares can cost up to $70 per pound. The paper suggests developing an “institutional diagnostics toolkit” to help fisheries regulators and officials gauge the impact of a measure before implementing it, based on the context of the fishery. “Toolkits like this could be used in many governance settings to challenge users’ understandings of a policy’s impacts and help them develop solutions better tailored to their particular context. They would not replace the more comprehensive approaches found in the literature but would rather be an intermediate step away from the problem of panaceas,” the paper states. The Legislature was considering another bill, HB 188, to address the same entry-cost problem. HB 188, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, D-Sitka, would allow up to three regions in Alaska to establish commercial fisheries trusts which would hold permits and temporarily transfer those permits to fishermen, essentially providing a middle step between being a deckhand and laying out a small fortune to buy an entry permit. Introduced in 2017, the bill was last heard in February 2018 and referred to the House Labor and Commerce Committee. Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Biologists, fishermen puzzle over late Kenai sockeye run

First they were underweight, with underwhelming numbers. Then they weren’t there at all. Then they were coming in late, showing up as Upper Cook Inlet fishermen were packing up their gear for the season. The unpredictable and significantly smaller Kenai River sockeye run frustrated a lot of fishermen this year. As of the last day of sonar counts on Aug. 28, about 1.03 million sockeye had entered the river. More than half of them arrived after Aug. 1, leading to a stop-and-start fishery that included significant time and area cuts for commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet and a complete sockeye salmon sport angling closure on the Kenai River from Aug. 4–23. That resulted in a total catch of 813,932 sockeye, less than half of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preseason forecast commercial harvest of 1.9 million sockeye. Even the late fish arrival wasn’t much of a boon to the area’s commercial fishermen. Per the management plans, the East Side setnet fishermen are largely out of the water by Aug. 15, and the drift gillnet fleet is moved mostly to the west side of Cook Inlet to focus on silver salmon. On Aug. 23, in response to late incoming fish passing the Kenai River sonar, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened Drift Area 1 — a broad fishing area between the Anchor Point Light and Kalgin Island in the middle of the inlet — to drifting. Despite the opening and the numbers of sockeye passing the sonar in the river, fishermen only picked up 209 sockeye in that opening. By comparison, they picked up 1,105 silvers, which have reportedly been running well in Cook Inlet this year, despite the poor numbers of sockeye, king and pink salmon. The managers were expecting the sockeye catch to be better, said Brian Marston, the area management biologist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries in Soldotna. “We were hoping to get at some of those late fish,” he said. “We couldn’t open it up in Area 2 (closer to the mouth of the Kenai) … we just missed them.” The silver run has been a little better than usual this year, providing a small extra buffer for fishermen. Most Kenai River sportfishermen have been switching from sockeye to silvers as well, with guides grateful that the silver run has been strong enough to support angler effort with a weak or closed sockeye fishery. Biologists have been puzzling over what happened with the Gulf of Alaska sockeye this year. Weak king salmon runs weren’t uniform across the gulf, and since 2008, Alaskans have been adjusting to a reality with fewer king salmon in it. But sockeye are normally plentiful, and this year presented some firsts. Chignik’s commercial fishermen, for example, never opened, earning a disaster declaration from Gov. Bill Walker before the summer was even over. The poor runs of sockeye have happened in some rivers before, but the complete closure is a first for Chignik, said Bill Templin, the chief fisheries scientist for Fish and Game’s division of commercial fisheries. Other fisheries have been seeing a late burst, like the Kenai, and the commercial fishermen have been able to take some advantage, such as the Copper River and in Kodiak. Those fisheries have been seeing a sharp underperformance in pink salmon fisheries, too, though, as they did in 2016 when a federal disaster was declared and for which $56 million was appropriated by Congress for impacted stakeholders. So far, indications seem to point to ocean conditions unfavorable for survival. Research through the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative for the last five years has provided good tracking and life history data on ocean survival for king salmon, but the department hasn’t been doing the same kind of research for sockeye salmon, Templin said. But even then, there are some mysterious snags — while one sockeye stock may have come back poorly this year, a neighboring stream would do just fine. Next door to the Kenai River, the Kasilof River’s sockeye run handily made its escapement goal this year with harvest and increased bag limits. “Generally the freshwater conditions are pretty good, pretty consistent,” he said. “Ocean conditions seem to be driving a lot of it.” In the case of the Kasilof, that may be because the main cohort for that river is largely four-year-old fish as opposed to five-year-old fish being the norm on the Kenai, Marston said. The department staff will do more analysis after the season about the run, but so far it looks like the fish caught were for the most part smaller than usual. The Kasilof River escapement goal for sockeye was exceeded in part because of concerns for the Kenai run that restricted the commercial fleet. More fish escaped into the Kasilof, so even though the run itself wasn’t that large, more fish made it into the river, Marston said. Some fishermen have still been out harvesting silvers, but in a fishery that depends almost entirely on sockeye for the majority of its value, this season was a hard one for Upper Cook Inlet fishermen. “It’s hard to make (that sockeye catch) up,” Marston said.

Tariffs throw wrench into seafood supply chain

KENAI — Many seafood processors, fishermen and support businesses have been watching with increasing dismay as the trade war between U.S. and China heats up and impacts billions of dollars in trade. In March, President Donald Trump’s administration announced its intention to levy tariffs against China in connection with “unfair” trade practices, including theft of intellectual property. When the first round of tariffs on Chinese products were announced, the seafood industry hoped to escape the list of impacted items. That hope faded when a host of seafood products were included on the list of proposed retaliatory tariffs from the Chinese government. Then Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proposed another set of tariffs, including seafood products, at 10 percent in July. Then that number was upped to 25 percent in August. In a hearing hosted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Aug. 20–24, Bob DeHaan of the National Fisheries Institute said the tariffs will effectively punish American fishermen for Chinese intellectual property theft, which has nothing to do with them. Of the $2.7 billion in proposed tariffs on seafood, more than $95 million came from Alaskan fishermen. “In many cases such as the iconic Bristol Bay salmon run that just concluded this year, the fishermen are family-owned enterprises who sell their catch to seafood companies for processing, distribution and sale around the world,” he said. “How punishing these harvesters and these businesses for in effect buying American will convince China to respect its obligations regarding intellectual property rights and technology transfers is difficult to fathom.” Taking advantage of a growing consumer market and the country’s geographic position between Alaska and Europe, many seafood companies have been working to establish trade relations of their own with China. A number of seafood companies, including Copper River Seafoods, went along on a recent trade mission headed by Gov. Bill Walker to build relationships with Chinese businesses and government. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been working to expand its international markets for the last 20 years, with a branch office in Shanghai, said Hannah Lindoff, the director of ASMI’s international marketing program. The marketing agency, which promotes Alaska’s wild seafood as a brand worldwide, has been following the tariff developments and providing regular updates with concerns about the far-reaching impacts of tariffs on the international supply chain. A major part of that is because much of Alaska’s seafood that is shipped to China is eventually re-shipped elsewhere — in that case, the only thing that happens in China is reprocessing. “Europe is still a major market for us,” she said. “It makes a lot of sense to go through where processors are already established.” A lot of processing still happens in Alaska. However, the reprocessing side in China and other international markets makes sense because of the better access to markets with frozen fillets — demand for fillets has replaced the demand for canned salmon over the years, Lindoff said. ASMI and other organizations have been working on building the domestic consumption market is China, as opposed to just re-exporting seafood from there, Lindoff said. In America, price is still king, and in Europe, people are more used to eating salmon and paying more for it, but in China the consumers are still getting used to eating salmon. Wild Alaska seafood is only a drop in the bucket of the international salmon supply — roughly 2 percent — and so ASMI markets it as a luxury, healthy alternative to farmed salmon, which commands a higher price. The tariffs on the U.S. side with product coming back from China after reprocessing would hit American consumers, pushing up prices. However, it would also lead to interruptions in the supply chain, which could also push up costs as companies reshuffle. DeHaan explained in his testimony that the tariffs could destabilize the year-round supply chain and cost jobs in the middle and tail ends of the supply chain. “Forced to abandon China sourcing, these companies in many instances will have no choice but to drop that product line or select a third country substitute, which itself will require significant cost and expense and time,” he said. “The existing supply chains in seafood as in any other sector can take many years to build, refine and perfect. Modifying them is neither simple nor inexpensive.” Sen. Dan Sullivan testified to the committee against the seafood tariffs as well, asking the administration to remove the seafood items. “The vast, vast, vast, vast majority of this product is American,” he said. “It is an American product. And yet we’re going to penalize this with almost a billion dollars of value of tariffs on our own products by our own people. I don’t think that’s what the president or his team has intended.” Lindoff said ASMI intends to continue its international operations for now, assessing the situation as it evolves. Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

After year in DC, Oliver reflects on fisheries progress

SOLDOTNA — Chris Oliver has had a busy year since he made the leap from Anchorage to Washington, D.C. to take the lead job at the National Marine Fisheries Service. As soon as he arrived, there was an annual priorities document to review, he said at a recent roundtable discussion event hosted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association in Soldotna. The document is both internally-facing and public to help guide NMFS’ decisions. There were three goals listed in that document, the first of which was to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities. He changed it to read “maximize fishing opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and fishing communities.” “There are a number of fisheries around the country where we’re not fully utilizing the available harvest whether it’s choke species or bycatch constraints or outdated regulations,” he said. “We’ve been approaching that pretty aggressively in that form. There’s not a huge amount of headroom in our wild stock harvest fisheries, but there’s some.” The second was to manage protected species, including those under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Under that, he added language to manage those species while supporting responsible fishing and resource development. NOAA encounters a variety of resource conflicts with endangered species, be they migrating salmon species impacting agriculture or fishermen wanting to harvest king salmon that whales feed on or, more recently in Alaska, fishermen concerned about the number of sea otters impacting the shellfish fisheries in Southeast. “I think that’s another reflection of the priorities of this administration, approaching things in a more business-minded manner while not disregarding the basic science mandate of our mission,” Oliver said. “Balancing that mandate of our mission to protect and conserve those protected resources with the administration’s focus on supporting energy and infrastructure development is a very delicate balancing act. And it’s really taken a lot of my focus and a lot of my time, but it’s an important balancing act.” The third goal he revised was to improve agency excellence, adding “regulatory efficiency,” in line with President Donald Trump’s administration’s goal to reduce regulatory burden on business. He said NMFS has “aggressively” moved that direction as fisheries managers move many more regulations than other agencies. Oliver spent 27 years in Alaska with much of that time as the executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council — one of eight such regional councils established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act — and said he brought much of the experience he gained working with the council to the job in Washington. He’s now getting a better look into what other fisheries around the country are dealing with. His moves toward streamlining regulations and promoting simultaneous uses with fisheries align with another initiative the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is advancing known as the Blue Economy Initiative. Included in that is maximizing both recreational and commercial fishery opportunities and boosting the opportunities for aquaculture in the country. NOAA Acting Administrator Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet said at a July 24 hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation the fact that U.S. aquaculture production is ranked 17th in the world despite its large Exclusive Economic Zone “unacceptable.” “We are changing that by executing a strategy to use existing authorities to expand aquaculture in federal waters,” he said. Aquaculture is a particularly hot-button topic in Alaska. Aquaculture is allowed in a variety of types: operations in Southeast and Kachemak Bay produce clams, mussels, oysters and kelp. In 2015, the state permitted 65 farms, though only 22 reported production, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For finfish, it’s limited to the hatchery operations that dot Southeast, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and Kodiak; net-pen farming in the style that other countries and states like Washington allow is illegal in Alaska. Even hatcheries have recently come under fire from fishermen and environmentalists with concerns about the impact of increasing pink salmon hatchery numbers on the food web of the Gulf of Alaska and their interference with wild stocks by straying into nearby streams. Oliver said the initiative will include a set of incentives to invest, making it easier for potential aquaculture operations to make it through the permitting hoops and get going. “As I mentioned before, we don’t have a lot of headroom in our wild capture fisheries,” Oliver said. “but with the growing population of the world, and the amount of coastline that we have, promoting marine aquaculture is a huge initiative of this administration. I know in Alaska that’s not always a welcome prospect … nobody’s going to be forcing anybody to take on anything, but we want to make it (easier to permit).” Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: West Coast fishermen go bounty hunting for lost gear

Cell phones are being used by fishermen to bounty hunt for pay for lost fishing gear. California fishermen created the retrieval project last year along with the Nature Conservancy to get ropes, buoys, pots and anchors out of the water after the Dungeness fishery so they don’t entangle whales, and Washington and Oregon quickly followed suit. Nearly 50 whales were taken on the west coast last year after the annual crab opener, one of the region’s largest and most lucrative fisheries. “They are using their cell phones and its GPS to take a picture of what the gear looked like, tell when they found it, and any identifying markings on the buoy — the vessel, the ID number, and also the latitude and longitude of exactly where they found it,” explained Nat Nichols, area manager for groundfish and shellfish at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Kodiak. He added that it is not uncommon for gear loss rates in different fisheries to be “anywhere from 3 to 23 percent.” Under a special permit, the West Coast bounty hunters head out two weeks after the Dungeness crab fishery closes to search for derelict gear. “Dungies tend to be in shallower water and that means there is more wave energy and the gear can get lost or rolled up on the beach. A lot of it has a tendency to move around because it’s in the tidal surge,” Nichols said. The fishermen get paid $65 for every pot they pull up. The gear then goes back to the original owners who pay $100 per pot for its return. Whereas saving whales was the prime motivator for pot retrievals on the West Coast, in Alaska’s crab and pot cod fisheries, it’s ghost fishing and gear conflicts. “The animals go in the pots and starve and that rebaits the pot, so they will fish for years. That can kill a lot of animals because they’re doing it 24/7 and always rebaiting themselves,” Nichols explained. By Alaska law, all pots must use twine in escape panels that biodegrades in about 30 days. But sometimes the escape routes get blocked. “At Kodiak, we average around 7,000 pots in the water for our small Dungeness fishery,” he said. “If you lose 10 percent or even 5 percent, that’s a lot. It starts to build up over the years and get in everyone’s way. It’s a burden on everyone out on the water if they constantly have to avoid all this gear that is out there doing nothing.” Gear recovery permits are issued to help with retrievals shortly after a crab or pot cod fishery closes; a state enforcement vessel also does a roundup of all the gear it finds. Nichols said the main focus is preventing the loss of pot gear in the first place He believes a cell phone bounty program could work in Alaska and “it’s been talked about” at the Kodiak office, although it would be on a much smaller scale. “Even though we have quite a bit of gear in the water, I’m not sure it’s enough to really incentive people to go find it in compared to the West Coast,” Nichols said. “Instead of retrieving hundreds of pots and having 20 to 30 people participating in the recovery, we may just have three or so.” The cell phone idea hasn’t attracted any takers yet at Southeast Alaska, said Douglas-based shellfish biologist Adam Messmer in an email from a survey boat. Southeast is home to the state’s largest Dungeness fishery, where about 45,000 pots are dropped each year. Pink salmon disaster plan unveiled Two years ago, the state’s largest pink salmon regions at Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Southeast and lesser areas went bust from the worst pink returns in decades. At Gov. Bill Walker’s request the fishery was declared a disaster and Congress appropriated $56.3 million for Alaska fishermen, processors and communities. Alaska and NOAA have developed a draft distribution plan for the funds, according to Seafoodnews.com. Once approved, the money will be administered by the Pacific States Marine Commission. There are four categories outlined in the draft spending plan: research, municipalities, fishery participants and processors. The suggested distribution is $4.18 million for research; for municipalities, $2.43 million is set aside for the coastal communities that would have received 1.5 percent of the landed value of the foregone catch. Processors would get $17.7 million for lost wages as a result of the disaster. Alaska fishermen would get the biggest portion at $32 million. It would be distributed using a calculation that will restore lost ex-vessel (dockside) value equal to 82.5 percent of their five even-year averages. Talk fish Kodiak’s famous fisheries debate featuring Alaska candidates for governor is set for Oct. 22. Since 1991 all leading candidates have participated in the event, which focuses on the seafood industry and is broadcast statewide. Gov. Bill Walker and Democrat candidate Mark Begich have confirmed they will be in Kodiak to “talk fish”; no response yet from Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy, said Frank Shiro, director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the fish debate. Hatchery facts Hatcheries in the southern portion of Southeast Alaska provide stability for the region’s fishermen and processors, and a big chunk of fish for sports anglers. A new economic impact report by the McDowell Group profiled the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, a 42 year old nonprofit that operates seven hatcheries and seven release sites from Dixon Entrance to Frederick Sound. The combined operations produce and release around 170 million salmon smolts to the sea annually. Over the last 10 years, the hatchlings have contributed 19 percent of the volume and 28 percent of the value of the region’s total harvests. As a portion of the overall catches averaged over five years from 2008 through 2017, salmon that began their lives in local hatcheries accounted for 57 percent of chum catches, 39 percent for chinook and 31 percent of the coho harvests, valued at $175 million to the local fisheries. Fishermen averaged $84 million over the five years from hatchery catches, with most of the benefit going to salmon fishermen in the Petersburg-Wrangell area at 37 percent, followed by Ketchikan at 29 percent and Prince of Wales residents claiming 25 percent of the salmon’s dockside value. By gear type, 46 percent of the hatchery salmon harvest value is dominated by the seine fleet, 32 percent are gillnetters and 21 percent are trollers. The report said that a key benefit of salmon returning home to local hatcheries is that it provides stability with the chums balancing out the volatility of other species, notably, those tough to predict pinks. Other findings: local processors earned an estimated gross margin of $134 million on hatchery salmon over the five years; chum roe accounted for nearly half. The role of the fish in the sportfishing sector is especially prominent near Ketchikan. Creel surveys showed that roughly a third of the chinook salmon caught were from local hatcheries along with 13 percent of the sport cohos. The state closely monitors straying of hatchery fish into wild systems in all areas where the fish are released. An 11-year study at Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound is currently underway focused on interactions of hatchery and wild salmon to provide guidance for assessing Alaska’s hatchery program. Pollock possibilities Researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science have discovered that gelatin from pollock skins makes a sealant that is 12 times stronger than conventional uses. A big plus is that the fish gelatin remains liquid at room temperature and can be sprayed directly onto an open wound on any body organ. Pollock skins also are an exciting new source for nanofibers that are similar to tissue in human organs and skin. “Hopefully, if you have a damaged organ you can grow these cells outside the body and then reintroduce it into the wound to help improve the ability of an organs to heal itself,” said Bor-Sen Chiou at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in California. He added during a radio interview that studies show fish gelatins improve cell growth far better than traditional animal gels. Along with pharmaceuticals, gelatin from pollock skins also has huge potential in the food industry. “They have substances that can be used as a beverage thickener, a clarifier for juices, plus you can roll it out into great films,” said former USDA food technologist Cindy Bower. “When you test it against bovine and pig skin films there is decreased water vapor permeability, meaning the fish films are a better barrier to water. So there is application for using them to coat foods, to keep moisture in or out,” Bower added. “Plus, they’re fish so they satisfy kosher and Halal (Muslim) dietary restrictions. That opens markets for millions of people worldwide.” From skin to bones, ground up pollock bones are being roto tilled into the soil in California neighborhoods to neutralize toxic lead, a problem in nearly every U.S. urban area. Instead of digging up and disposing of contaminated soil, the calcium phosphate in tons of Alaska pollock bone meal is turning the lead into a harmless mineral. The alchemy has been known for nearly 20 years and used mostly at mining sites and military bases. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Ferry makes extra stop in Chignik after salmon fishery failure

The salmon didn’t show in sufficient numbers to allow any significant commercial fishing, with just 128 sockeyes landed. The state ferry made an extra stop as if to evacuate refugees. And now the Chignik salmon fishery has been officially declared a disaster. Gov. Bill Walker declared an economic disaster for the Chignik fisheries region on Aug. 23, including Chignik, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville, and Ivanof Bay, which depend on salmon for both subsistence and commercial harvests. “Chignik is used to catching more than a million sockeye every year. This year, they caught 128 fish,” said Walker. “Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch. It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover. That’s what we’re here for.” The request for a disaster declaration from the Bristol Bay Native Association warned of winter hardship. “Without the salmon returning, they will not be able to purchase home heating fuel, electricity, gasoline, propane, basic food necessities, mortgage payments, boat expenses, and financial obligations to the state,” according to BBNA. Last year, Chignik fishermen caught a total of about 1 million sockeye, accounting for 45 percent of the total paid to salmon fishermen of $15.8 million, with 41 percent of the ex-vessel dollars paid for pink salmon. The 67 permit holders fishing in 2017 earned an average of $236,000, including kings, chums and coho, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In June, ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten said the salmon run was the worst since Alaska became a state in 1959. A few weeks later, it improved but not by much, upgraded to the worse since the 1960s, according to ADFG Biologist Lisa Fox. “I haven’t put my net in the water once,” said Unalaska purse seiner Roger Rowland in June, lamenting the failure of the first run of salmon. “It’s literally the worst run ever.” While he still had hopes for the second run, the fish counted swimming through the Chignik River weir provided the same sad story as the first run to a different lake in the two-lake spawning grounds. In the only fishing period on July 7 and 8, fishermen landed a paltry 128 sockeyes, 124 chums and 6 pink salmon, according to Lucas Stumpf of ADFG. “It’s pretty sad. It’s a terrible year,” he said. That opener was aimed at pinks and chums, and only six vessels participated. There were no fishing periods targeting sockeye. As the Chignik salmon disaster continued, the Alaska Marine Highway System doubled the stops on the Aug. 8 -14 Aleutian Islands trip on the state ferry Tustumena, as fisheries workers departed early. The ferry was originally scheduled to stop only once in the Alaska Peninsula community while southbound to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. An additional Chignik stop was added on the return trip to Kodiak, according to ferry spokeswoman Aurah Landau. ADFG biologist Dawn Wilburn said in a normal year, fishing continues the whole month of August. And in more bad news, she said the pink salmon run also failed. Warmer ocean temperatures are a suspected cause, she said. While subsistence salmon fishing was available, the harvests were small, though the numbers won’t be known until early next year, after the deadline for subsistence catch figures to be sent to Fish and Game, Wilburn said. And even as the season wound down with next to nothing, the salmon-counting weir had to be pulled early, as it had started washing away in the rain-swollen Chignik River, Wilburn said. The economic disaster declaration allows the state Legislature to appropriate money for assistance grants and allows the governor to make budget recommendations to accelerate the region’s existing capital projects and provide funding for new ones. It also waives specific provisions of Alaska statute and regulations relating to capital project requirements, employment, and contractor preference. In addition to the disaster declaration, Walker directed the Division of Economic Development to commit as many resources as possible to assist salmon permit holders who participate in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program and may be unable to meet the terms of their loans because of Chignik’s low harvest. With a preliminary harvest count of 128 sockeye salmon, the 2018 sockeye harvest was only .00922 percent of the prior 10-year average. Escapement counts for 2018 for all salmon in the Chignik Management Area (as of July 29) are 54 percent of what they were on the same date in 2017, according to the governor. Additional support for Chignik area residents is available from the Division of Public Assistance, which provides food relief and financial assistance to Alaskans in need. The division offers programs such as the Heating Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program. For information about the Division of Public Assistance, visit dhss.alaska.gov/dpa. More information about the Division of Economic Development is at commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded. Jim Paulin can be reached at [email protected]

Tariffs set to take toll on Alaska seafood exports and imports

More seafood tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China are hitting Alaska coming and going. On July 6, the first 25 percent tax went into effect on more than 170 U.S. seafood products going to China. On Aug. 23 more items were added to the list, including fishmeal from Alaska. “As of right now, nearly every species and product from Alaska is on that list of tariffs,” said Garrett Evridge, a fisheries economist with the McDowell Group. Alaska produces more than 70,000 metric tons of fishmeal per year (about 155 million pounds), mostly from pollock trimmings, with salmon a distant second. The pollock meal is used primarily in Chinese aquaculture production, while salmon meal goes mostly to pet food makers in the U.S. In 2017 about $70 million worth of fishmeal from Alaska pollock was exported to China from processing plants all over the state. Anchovy-based fishmeal from Peru is the predominate source for world aquaculture, but whitefish meal made from Alaska pollock is regarded as the premium. According to Undercurrent News, pollock meal commands $600 to $700 more per ton than Peruvian meal and is currently trading at up to $2,300 per ton. The tariffs on U.S. seafood products exported to China is a done deal. In the long run, Evridge said Alaska might be able to shift exports to other countries, but the size of the Chinese market makes it tough to replace. “On the Chinese side, it looks like there is little recourse,” Evridge said. “At least in the short term there is little ability for the Alaska seafood industry to avert these tariffs.” And there’s also a flip side. Trump has proposed a 25 percent tariff on products coming into the U.S. from China. It would include seafood that is caught in Alaska, shipped to China for reprocessing into fillets, portions or fish sticks and then resent to the U.S. for distribution to buyers. “That will possibly be the case next month when those tariffs go into effect on the U.S. side,” Evridge said. On Aug. 20, the U.S. International Trade Commission began hearing from over 350 speakers representing a wide variety of industries harmed by Trump’s tariffs from flooring to fruit juices to fish. The commission also must review more than 2,300 letters received so far; the pile is expected to grow by the Sept. 6 public comment deadline. “We’re kind of a pawn in a broader game,” Evridge said, adding that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaska’s congressional delegation and the governor’s office are “closely engaged.” The National Fisheries Institute voiced strong opposition to the proposed new tariffs in testimony last week saying that “it will punish American fishermen and the communities that rely on them by making their products more expensive for American families to eat.” “Of the $2.7 billion in annual seafood shipments subject to this proposal, an estimated $950 million comes from an American fisherman – primarily an Alaska fisherman – harvesting in U.S. waters in a U.S.-flag vessel using a U.S. crew,” said NFI’s Robert DeHaan. One of the Trump Administration’s stated goals — making China respect its obligations regarding intellectual property rights — don’t line up with tariffs on seafood, DeHaan added. “How punishing these harvesters — and these businesses for ‘Buying American’ — will convince China to respect its obligations regarding intellectual property rights and technology transfers is difficult to fathom,” he said. “Cutting fish is not an intellectual property secret.” Last year China purchased 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood, valued at nearly $800 million. Salmon wrap Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is 31 percent below expectations and is unlikely to reach the preseason forecast of 147 million fish. In what the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is calling an “unusual season” in a wrap up announcement, they said that the shortfall stems from poor pink salmon returns to Gulf of Alaska regions. ADFG also cited unexpected run timing for sockeyes at several major regions, causing uncertainty for managers and lost harvest opportunities for fishermen. Bristol Bay’s Kvichak River saw the latest peak since 1956; more than half of the Kenai River’s late-run sockeye returned during the month of August, which has only occurred once before; and Copper River sockeye salmon returned in three distinct pulses, the third happening in mid-July. But “it is important to maintain perspective on historical salmon harvests,” ADFG said, pointing out that the three largest Alaska salmon harvests on record occurred between 2013 and 2017. The 2018 season has not been without bright spots, notably at Bristol Bay, which experienced the second largest sockeye salmon harvest on record of nearly 42 million fish, and the fourth consecutive season with the harvest topping 35 million sockeyes. Norton Sound also is likely to exceed last year’s record coho salmon harvest and at Kotzebue, the chum salmon harvest will be among the top four on record. Preliminary statewide total harvests and exvessel (dockside)values by salmon species and area will be available by mid-October. Salmon cells Plans are underway to grow and sell salmon and other seafoods made directly from fish cells. San Diego-based BlueNalu says it will “disrupt current industry practices” and be a pioneer in “cellular aquaculture,” in which living cells are isolated from fish tissue, cultured in various lab media and then assembled into “great-tasting fresh and frozen seafood products.” BlueNalu is being seeded with $4.5 million in startup money from a private venture fund called New Crop Capital whose mission is ‘funding the future of food.’ Seafood perceptions Seafood lovers around the world believe that the biggest threat to the oceans is pollution, followed by overfishing. Those are some of the top takeaways from a survey earlier this year of more than 25,000 people in 22 countries. The survey was done by the public opinion research firm GlobeScan for the Marine Stewardship Council. The non-profit MSC led the movement starting 20 years ago towards certifying fisheries that are managed sustainably, which has become a requirement of doing business by most seafood buyers around the globe. The study found that 72 percent of seafood consumers want sustainability verifications at their supermarkets, but price is still the biggest motivator for buying decisions. A surprising gender divide showed that men are more motivated by price while women regarded seafood sustainability as more important. Seventy-two percent also agreed that buying seafood from sustainable sources will help save our oceans; 70 percent said people should switch their purchases to earth friendly fisheries. Eighty-three percent of global consumers agreed that seafood needs to be protected for future generations, and 70 percent said they would like to hear more from companies about their sustainability purchasing practices. In what the survey called “a climate of persistently low consumer trust in business globally,” trust in the blue MSC label remained high at 69 percent and understanding of the label has increased to 37 percent, up from 32 percent in 2016. Younger consumers are even more tuned in to choosing sustainable seafood, with 41 percent of 18-34 year olds understanding what the MSC label means. That group also showed a slightly different profile, eating less seafood on average and worrying more about the effects of climate change on the oceans than their older counterparts. Global consumers also rated certification organizations third for their contribution to protecting the oceans, after NGOs and scientists. Governments and large companies rated as contributing the least. Fish event Big names in fisheries are inviting the public to participate at a special town hall event on August 31 at the Centennial Hall Convention Center in Juneau. Keynote is retired Navy Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, an American oceanographer who currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Gallaudet will discuss the DOC’s Strategic Plan and NOAA’s Blue Economy priorities. Joining him in a roundtable discussion is David Wetherell, director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Nicole Kimball, vice president of operations for the Pacific Seafood Processors Association; Alexa Tonkovich, director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute; Frances Leach, director of United Fishermen of Alaska; Rich Yamada, president of the Alaska Charter Association; Stephanie Madsen, director of the At-sea Processors Association; Chad See, director of the Freezer Longline Coalition; Ben Stevens, tribal advocate for the Tanana Chiefs Conference; Mark Fina, policy analyst for U.S. Seafoods; Jamie Goen, director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers; Paddy O’Donnell, president of Alaska Whitefish Trawlers; Brett Veerhusen, alternate director of the North Pacific Fisheries Association, Chris Woodley, director of the Groundfish Forum and Linda Behnken, director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. The group will take questions from the public. Doors open at 3:30. Contact is Kevin Wheeler at [email protected] or 202-482-5096. Video deadline Aug. 31 also is the deadline to submit videos to the worldwide Women in Seafood competition. Videos must be no longer than four minutes and will be judged in two categories: Under 25 which highlights futures for young women in the seafood industry, and Women’s Contributions from a social and/or economic perspective. Winners will receive 1,000 Euros (US $1,162) and their films will be shown to global audiences. Send videos to [email protected] or [email protected] Winners will be announced in late September. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Mariculture industry has vast potential

As Gov. Bill Walker prepares to sign a bill this week enacting the Alaska Mariculture Development Plan, 16 new applicants hope to soon begin growing shellfish and seaweed businesses in just more than 417 acres of tideland areas in Alaska. The new growers will add to the 35 farms and six hatchery/nurseries that already are producing a mix of oysters, clams, mussels and various seaweeds. Eventually, sea cucumbers, scallops, giant geoduck clams and algae for biofuels will be added into the mix. Most of the mariculture requests in Alaska are located in Southeast and Southcentral regions and range in size from 0.02 acres at Halibut Cove to 292 acres for two sites at Craig. Data from the state Department of Natural Resources show that two farms have applied at Kodiak totaling nearly 37 acres, and one Sitka applicant has plans for a 15-acre plot. Other communities getting into the mariculture act include Seldovia, Port Chatham, Juneau, Naukati, Cordova, Ketchikan and Gustavus. In 2017, Alaskan farms produced 11,456 pounds of clams, 1,678 pounds of mussels, 16,570 pounds of seaweeds and 1.8 million oysters. Oysters always have been the dominant mariculture crop, and several farmers have added kelp to their acreage. The seaweed takes just three months to grow to harvestable size and can provide a ready cash flow to farmers while they wait for up to three years for their bivalves to ripen. Kelp is poised to be one of Alaska’s biggest crops with one of the biggest payouts. The first Alaska crop of 15,000 pounds was harvested last year at Kodiak, which yielded a payday of about $10,000 for grower Nick Mangini. This year he tripled his take with 42,000 pounds of two products: brown kelp (alaria) and sugar kelp. Mangini said 75 percent of the crop was alaria, for which he received 90 cents per pound, and 45 cents per pound for the sugar kelp, adding up to more than $33,000. The kelp is marketed under the name Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed, or KISS, and sold to a California company called Blue Evolution. “We are making it into products that are familiar to North American consumers, so our first items were pastas and macaroni and cheese,” said founder Beau Perry. “It actually deepens the flavor profile. Everyone from moms and dads who are feeding it to their kids to gourmet chefs are responding very positively.” It’s all a drop in the bucket compared to the real potential for the new industry in Alaska. “If only three-tenths of a percent of Alaska’s 35,000 miles of coastline was developed for oysters, for example, it could produce 1.3 billion oysters at 50 cents (each) adding up to $650 million a year,” said Julie Decker, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and head of an 11-member mariculture task force established in 2016 by Walker through administrative order. The task force concluded that mariculture crops could yield $1 billion for the state within 30 years. The governor plans to sign the bill at grower Trevor Sande’s farm near Ketchikan. Treadwell talks fish Politics aside, one thing that can be said about Republican candidate for governor Mead Treadwell is that he knows fish. “One thing I know is that fishing is Alaska’s largest employer and you can’t have good fishing unless you have good science and transparent management,” he said in a phone interview. Treadwell touts research as the cornerstone for fisheries sustainability. “I believe we could double or triple the endowed science available for North Pacific, Bering Sea and Arctic marine research and I think it’s very important to do,” he said. Treadwell was a past chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, involved with the North Pacific Research Board and one of the earliest advocates for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Alaska’s Community Development Quota program. As a student of international fisheries policy law, Treadwell said his first job was as a “foot soldier” working with then Department of Interior Secretary Wally Hickel in the fight for the 200-mile limit that removed foreign fishing fleets from U.S. waters. Treadwell pointed to other protein industries and said he believes Alaska’s seafood industry could add jobs and revenues by using more of every fish. “Other industries sell everything but the squeal,” he said. “I think we have to do much more with all of the fish and add the value here so we are not exporting jobs. Let’s look at our incentives for keeping more processing plants open year round — it might be a fix in power costs or something to do with tax policy.” Treadwell said he is a big supporter of growing the state’s mariculture industry, including biofuels. “As governor you control the tidelands. We can back that up with a process that helps financing and helps grow a new industry. I’m excited about that,” he said. “And this opportunity with energy is also significant. I’ve visited some of the labs that are working on algal energy and we have to look at these kinds of opportunities to diversify our economy.” As governor, Treadwell said he also would fight to get more chinook salmon for Southeast Alaskans who have lost over 60 percent of their catch quotas in the treaty with Canada. “We have lost too much of that allocation and it’s just not fair,” he said. Numerous attempts to interview Mead Treadwell’s Republican opponent, Mike Dunleavy, were unsuccessful. Fish smell Fish scientists proved years ago that the tiniest traces of copper in water can affect a salmon’s sense of smell. Now, new research shows that increasing levels of acidity in the oceans does the same thing. The damage is caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, which is generated primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, like oil and coal. The CO2 combines with seawater to produce carbonic acid, which makes the water more acidic. Fish use their sense of smell to find food, elude predators, locate spawning areas, even to recognize one another. Losing it could mean big trouble for the fishing industry, tourism and global nutrition. “In the marine environment it has some serious implications. If there are predators around and the fish are not able to respond to these danger signals in the water, they would be the next snack for these larger predators,” said Jason Sandahl at Oregon State University, who was one of the first to show how contaminants can disrupt the chemical balance of sea creatures. His studies showed that copper levels at just two parts per billion impaired small salmon’s sense of smell. Last month, scientists at England’s University of Exeter compared the behavior of juvenile sea bass at carbon dioxide levels typical of today’s ocean conditions with those predicted for the end of the century. The results showed that the sense of smell in the fish was reduced by half. They also found that sea bass exposed to the more acidic conditions swam less and were less likely to react when encountering the smell of a predator. The longer the fish were in high CO2 levels, the worse they fared. The scientists concluded that future levels of carbon dioxide can affect fish population numbers and entire ecosystems. While their study was on sea bass, the researchers said they believe all species important to commercial and sport fisheries are likely to be affected in a similar way, and possibly crabs and lobsters as well. Pollock is tops Alaska pollock is the largest fish catch in the world for four years running, toppling anchovies from Chile and Peru. More than 40 million commercial fishermen were out at work on global waters on nearly five million boats, of which 90 percent are less than 40 feet long. Those numbers have held steady over several years, said the latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report compiled every other year by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. It is the only publication of its kind that oversees fisheries track records and trends around the globe. Highlights from 2016 show that the world’s total marine catch was nearly 80 million tons, a slight decrease due to that drop in anchovies. Aquaculture represented 53 percent of all seafood eaten and it is the fastest growing food production sector on the planet. Nearly 600 different species items are farmed around the world; No. 1 is carp. Growing aquatic plants, especially seaweeds, has more than doubled in 20 years to top 30 million tons. In per capita terms, global fish consumption has grown about 1.5 percent per year from less than 20 pounds in 1961 to 45 pounds. Americans eat far less fish, averaging about 15 pounds a year. So how are the world’s fish stocks doing? Sixty percent were called “maximally sustained” and 33 percent were classified as being fished at unsustainable levels. Problem regions were the Mediterranean, Southeast Pacific and the Southwest Atlantic, with 60 percent of their stocks called overfished. By contrast, the Northeast, Northwest Pacific and Central and Southwest Pacific had the lowest levels of overfishing ranging from 13 percent to 17 percent. The World Fisheries Report said that impacts from climate change are likely to push down global ocean production by six percent by the year 2100, and 11 percent in tropical zones. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Researchers seek signs of recovery for Pacific cod

Tiny cod fish are reappearing around Kodiak. Researchers aim to find out if it is a blip, or a sign that the stock is recovering after warming waters caused the stocks to crash. Alaska’s seafood industry was shocked last fall when the annual surveys showed cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska had plummeted by 80 percent to the lowest levels ever seen. Prior surveys indicated large year classes of cod starting in 2012 were expected to produce good fishing for six or more years. But a so-called “blob” of warm water depleted food supplies and wiped out that recruitment. “That warm water was sitting in the Gulf for three years starting in 2014 and it was different than other years in that it went really deep and it also lasted throughout the winter. You can deplete the food source pretty rapidly when the entire ecosystem is ramped up in those warm temperatures,” explained Steven Barbeaux with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, or AFSC, in Seattle. This summer, researchers at Kodiak saw the first signs of potential recovery with beach seine catches of tiny first year cod that are born offshore and drift as larvae into coastal grassy areas in July and August. “A lot can happen in that first year of life that we would like to learn more about to predict whether or not these year classes are actually going to survive,” said Ben Laurel, a fisheries research biologist with the AFSC based in Newport, Ore., whose specialty is early survival of cold water commercial fish species. Laurel’s team, which includes scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been studying the early life history of Pacific cod in waters around Kodiak every year since 2005. They documented changes in what he calls “young of the year” fish throughout the warm water event through 2016. Right afterwards, they saw no first-year cod but Laurel said things might be taking a turn for the better. “In 2017 the ocean temperatures started to get back to normal and we did see signs of some fish, which is good because we hadn’t seen fish earlier,” he said. “In 2018 we also are seeing some young fish. But again, we’re just looking at one year in one area and it might not be reflective throughout the Gulf, so we are not sure what it means.” Laurel is taking the tiny cod back to the Oregon wet lab where they will run tests on survival conditions. “Do they have the likelihood of making it to adulthood just like those fish before the warm water blob? We just don’t know,” he explained. “We don’t have much data on cod during the winter and we can fill that gap in the lab. We can run them through a simulated over winter experience at different temperatures and see what the consequences are of them being a certain size or having certain food available, or what sort of conditions do they need to survive a whole overwintering experience.” The cod study this summer also is expanding to more nearshore areas of Kodiak, along the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Gulf. Laurel credited the AFSC with “really responsive reactions to this drastic reduction in the population,” and adding “more eyes and effort” to understand what happened to the cod stocks. The research, he said, will provide a window into what might be expected with a changing climate. “It is kind of a dress rehearsal for what is to come,” he said. “We can’t expect things to stay as they are, and we need to understand these processes and be proactive. I’m encouraged but also nervous about what’s in line for the future. Everybody should be braced for uncertainty.” Net hack challenge An Alaska Net Hack Challenge is being planned for Sept. 8 and 9 in Kodiak and Anchorage. The goal is to identify potential opportunities for using the tons of old plastic fishing nets piled up in landfills and storage lots across the state, and develop new items from the materials. The nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. The challenge is based on the Circular Ocean program in the U.K. and Iceland that “aims to inspire enterprises and entrepreneurs to realize the hidden opportunities in discarded fishing nets.” The Alaska hack is sponsored by Grundens, Alpar and Saltwater Inc. “The goal is to change how people look at nets and ropes, not as a waste material but as a raw material that can be used in many ways,” said Nicole Baker, founder of www.netyourproblem.com and organizer of the event along with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative. “Socks, water bottles, cell phone cases, carpets, bathing suits, sneakers, sunglasses, skateboards, rugs, bowls, frisbees, even 3-D printing and injection molds. People are becoming so creative about finding ways to reuse these plastic products,” Baker said. The Alaska challenge is aimed at artists, students, designers, business owners, engineers, recyclers and anyone interested in designing new products out of the materials. “On the first day of the challenge we will show presentations about the context and scale of the issue, the type of materials available, and some businesses that have been implemented already,” she explained. “On the second day, teams will get together and use the material and design a prototype, either physically or on a computer, that will be presented to judges to get their feedback.” A video link will connect the two locations and judges will score the projects on creativity, usefulness and scalability and follow the development over six months. “That will be supported by the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative which has several programs to assist with making small businesses and startups commercially viable,” Baker said. “If Alaska gets on board, it could be another revenue stream,” added Brian Himelbloom, a retired University of Alaska seafood specialist who is organizing the Kodiak net hack challenge with an assist by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “There are a lot of creative people in Kodiak,” he added, pointing to the Alaska Rug Company that uses fishing nets and ropes to make handwoven doormats, pot holders, baskets, bowls, signs, and more at their remote home at the decommissioned Port Bailey Cannery. The company was recently featured in HGTV magazine. Himelbloom said the groups also will reach out to local schools to attract “youngsters who are thinking about going into business.” They also are creating a net hack tool kit for remote communities interested in having their own challenges. The events will take place at the Makerspace Building in Anchorage and at the Kodiak Marine Science Center. Visit www.alaskaoceancluster.com to register to attend. Meanwhile, Nicole Baker also will be in Kodiak in late August to coordinate a fishing net recycling program. It will mirror a first effort last year in Dutch Harbor that sent 40 nets weighing 240,000 pounds to a company called Plastix in Denmark where they were melted down, pelletized and resold to manufacturers of plastic products. A second shipment also is being planned at Dutch Harbor and Baker said she also has been contacted by people in Juneau, Homer, Seward and other Alaska communities who want to develop net recycling programs. The Alaska Net Hack Challenge and the recycling program have attracted the attention of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “It was my first letter from a senator’s office,” Baker said. “I was very excited.” Fish watch Alaska’s total salmon catch has topped 88 million fish: more than 48 million are sockeyes and nearly 42 million of the reds are from Bristol Bay. Fishing is winding down there but lots of salmon is still being hauled in elsewhere, albeit slowly in most regions. The Dungeness fishery in Southeast is ongoing with a summer harvest pegged at 2.25 million pounds. Golden king crab opened along the Aleutians on Aug. 1 with a 6.3 million-pound harvest, an increase of nearly 1 million pounds for the first time in 20 years. Halibut fishermen have taken 56 percent of their nearly 20 million-pound catch limit. For sablefish, 47 percent of the nearly 26 million-pound quota has been taken. Both fisheries close Nov. 7. Fishing for cod, rockfish, flounders, pollock and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea; likewise, in the Gulf where pollock fishing will reopen on Aug. 25. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has set an Aug. 15 deadline to receive agenda change requests for its upcoming meeting cycle. The board will take up fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, the Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim, Aleutian Islands and Chignik from November through March. A special two-day meeting on Pacific cod takes place in early October. Finally, more genetically modified Atlantic salmon grown in Panama has made its way to undisclosed markets. Last summer, Massachusetts-based biotech firm AquaBounty sold its first five tons of “Frankenfish” to undisclosed Canadian customers. The manmade fish grows three times faster than normal salmon. AquaBounty received FDA approval this year to raise its AquAdvantage salmon at its new land-based Indiana facility, but is currently prevented from importing its genetically tweaked salmon eggs from Canada due to an “Import Alert” pending the issuance of final labeling guidelines. “We anticipate the import alert to be lifted in the second half of this year,” CEO Ronald Stotish said in a press release. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Year of the Salmon features major Gulf study

Alaskans celebrated Alaska Wild Salmon Day on Aug. 10, but plans also are underway for a much bigger celebration: the International Year of the Salmon set to officially begin in 2019. The theme is “Salmon and people in a changing world” and a key focus will be a winter salmon study in the deepest regions of the Gulf of Alaska. Both are sponsored in part by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which for 25 years has promoted research collaboration among scientists in its five member countries of Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea and the U.S. “The main inspiration for development of this project is our awareness of the challenges salmon meet in the open ocean related to the climate and in the coastal areas,” said Dr. Vladimir Radchenko, commission director and one of the world’s leading salmon scientists. A primary goal of Year of the Salmon is to get more people involved in protecting salmon and “coastal societies.” The aim of the Gulf project, Radchenko said, is to better understand the ocean phase of the salmon life cycle. Doing so would improve knowledge to help forecast salmon abundance and carrying capacity of the North Pacific. Researchers have some fragmented understanding of salmon distribution in the deep Gulf area from several surveys starting in the late 1980s. But the surveys were small and the results contradictory, Radchenko said. The project set for next winter will be done with trawl gear and cover a vast area in international waters 200 miles from shore. “During the winter, all salmon species migrate off shore and we have compared patterns of distribution seen in previous surveys and found that the main spots of salmon aggregation should be located beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone in February and March,” Radchenko explained. He added: “It will be a deep survey at about 72 trawl stations and include oceanographic testing of temperature and concentrations of all physical and chemical elements as well as plankton cages so we will have information on the whole ecosystem. We also will take scale samples to determine the salmon origins.” Based on the survey results Radchenko said researchers “may conclude the current state of the salmon stocks which spend the winter in the Gulf of Alaska.” He said scientists in all countries believe that major salmon stocks are facing challenges from the impacts of climate change, especially in southern areas of the North Pacific where warming water circulation patterns are wreaking havoc with salmon food sources. “The warming could make some ocean waters unsuitable for salmon. It is one of the biggest climate changes problems evident now, maybe more important than ocean acidification,” he added. The 2019 winter survey will include scientists from all member countries and is set to be the first of many, depending on funds. Blue updates Alaska lays claim to over half of the nation’s coastline, nearly two-thirds of its seafood catches and more ocean than any other region. But Alaska’s economic output accounts for only about four percent of the U.S. ocean economy. The Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, or OCI, aims to create a more diversified and resilient “blue economy” by getting more value from our oceans. “Globally the oceans are being viewed as the last economic frontier and there is a big push to develop them. Our hope is that Alaska becomes a leader in this blue economy and sustainable development of our ocean resources,” said Joel Cladouhos, director of the OCI, which began a year ago in partnership with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. The concept is modeled after a program used in Iceland since the 1970s that seeds an “economic ecosystem” of industry, academics, business and government to create a blue growth strategy. Cladouhos believes it is a good fit for Alaska’s well-developed marine infrastructure and can build upon many programs and projects that already exist, such as the Alaska Maritime Workforce Initiative and statewide expansion of mariculture. Blue startups can run the maritime gamut for businesses in or around the ocean, including coastal tourism, marine transportation and emerging sectors such as marine biotechnology and ocean technology. A blue economy also could help provide year-round employment in Alaska’s 200 coastal communities. The OCI believes going blue can provide 50,000 jobs and a $3 billion dollar payroll by the year 2040, making it as significant as the oil industry is today. “Oil has provided incredible economic impact in Alaska and we would not be where we are today without it,” Cladouhos said. “But we want the conversation to be around pipelines of innovation and entrepreneurship in the future. And that would drive economic benefit and job growth that is larger than the oil industry today.” The biggest roadblock, the OCI believes, stems from Alaska’s business model. Since the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867, the approach has been to extract natural resources and export the raw materials out of the state. That commodity-driven extraction model produces boom and bust cycles. The solution is to build a new, forward looking economy that creates value from our natural resources in a way that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. The Ocean Cluster has launched several programs over the past year to enhance the Blue Economy mindset among Alaskans. Ocean Tuesdays are one-hour weekly webinars on a wide range of topics. Two-day Blue Storm workshops are customized to local areas. A virtual Blue Pipeline Incubator advises ocean based startups and so far has attracted several companies ranging from smokehouses to net hangers to fish fertilizers to vessel inspections using drones. A six-week Google Ocean Technology team event attracted nearly Alaska 30 sponsors. The OCI will use a $391,000 federal grant from the economic development administration to do outreach to more entrepreneurs. “We want to expand in Alaska,” Cladouhos said. “Anyone can reach out to us and we can start to move forward with developing their ideas.” Questions? Contact [email protected]/ More tariffs and eyes on endangered species President Donald Trump announced on Aug. 1 that he is escalating his trade war with plans to increase the tariff on Chinese exports to the U.S. from 10 percent to 25 percent. (That is in addition to the 25 percent tariff on U.S. goods being sent to China that went into effect on July 6.) The list of goods affected includes nearly every U.S. seafood product. In terms of a bailout similar to that being proposed for farmers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates an aid package for the commercial fishing and processing industry would cost more than $1 billion to offset the impact of trade taxes to their businesses. Public comments can be made the U.S. Trade Office through Sept. 5. Also on the federal docket: Trump and his team have turned their eyes to scaling back protections in the Endangered Species Act. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed changes to the way species are listed or removed from protections, and how critical habitat designations are made. New language also would allow officials for the first time to consider the economic consequences of listing a species. The New York Times called it “the most sweeping set of changes in decades” to the regulations used to enforce the act. Comments on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act can be made through Sept. 24 at www.regulations.gov. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Women in the seafood work place report discrimination

Alaska appears to be an exception in terms of gender parity at all levels of its seafood industry. Women comprise roughly half of the world’s seafood industry workforce, yet a report released last week revealed that 61 percent of women around the globe feel they face unfair gender biases from slime lines to businesses to company boardrooms. The women’s overall responses cited biases in recruitment and hiring, in working conditions and inflexible scheduling. The findings were based on 700 responses gathered in an online survey from September through December of last year. Thirty percent of the respondents were men; 27 percent of the total responses came from North America. In my view, Alaska doesn’t fit the picture. Based on “empirical evidence” spanning 30 years as a fisheries writer, I always have encountered women at all levels of seafood harvesting and processing, business, management, education and research, as agency heads and commissioners and in top directorships in industry trade groups and organizations. While women may be outnumbered by men in the state’s seafood industry overall, they are highly visible and valued throughout the workforce hierarchy. Maybe Alaska’s small population levels the playing field and smart, talented women are not so easily overlooked. But that’s clearly not the case elsewhere. In the survey, 33 percent of women said they have faced discrimination at work; 49 percent said there are unequal opportunities for men and women; 12 percent of women cited sexual harassment. One striking finding of the gender equality in the seafood industry report was that women and men have very different perceptions of the problem. Fewer than half of the men surveyed said that they believe women face biases throughout the industry. “Less than one men in 10 consider women are facing discrimination. It is important to see that men and women do not share the same diagnosis. If it is not shared, things cannot change,” said Marie Catherine Montfort, report co-author and CEO of the international group Women in the Seafood Industry. Many women said they are not given incentives to join the seafood industry, especially at school levels. An interesting view shared by 80 percent of both genders was that the industry holds little appeal for women. “This is probably the only shared response — that both believe the industry is not attractive to women. I think this question should be asked by seafood companies and all stakeholders in this industry,” Montfort said, adding “that likely explains the 83 percent (71 percent men) who said the seafood industry has a lack of female candidates for jobs.” The WSI survey also revealed that the seafood industry puts more focus on racial diversity than gender equality. Scandinavian countries got the highest marks for perceptions of gender equality at 58 percent; North America totaled 33 percent. Recognizing and raising the awareness of biases against women is the first step towards making positive changes, Montfort said, and the report findings can “open routes to progress.” “It can identify barriers to gender equality and identify good practices,” she said. To help draw attention to the issue, WSI has launched a short video contest to showcase women working in all areas of the seafood industry. The winner will receive 1,000 Euros ($1,165 US) and get wide play at fishery events around the world. Deadline is Aug. 31. Contact [email protected] Prices high/catches low Salmon prices are starting to trickle in as more sales are firmed up by local buyers, and early signs point to good paydays across the board. At Bristol Bay last week, Trident, Ocean Beauty and Togiak Seafoods posted a base price of $1.25 per pound for sockeye, according to KDLG in Dillingham. Trident also was paying a 15-cent bonus for reds that are chilled and bled, and the others may follow suit. Copper River Seafoods raised its sockeye price from $1.30 to $1.70 for fish that is chilled/bled and sorted. That company also reportedly is paying 80 cents per pound for coho salmon and 45 cents per pound for chums and pinks. The average base price last year for Bristol Bay sockeye was $1.02 per pound, 65 cents for cohos, 30 cents for chums and 18 cents for pinks. Kodiak advances were reported at $1.60 for sockeye, 55 cents for chums and 40 cents for pinks. That compares to average prices of $1.38 for sockeyes, 40 cents for chums and 31 cents for Kodiak pinks in 2017. At Prince William Sound a sockeye base price was reported at $1.95 and chums at 95 cents. At Norton Sound the single buyer was advancing 80 cents per pound for chums and $1.40 for cohos, same as last year, and 25 cents for pinks, an increase of 22 cents. Salmon fishermen at Kotzebue were getting 40 cents for chums, down from 48 cents, but that price is expected to increase when a third buyer comes on line. The weekly summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said that Southeast trollers were averaging $8.48 per pound for chinook salmon, an increase of $1.15 over last year. Troll-caught cohos were at $1.64, a 16-cent increase and chums were paying out at 90 cents, up 13 cents from 2017. All prices are likely to change when more sales are made in coming months. Alaska’s total salmon catches are still down by one-third compared with the statewide harvest topping 70 million fish by July 27. Nearly 42 million of the salmon were sockeye from Bristol Bay. Seafood slight As President Donald Trump prepares to offer U.S. farmers $12 billion in aid to help compensate for losses caused by trade scuffles with China, Democrats in Congress have put forth a plan to help fishermen. House Resolution 6528 was introduced July 25 by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton. It aims to add language to the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Act that disaster relief funds can also be used in the case of “unilateral tariffs imposed by other countries on any United States seafood.” Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Stephen Lynch and William Keating of Massachusetts, Jared Huffman of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona. Fishermen “don’t deserve to be victims of this self-imposed trade war,” Pingree said at a hearing last week. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also are being outspoken in their support of fishermen. But the snub to U.S. farmers of the sea isn’t likely to change. When U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was asked if Trump is considering providing other sectors assistance similar to the $12 billion taxpayer funded hand out to the agriculture sector, he replied, “Not at this time. No.” There have been two major trade actions with China that affect Alaska seafood. On July 6, China implemented a retaliatory tariff of 25 percent on U.S. seafood sent to the Chinese domestic market. China purchases 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports, valued at $1.3 billion in 2017. Then on July 10 Trump escalated his trade war by proposing an additional 10 percent tariff on seafood exported from China to the U.S. It includes $2.7 billion in American-caught seafood, mostly from Alaska, that is reprocessed in China into fillets and breaded portions and sent back to the U.S. for distribution. That tax is scheduled to go into effect in early September. In the short term, the Alaska seafood industry may see greater impact from that tariff, according to Alexa Tonkovich, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. ASMI plans to comment on the proposed tariff to trade representatives before the Aug. 17 deadline. “We encourage other industry members that will be affected by these tariffs to also comment and voice concern,” Tonkvich said in a statement. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

State officials cite costs, complications of initiative

State agency officials attempted to predict the impacts to the state of a pending fish habitat ballot measure during a July 20 Senate State Affairs Committee hearing. Ballot Measure 1, known as the “Yes for Salmon” initiative, would bolster the Department of Fish and Game’s statutory requirements for approving development activity permits in anadromous fish habitat areas as well as the department’s authority to enforce the stipulations of those permits. Championed by the Anchorage-based nonprofit Stand for Salmon, the initiative is scheduled to be on the general election ballot in November depending on the outcome of an Alaska Supreme Court ruling to determine its constitutionality. Gov. Bill Walker’s administration has argued that the measure is an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature’s authority to appropriate resources. The court is expected to rule on the constitutional question by early September to provide the Division of Elections time to prepare accurate materials for voters. On a high level Ballot Measure 1 would establish two tiers of permit application reviews. “Minor” habitat permits could be issued quickly and generally for projects deemed to have an insignificant impact on salmon waters. “Major” permits for larger projects such as mines, dams and anything determined to potentially have a significant impact on salmon-bearing waters would require the project sponsor to prove the project would not damage salmon habitat. Additionally, the project sponsor would have to prove that impacted waters are not salmon habitat during any stage of the fish life cycle if the waters are connected to proven salmon habitat in any way but not yet listed in the state’s Anadromous Waters Catalog. The initiative also states that mitigation measures to offset the impact at the development site may not be done by enhancing or preserving habitat on other waters, which is a practice allowed now and is what’s proposed for the Donlin mine project. On one level, Ballot Measure 1 would cost the state about $3 million per year in the near term to implement its changes, according to estimates in an Office of Management and Budget report. Not surprisingly, much of that would be in Fish and Game’s budget for developing updated regulations and guidance documents. ADFG Commissioner Sam Cotten said it would likely cost the department $1.3 million per year over five years to implement the law changes. The Department of Transportation, which is one of the most frequent applicants for fish habitat permits, would need another roughly $950,000 per year to comply with the more stringent fish habitat requirements, according to department leaders. The departments of Environmental Conservation and Law would each need up to an additional $450,000 per year to possibly broaden water quality standards currently required for discharges in fish spawning areas and enforcing new civil penalties for violating fish habitat permit terms. DOT Environmental Program Manager Ben White said the department would need to add a handful of hydrologists and hydraulic engineers to its current environmental permitting team. “We are committed to environmental stewardship as a department and really work very hard, in this particular instance, to support healthy salmon populations,” DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken said to the committee. While projecting fiscal impacts is an exercise agency staff are accustomed to — it is done for the majority of proposed legislation — the Republicans on the committee in opposition to the initiative posed increasingly speculative scenarios they are concerned about the initiative impacting while questioning administration officials. Walker, who is running for reelection, has expressed his opposition to Ballot Measure 1 as a policy while the Department of Law is challenging its constitutionality. At the same time, Civil Law Division Director Joanne Grace said the Department of Law has advised Walker’s commissioner’s to remain objective on the initiative. Emily Anderson, an attorney for Stand for Salmon, said the discussion in the hearing was premature because agency officials were asked to outline the impacts of the potential law change before the Supreme Court, which could also amend the initiative, has made its decision. Rather than wholly approving or rejecting the initiative, the Supreme Court could strike specific provisions of the proposal it feels are unconstitutional and allow the remainder of it to appear on the ballot if the general intent of the sponsors remains intact. Sen. John Coghill, R-Fairbanks, asked if language in the initiative that would extend fish habitat permit reviews into the riparian area near the shoreline of a water body could be used to preclude development in entire floodplains, such as the one his hometown is built on. Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, questioned whether fire departments could be prevented from filling their tanker trucks from salmon streams and if DOT would not be allowed to use rip-rap when dealing with emergency flood and erosion situations that can occur, particularly along Alaska’s large glacial rivers. Agency officials largely obliged the speculation, acknowledging there is a possibility the circumstances raised could be impacted because of the vague language of the initiative. DOT’s White said the agency could be forced to find alternatives to traditional rock rip-rap for erosion control and that temporary stream diversions — often used in culvert and bridge work — could be challenged. Habitat Division Biologist Ron Benkert said in an interview that Fish and Game already discourages the use of rock rip-rap when other bioengineered solutions such as root wads or other forms of woody vegetation can be used for erosion control, noting that in the most critical areas and emergency situations the department concedes to the use of rip-rap at the request of DOT and others. He also said large, fast rivers such as the Matanuska that regularly cause significant damage are primarily migration corridors for salmon and other species that use headwaters and tributaries for spawning and rearing, so the impact of bank stabilization efforts to critical habitat is limited most times. “Really high velocity — it’s just not a great place for fish to hang out,” Benkert said. Anderson said the initiative makes no changes to the ability for officials to respond to emergencies. She stressed in response to other concerns about the purview of the habitat permits that the initiative is limited to freshwater, as is the case today. Anderson said during an editorial board meeting with the Journal and Anchorage Daily News on July 19 that the initiative is primarily aimed at solidifying scientific best practices and guidelines Fish and Game currently uses in regulation and law to insulate the permitting process from political influence. Initiative sponsor and commercial fishermen Mike Wood has said the objective of the campaign is to fortify the state’s fish protections while the Environmental Protection Agency is scaling back its wetlands protections in the state, for example. Currently, Title 16, the state’s anadromous fish habitat permitting statute, directs the ADFG commissioner to issue a development permit as long as a project provides “proper protection of fish and game.” The initiative sponsors contend that is far too vague and an update is needed to just define what “proper protection” means. In early 2017, Alaska Board of Fisheries chair John Jensen sent a letter to legislative leaders urging them to update Title 16 with opportunities for public involvement in permit application reviews and enforceable development standards. The law now does not allow for public comment nor does it require Fish and Game to issue a public notice indicating the Habitat Division is adjudicating a permit application. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly also unanimously passed a resolution in 2016 supporting an update to Title 16 to further protect fish habitat. DNR Project Management Associate Director Kyle Moselle said in response to questions that the vast majority of the permits DNR and DEC issue for large development projects already require public notice and comment periods, which would be a fundamental addition to the anadromous fish habitat permit process under the proposal. Giessel said in an email that the public should be included in matters involving public resources and that is why the comment periods and notices are required for other land and water use and quality permits. “If the issue surrounding this initiative is one of requiring an opportunity for Alaskans to comment and be involved on fish habitat permits, that is one matter. But proposing an up or down, take it or leave it, wholesale rewrite of our fish laws in November is another thing altogether,” Giessel said. It was also unclear from the hearing when existing developments with fish habitat permits already in hand would be subject to the new permitting system. Benkert said in an interview that while the department feels this is a “gray area” in the law, generally an existing operation would be grandfathered in until additional authorizations are needed for expansion plans or a fish habitat permit renewal. Most fish habitat permits are valid for two- to five-year periods before they need to be renewed. “It’s kind of a check so we can just come back and see if what we had permitted five years ago is still actually being done,” Benkert described. Stand for Salmon’s Anderson said worries about renewing permits for existing facilities “have been blown out of proportion” and re-upping authorizations should not be more difficult under the initiative. “There’s a whole class of facilities that never had a fish habitat permit and won’t require one; (they) are not only not affected by this but never will be affected by this,” she said. “Then there’s a whole class of facilities that did require a fish habitat permit but that habitat is no longer in existence, therefore you don’t need a new fish habitat permit and it never will be contemplated because there is no fish habitat left to get a new permit for.” White also said DOT is concerned the initiative could lead to more National Environmental Policy Act reviews for work now deemed to have a de minimis environmental impact because it prohibits Fish and Game from allowing activities that have a “significant adverse effect” on fish habitat. DOT regularly conducts work that has some impact on fish habitat, according to White. He said in an email that the concern specifically relates to many of the projects the department executes that are at least partially funded with federal money. Anderson and other initiative supporters insist it is not intended to prohibit unavoidable small or temporary impacts as many fear, which is why it calls for “minimizing” impacts if avoiding them is not practical. She also strongly contended that White “is just wrong” in his characterization of how it could lead to more projects being subject to NEPA and DOT is conflating the state and federal permitting systems. “NEPA is triggered by a federal action that would have significant adverse effects. It is not triggered by state laws,” Anderson said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Bristol Bay harvest hits 39 million, but statewide take down by a third

Alaska’s salmon fisheries continue to lag alarmingly in several regions, with overall catches down by a third from the same time last year. The single exception is at the unconquerable Bristol Bay, where a catch of 39 million sockeye so far has single-handedly pushed Alaska’s total salmon harvest towards a lackluster 60 million fish. It’s too soon to press the panic button and there is lots of fishing left to go, but fears are growing that Alaska’s 2018 salmon season will be a bust for most fishermen. Worse, it comes on the heels of a cod crash and tanking halibut markets (and catches). State salmon managers predicted that Alaska’s salmon harvest this year would be down by 34 percent to 149 million fish; due to an expected decline of pinks. But with the exception of Bristol Bay, nobody expected fishing to be this bad. Catches of sockeye, the big money fish, are off by millions at places like Copper River, Chignik and Kodiak, which has had the weakest sockeye harvest in nearly 40 years. The weekly update by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said that coho and chinook catches remain slow, and while it is still way early in the season, the “bread and butter” pink harvests are off by 65 percent from the strong run of two years ago. Chums are proving to be some fishermen’s best friends again, following last year’s record 25 million haul. While fishing is 40 percent behind last year’s pace, catches are strong at Prince William Sound and in the Arctic regions. Kotzebue is readying for a top 10 chum catch and some of the best salmon news comes from Norton Sound, where chums and pinks have buyers scrambling to keep up with the fish. “Pink salmon have overrun the Sound again this year,” wrote veteran Jim Menard for the state’s weekly salmon updates at his Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Nome. He added that several part-timers were hired this summer to help keep counts at the weirs passing pinks. “While it’s not quite combat fishing there are big crowds, especially kids at Nome River beach mouth, pulling in pinks nearly every cast,” Menard said. He added that sockeyes also are showing up strong enough to “create another caravan of vehicles heading out of Nome to seine and gillnet sockeyes in the river.” Into the void Salmon customers at home and abroad were poised to take all the wild Alaska salmon they could get going into the season. Demand was strong, and despite Alaska fishermen catching over a billion pounds of salmon last year, there were no big carryovers in freezers. A lower U.S. dollar value also had increased interest by European buyers. Competing farmed fish prices also have remained high all year and that sector has wasted no time filling any Alaska salmon void. Imports of fresh whole and filleted farmed salmon to the U.S., especially from Chile, are at all-time highs with fillets topping 140 million pounds through May, an increase of nearly 14 percent. Market analyst Janice Schreiber of Urner Barry said farmed salmon pricing also is “exceeding three-year averages.” Market reports also said that Norway is sending record amounts of its farmed salmon to China. Chinese buyers are turning their backs on Alaska salmon made more expensive by Trump’s 25 percent import tariff that went into effect July 6. Salmon grows greens Salmon is now being grown in the nation’s first landlocked fish farm on 720 acres in rural Northfield, Wis. Over the July Fourth holiday a company called Superior Fresh sent its first batch of 20,000 pounds of fresh, 10-pound Atlantic salmon to Festival Food stores across the state. Plans call for an annual output of about 72 tons of salmon and steelhead trout from the “fish house” which adjoins a huge greenhouse, making it the largest aquaponics facility in the world. In the growing system, which uses no pesticides or antibiotics, water is drawn from two deep wells and feeds into a hydroponic set-up that produces 20,000 heads of lettuce every day. The water recirculates back to the fish tanks; the less than 1 percent of wastewater is used to irrigate alfalfa for hay production. Wisconsinites hail the dual output as the future of environmental-controlled agriculture. Superior Fresh said it is “priming the pump” for fresh greens and fish to be sold year round in places where it wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The East Coast has even bigger plans for the world’s largest land-based salmon growing business, minus the greenhouse. Nordic Aquafarms of Norway hopes to soon break ground on 40 acres in Belfast, Maine, and eventually produce nearly 70 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually. The salmon will be grown in tanks holding up to 2 million gallons of recycling water that is sourced from a reservoir no longer used for the city’s water supply. Nordic Aquafarm president Erik Heim said in media reports that the U.S. currently imports more than 80 percent of its seafood, and that raising salmon in Maine cuts shipping time and costs and delivers a fresher product to American customers. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

FISH FACTOR: Trade war escalates with seafood import tariffs

President Donald Trump’s trade war now includes tariffs on seafood going to and from China. China is Alaska’s biggest seafood buyer purchasing 54 percent of Alaska seafood exports last year valued at $1.3 billion. On July 6 a 25 percent tariff went into effect on U.S. imports to China, including all Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, Dungeness crab, sablefish, geoduck clams and more. Then on July 11 Trump added a 10 percent tariff on all seafood sent from China to the US. According to market expert John Sackton of Seafoodnews.com, it includes products that are reprocessed in China and sent back for distribution in this country. The total value of the 291 seafood products China sends to the U.S. each year is $2.75 billion. Sackton called the 10 percent tariff “a $275 million dollar direct tax on Americans.” It will hit 70 percent of imports of frozen cod fillets. Likewise, 23 percent of all frozen salmon fillets come into the U.S. from China, including pink salmon that is reprocessed into salmon burgers and fillets. Trade data show that China represents 47 percent of U.S. breaded shrimp imports and 37 percent of frozen squid imports. China also supplies 20 percent of the U.S. frozen scallop market. Sackton said the economic hit will go far beyond the $275 million consumer tax. “As sellers are forced to raise prices, competitive products from other countries will follow suit resulting in across the board seafood price increases. That will discourage seafood buying so sellers will lose business as customers back away,” he added. China has been the fastest growing global market for high-end seafood. In late May, Gov. Bill Walker led a trade mission to China with several Alaska seafood companies which have spent millions to expand their brand even more. “All this money will go up in smoke,” Sackton said. In recent years, Alaska seafood sales to China have increased by millions of dollars through e-commerce activity, said Hannah Lindoff, international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Lindhoff said ASMI will try to expand sales to other markets, such as Brazil, Spain and Ukraine. But, as Sackton points out, it is more expensive to mount campaigns in multiple countries than in a single large market like China. ASMI operates on a shoestring international budget of less than $7 million per year, mostly from grants and federal dollars. Its overall budget is about $22 million, nearly all from processor taxes. Trump’s seafood tariffs come at a time when the Alaska legislature has zeroed out the state’s $1 million dollar contribution to ASMI. Compare that to Norway’s more than $50 million marketing budget from a small tax on its seafood exports. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on Thursday that “scant” American fish or shellfish was for sale at Jingshen, Beijing’s largest wholesale seafood market which supplies restaurants and grocers across China. Several distributors said that the recent 25 percent tariff has made American seafood unaffordable. Unless Congress intervenes, the additional 10 percent will take effect in September. Alaska’s delegation has yet to comment. Gearing up for crab Boats already are signing up to participate in fall Bering Sea crab fisheries that begin Oct. 15. Meanwhile, many crabbers are still awaiting word on what their payouts are for last season. Prior to the crab fisheries changing from “come one, come all” to a catch share form of management in 2005, prices were set before boats headed out, said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange which negotiates prices for most of the fleet. “Since then the price is based on the historical division of revenues and there is a formula that is applied to sales. It takes a long time for sales to be completed to the point where we know or can predict what the final wholesale prices will be, and then we can apply the formula to it,” he explained. Prices to fishermen were down a bit from last year but historically very high, Jacobsen said. For snow crab and bairdi Tanners, which typically are hauled up after the start of each year, prices were just settled and won’t be made public for another week. “Most of the snow crab and bairdi prices were over $4 a pound, so that’s very good,” he hinted. According to processor data, last season’s average snow crab price was $4.07 a pound; Tanner crab averaged $3.33. For golden king crab, fishermen averaged $5.51 per pound. For Bristol Bay red king crab, the price averaged $9.20 a pound last year, down from the record $10.18 in 2016. Heading into the fall, Jacobsen said the price outlook is good. “We expect king crab to be very high this year. There is quite a bit of demand throughout the world and it’s in short supply,” he said, adding that a huge reduction in illegally caught crab imports from Russia has helped boost the market for Alaska crab. Right now stakeholders are “on pins and needles” that crab stock surveys underway now will yield good news for the 2018-19 crab catches, which have been on a downward trend for several years. “Based on last year’s surveys it looks like we might have another decline in snow crab and we’re not sure about red king crab as it was kind of on the margin last year,” Jacobsen said. “With Tanners, we never know. If we can get some good quotas it should be a good year,” Last season’s catch limit for Bristol Bay red king crab was 6.6 million pounds, down 20 percent. For golden king crab the quota has remained stable at 6.3 million pounds. The snow crab catch quota at 19 million pounds was a 12 percent decline. For bairdi Tanners, a catch of just 2.5 million pounds was down from over 20 million pounds two years prior. The combined value of the 2017/2018 Bering Sea crab fisheries was nearly $190 million at the Alaska docks. Fish prices The first thing any fisherman wants to know is what he’s getting paid for his catch. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species with comparisons going back to 1984 in its Commercial Operator’s Annual Report, or COAR, compiled from inputs by Alaska processors. Here’s a sampler of some of the average prices from 2017: The price for cod was 32 cents per pound, an increase of 4 cents from 2016. The lingcod price averaged $1.88, up 33 cents. Those 3 billion pounds of Alaska pollock fetched 12 cents per pound for fishermen, down a penny. Herring also dropped a penny to 11 cents. Octopus averaged 60 cents per pound, a 14-cent increase; sea cucumbers fetched $5.02, up nearly a dollar. For 11 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth increased 3 cents to 10 cents per pound; rex sole held as the priciest flatfish at 34 cents. Alaska plaice was the cheapest at 3 cents per pound. For 20 types of rockfish, yellow eye (red snapper) topped the list at $1.49, up 20 cents. Geoduck clams paid out at $6.27, down 32 cents. Longnose skates fetched 49 cents, up a nickel. Halibut averaged $6.25, an increase of 19 cents per pound. Sablefish averaged $7.36 compared to $6.50 the year before. Sockeye salmon averaged $1.26, up 20 cents. At $5.73, chinook salmon increased from $4.88; cohos at $1.23 were up a nickel, chums at 70 cents increased by 8 cents, and pinks at 36 cents per pound dropped a penny. The priciest Alaska catch was spot shrimp paying out at $9.32, up 36 cents. Sculpins were the cheapest at one penny a pound. Another report shows how much each fishery produced and what processors sold it for. Alaska pollock topped them all with 1.3 billion pounds processed for a first wholesale value of $1.5 billion. Sockeye salmon was second at nearly $790 million for 208 million pounds. Why should all Alaskans care about fish prices? With annual catches coming in at 5 billion to 6 billion pounds per year, adding just one penny per pound to the total catch makes a difference of nearly $1 million dollars in landing taxes for the state and local governments each. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Board rejects emergency petition over pink salmon hatchery production

The Valdez Fisheries Development Association can move ahead with its plan to increase its pink salmon production after the Alaska Board of Fisheries rejected an emergency petition from groups led by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association who oppose the plan. The seven-member board ultimately decided the issue does not constitute an emergency on a 4-3 vote during a Tuesday afternoon meeting in Anchorage. Board members Israel Payton of Wasilla, Reed Morisky of Fairbanks and Orville Huntington of Huslia voted in favor of the petition meeting emergency criteria for consideration. Those voting against were chair John Jensen of Petersburg, Alan Cain of Anchorage, Robert Ruffner of Soldotna and Fritz Johnson of Dillingham. The petition was signed by KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease and 18 individuals representing Lower Cook Inlet commercial fishing interests, the Chitina Dipnetters Association, the Kenai River Professional Guide Association, the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, among others. It urged the board to reverse a previously approved increase of 20 million pink salmon eggs by the Valdez Fisheries Development Association this year for expanding future hatchery-produced harvests. KRSA first submitted the petition May 1. The first version was signed by nine sport and personal use fishing groups, sans the Lower Cook Inlet commercial representatives. The board subsequently voted to a 3-3 tie on the issue during a May 14 teleconference meeting. The petition alleges that increasing the number of hatchery produced salmon poses a threat to wild salmon stocks as the hatchery fish compete with wild salmon for food while they are collectively rearing in the ocean. It highlights that a sampling study found up to 70 percent of pink salmon returning to some small Lower Cook Inlet streams in 2017 were found to be from Prince William Sound hatchery stocks. “In addition to the straying issues of PWS hatchery-origin pink salmon observed in Lower Cook Inlet, recent scientific publications (building on past published reports and internal Alaska Department of Fish and Game reviews) have provided cause for great concern over the biological impacts associated with continued release of very large numbers of hatchery salmon into the North Pacific Ocean, including the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska,” the petition states. Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten wrote to a letter to Gease June 14 in which he denied the petition via authority delegated to him by the Board of Fisheries, but noted two board members had already requested a special meeting to discuss the matter. Fish and Game officials as well as board chair Jensen said at the Tuesday meeting that emergency findings are rare; there must be an unforeseen event that threatens a resource or an instance where action would lead to a loss of harvest opportunity that couldn’t be had in the future. “I don’t think taking eggs is an emergency,” Jensen said. Gease said in an interview that the state has policies in place that make it illegal to transport salmon between regions, but the department is passively allowing it to happen by approving increased hatchery production when the fish are known to stray. “It seemingly now is OK that there is no standard for hatchery fish straying,” Gease said. Valdez Fisheries Development Association leaders could not immediately be reached for comment in time for this story. Morisky said he feels instances where 70 percent of the fish spawning in a stream have strayed from hatchery stocks constitutes an emergency and allowing an egg take that will lead to more hatchery fish could threaten wild salmon stocks, the health of which Fish and Game is required to prioritize above other salmon. Payton said the potential issue of hatchery fish competing with wild salmon for food in the ocean is of particular concern to him. “I do think there is a potential threat to the wild stock resource here,” Payton said. Fish and Game Commercial Fisheries Division Director Scott Kelley said the Valdez-area hatcheries originally wanted to take an additional 70 million eggs and increase the total egg take to 300 million from 230 million, but the department agreed to a phased approach of increases in 20 million-egg increments in 2016 and 2018. It’s an approach that is commonly used with hatcheries across the state, according to Kelley. “That’s why we ease in — test the waters, literally,” he said. Kelley noted recent wild stock returns of pink salmon to Prince William sound in 2013 and 2015 — pinks typically return in two-year high and low abundance cycles — were among the most prolific on record. Board member Johnson of Dillingham said the egg take is supposed to happen in three days, adding the board is already scheduled to take up hatchery issues during an October 15-16 work session in Anchorage. It was also emphasized at the meeting that the department, in conjunction with hatchery groups, is working on a long-term study to flesh out theories of how hatchery salmon from Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska do or don’t impact wild fish stocks. Cain, of Anchorage, said the issues of how hatchery salmon interact with wild salmon are very important but the petition didn’t meet the board’s threshold for an emergency. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Reprocessed state seafood exports exempted from Chinese tariffs

It appears the blowback from President Donald Trump’s trade dispute with China will fall on some, but not all of Alaska’s seafood exports to the country. The Trump administration’s 25 percent tariff on an estimated $34 billion of goods imported to the U.S. that took effect July 6 prompted Chinese leaders to respond with their own 25 percent tariff on U.S. goods headed for their country, including seafood, Alaska’s primary export. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Director of International Affairs John Henderschedt said June 28 that seafood products destined to be reprocessed and re-exported from China will be exempt from the tariffs after agency officials discussed the issue with the U.S. Embassy there. While a positive development for Alaska fishermen and processors, the cumulative impact the tariffs could have on the commercial fishing industry in the state is still unknown, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Technical Program Director Michael Kohan said in an interview. Overall, Alaska exported more than $4.9 billion of goods in 2017, of which more than $2.4 billion was seafood, according to the state Office of International Trade. China bought $1.3 billion worth of Alaska’s exports last year, including $796 million — nearly a third — of the state’s total seafood exports. Kohan said leaders at ASMI, the state’s flagship seafood advocacy group, have been wondering what role the tariffs would play in their industry since they were officially announced June 15. She noted that the ever-shifting dynamics of the volatile industry make it difficult to pin down exactly how much Alaska seafood stays in China and how much is sent back out after value-added processomg. Part of the challenge of tracking the Chinese market is that it has grown rapidly, according to Kohan, which of course is a good thing. Prior to about 2003, China bought minimal amounts of Alaska seafood — less than $100 million per year — mirroring demand growth in the country for other Alaska products as well. “We do know that higher end species are consumed domestically, so those are geoducks, sea cucumber, crab, sablefish; and most of the species that are going to be reprocessed and re-exported are pollock and pink and keta (chum) salmon,” Kohan said. Adding to the challenge of trying to quantify and track what goes where is the fact that each processing company sends different volumes of various products to different countries every year, Kohan said further. “With a billion dollars of seafood exports to China it’s a very serious issue for Alaska and could have potential effects on harvesters,” she said. “However, it’s too soon to know the full impact on Alaska seafood harvesters or the state’s overall economy.” Chris Woodley, executive director of The Groundfish Forum, a trade association the for Bering Sea Amendment 80 factory trawler fleet, said the vast majority of U.S. exports of frozen seafood to China are reprocessed to be shipped out of the country later. Such U.S. exports to China that are then re-exported are not subject to Chinese duties or the countries value-added tax because imposing them would just raise the cost of the products when they are resold. Kohan said the true impact of the tariffs should be better known in the coming weeks as more geoducks and other seafood is shipped to China and processors begin making decisions on where to send their products now that the tariffs are in place. If those impacts prove to be unworkable, the seafood could be sent elsewhere in the future, but that move would be gradual as well, she said. “Alaska seafood has a strong and growing demand worldwide. The products that are being exported to China now could fill markets for Alaska seafood such as South Korea, Japan, Brazil, the U.K., northern and southern eastern Europe are all large markets for us so there’s a great network for Alaska seafood internationally,” Kohan said. “However, as with the (2014) Russian embargo, these shifts in markets take time to develop and so we will see possibly some changes but obviously we’ll be searching to develop our other strong markets with these seafood products in the future.” ^ Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected] Correspondent Jim Paulin in Unalaska contributed to this report.

FISH FACTOR: Bristol Bay lone bright spot for salmon so far

Sockeye salmon catches often add up to half of the value of Alaska’s total salmon fishery, and the so-called reds dominate the season’s early fisheries starting in mid-May. But sockeye catches so far range from record-setting highs at Bristol Bay to record lows nearly everywhere else. For example, the Copper River sockeye harvest of just 26,000 is the lowest in 50 years. At Kodiak just 212,000 sockeyes were taken through July 6, making it the weakest harvest in 38 years. Sockeye fishing at Yakutat has been closed due to the lowest returns in 50 years; likewise, fishermen at Chignik also have yet to see an opener. Sockeye harvest levels at Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula also are running well below average. Fishery scientists suspect the downturns are due to the warmest sea-surface temperatures ever recorded running from 2014-16, which likely depleted food sources before the sockeyes returned from the ocean this year as adults. At the other extreme, the early sockeye run at Bristol Bay set records for some of the best catches ever. By July 6 fishermen at the Nushagak district had four harvests that topped 1 million reds per day, including a record 1.77 million fish taken on July 1. Salmon trackers Anyone can easily track Alaska’s daily and weekly salmon catches with two free sources. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game’s “Blue Sheet” updates salmon catches daily for every Alaska region from May through September. Through June 6 it showed that just over 22.2 million salmon had been taken so far: 16.5 million sockeyes, nearly 5 million chums, 91,000 chinook, 8,000 coho and 636,000 pink salmon. ADFG also provides a weekly in-season summary and catch tally by region. The harvests are graphed to show the progression of catches for the fishing season, with comparisons to the previous year and 5-year averages. The timing charts can be customized by region, area, district or fishery and all five salmon species. Another Alaska salmon source is the harvest summary done weekly by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. It also shows catches by species and region with comparisons to the previous year’s catch. As of July 5 the summary showed that the pace of Alaska’s salmon harvest was about 25 percent below the same time last year, an improvement from the previous week. Sign up for the summary by contacting Garret Evridge at [email protected] Fish watch Lots of fishing is going on besides salmon all summer across Alaska. Cod, pollock, flounders and other whitefish are being hauled in from the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The Dungeness crab fishery in Southeast is ongoing with a summer harvest pegged at 2.25 million pounds. A red king crab fishery is underway at Norton Sound with a limit of 290,282 pounds. Golden king crab along the Aleutians opens Aug. 1 with a 6.3 million pound harvest. Lingcod fisheries continue in portions of Prince William Sound and the Panhandle. Shrimp fisheries also are ongoing in both regions. Scallop fisheries opened across Alaska on July 1 with a total take of 265,000 pounds of shucked meats. The Dutch Harbor food and bait herring fishery opened July 1 with a catch quota set at 1,810 tons. For halibut, 47 percent of Alaska’s 17 million-pound catch has been taken so far with less than 9 million pounds remaining. For sablefish, about 15 million pounds are left in the nearly 26 million-pound quota. Both fisheries run through Nov. 7. In other fish news: the Alaska Board of Fisheries will hold a special meeting on July 17 in Anchorage to address several emergency management petitions, including hatchery production in Prince William Sound, sockeye failures at Chignik, Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula, and gillnet chum fishing on the Yukon. Finally, Trump’s trade war with Alaska’s top seafood buyer, China, went into effect on July 6. A 25 percent tariff will be imposed on Chinese imports of Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, Dungeness crab, sablefish, geoduck clams, mackerel and more. That’s on top of existing tariffs ranging from 5 to 15 percent. China purchased 54 percent of Alaska’s seafood exports last year valued at $1.3 billion. Ferry science The state ferry Columbia now has more than six months of data since it began testing the waters for acidity last fall from Southeast Alaska across British Columbia to Bellingham, Wash. The weekly testing is part of an unprecedented Alaska-Canada collaboration to learn how increasing ocean acidity affects regional fisheries. “Nowhere in the world is there a ferry system that’s outfitted with CO2 sensors running that scale of a transit. It is really exciting,” said Wiley Evans, the technical lead for Canada’s Hakai Institute who rigged the 418-foot ferry to suck up water samples while it is underway. The samples are measured automatically for oxygen, temperature, salinity and carbon dioxide, which indicates the acidity of the water. “We’re trying to understand the time and space patterns in surface ocean CO2 chemistry near shore. In this area, it’s extremely data-poor, Evans said.” The project aims to discover how ocean acidity levels change seasonally, and where there are hot spots or refuges from corrosive waters. Off kilter oean chemistry makes it hard for marine creatures — and the micro-organisms they feed on — to form shells, among other things. The ferry information can help scientists estimate the rate at which acidification is occurring in near-shore waters. Preliminary ferry data point to an extremely variable seascape in which the surface water is primarily corrosive in fall and winter, representing the most vulnerable time of year for species sensitive to ocean acidity. When spring arrives, two primary factors create a change: the phytoplankton bloom removes CO2 from the water through photosynthesis, and the water gets warmer making conditions more favorable for shell production. The Columbia data is uploaded daily to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network website. Major studies show the southeast and southwest regions of the Gulf of Alaska will take the hardest economic hits from increasingly acidic waters. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

King salmon run on Yukon River well below average so far

FAIRBANKS (AP) — This year's king salmon run on the Yukon River is on track to be the second- or third-worst ever recorded. Just over 90,000 kings were counted as they swam past the Pilot Station sonar site near the mouth of the Yukon River this summer, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The run has thus far been similar to 2015, the second-worst year for king salmon ever recorded, after 2013. The migration from the Bering Sea to the mouth of the river is usually more than halfway over by this point in the summer. Fishery managers expect enough kings will return upriver to satisfy a treaty with Canada and allow enough salmon to reach their spawning grounds where the fish reproduce, the Department of Fish and Game said in a recent statement about the Yukon River. Restrictions on subsistence fisheries will be necessary to meet the escapement goal. The department restricted fishers to 6-inch (15-centimeter) gill nets, instead of the 7½-inch (19-centimeter) size in many areas of the Yukon. The smaller mesh is too small to catch larger king salmon, but is still enough to trap smaller, but more numerous chum salmon. The chum salmon run is relatively strong this year, and it's expected that a large number of chum salmon will make it upriver because of the commercial fishery restrictions in the lower river. The department has also cut in half the number of subsistence fishing hours announced in the pre-season schedule for several districts. Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com  

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