Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trident to pay $112,000 for ammonia violation

This just in from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle:

Trident Seafoods pays over $112,000 for failing to properly report hazardous chemicals

Company agrees to spend over $51,000 in emergency response equipment for responders in Kodiak and Akutan, Alaska.

SEATTLE, Wash., April 30, 2009 – Trident Seafoods Corporation (Trident) has settled with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and agreed to pay a $61,354 penalty for violating the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by failing to properly report the storage of ammonia at four facilities.

Specifically, Trident failed to file Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Forms with local emergency response entities in Alaska and Washington.

In addition to paying the penalty, Trident agreed to perform a Supplemental Environmental Project, providing over $23,000 in emergency response equipment to first responders in Kodiak, Alaska and over $28,000 in response equipment to responders in Akutan, Alaska.

"People’s safety and preventing chemical accidents are a top priority for EPA,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Seattle. "We’re committed to reducing the likelihood and severity of accidental chemical releases by enforcing the law, protecting people and the environment and creating a level playing field for industry.”

Today’s settlement addresses violations related to Trident facilities in the Alaskan towns of Kodiak, Akutan and Petersburg, as well as a Trident facility in Seattle, Washington, all which store ammonia in amounts above the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act reportable quantities. The four Trident facilities process seafood.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sablefish, pike on board agenda today

Sorry for the short notice, but the Alaska Board of Fisheries is taking up two proposals at 1 p.m. regarding sablefish and pike.

Click here to listen to the teleconference.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Proof of purchase

Just to close the loop, here's a final settlement statement Trident Seafoods Corp. filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court confirming it did indeed purchase that processing plant down in Wrangell (Deckboss, April 16).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yukon blues

The official Yukon River salmon forecast came out today, and it sure doesn't sound too tasty.

Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting we won't have any commercial Chinook fishery again this year.

Here's a state press release with a link to the actual forecast:

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

April 24, 2009

2009 Yukon River Salmon Forecast and Management Strategies

JUNEAU – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released the 2009 Yukon River salmon return and management outlook today. The outlook provides information on expected salmon returns, management strategies, and potential harvests for the coming season and can be found here.

The summer chum, fall chum, and coho salmon returns to the Yukon River are expected to be of average strength and provide harvest opportunities for all users. Ability to harvest summer chum salmon, however, is likely to be constrained by ongoing Chinook salmon conservation efforts. Chinook salmon and summer chum salmon returns to the Yukon River overlap to a large degree.

Chinook salmon returns in 2007 and 2008 were unexpectedly weak and ADF&G scientists believe the 2009 return will be below average or poor as well. A small return of Chinook salmon will impose hardships on subsistence, commercial, personal use, and recreational harvesters, because of the central importance of Chinook salmon for both personal consumption and commercial harvest. Yukon River salmon managers and scientists are committed to doing everything in their power to reduce the hardships that users will endure in order to ensure escapement goals for Chinook salmon, especially for the Canadian spawning component. Chinook salmon that spawn in the Canadian portion of the Yukon River produce, on average, half the Chinook salmon returning to the Yukon River, and are subject to the highest exploitation rate of any Yukon salmon stock. Successful stewardship of this stock is necessary to prevent the current temporary hardships from becoming permanent.

ADF&G biologists have been meeting with Yukon River residents during the past six months to discuss the outlook for the 2009 season. The purposes of these meetings have been to present the biological data and reasoning upon which the 2009 outlook is based, to review the applicable Board of Fisheries regulations and management plans for the Yukon River, and to gather the ideas of local fishermen and processors regarding the best strategies for the 2009 season. These ideas have been carefully considered in the final preparation of the 2009 Yukon River Salmon Fisheries Outlook being released today.

Throughout the 2009 season, ADF&G managers will regularly update Yukon drainage residents and other interested parties on the status of the salmon returns to the Yukon River. These updates may be here. ADF&G will also provide copies of its updates to state and local media outlets, particularly local radio stations. ADF&G managers also participate in the in-season teleconferences organized by the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.

An extensive network of test fishery projects, sonars, weirs, and counting towers are operated to monitor salmon returns to the Yukon River in season. In addition, genetic sampling of Yukon River Chinook salmon is conducted at several stock assessment projects. As always, if information from the above projects indicates changes in fishing time and area are warranted, managers have the ability through their in-season management authorities to take whatever action is deemed appropriate. Since salmon returns are highly dynamic, changes in management often must be taken rapidly, however, ADF&G will strive to provide as much notice as possible regarding any changes to fishing areas and times.

Stevens headlines Hall of Famers

Al Burch, left, and Ted Stevens. UFA photo

Here's the press release from United Fishermen of Alaska on last night's annoucement of its Alaska Seafood Industry Hall of Fame charter class:

United Fishermen of Alaska

April 24, 2009

United Fishermen of Alaska Honors Senator Stevens in Inaugural Alaska Seafood Hall of Fame

Senator Ted Stevens honored with Lifetime Achievement award, among twenty industry leaders named to Hall of Fame.

In celebration of 50 years of Alaska Statehood and sustainable fisheries management, the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) honored former Senator Ted Stevens for his record of accomplishments dating from Alaska Statehood to the present, and named nineteen other individuals to its inaugural Alaska Seafood Hall of Fame. The honor recognizes individuals for their lifetime accomplishments in promoting and protecting Alaska’s seafood industry and fishery resources.

Senator Stevens was presented a UFA Honorary Lifetime Membership and Lifetime Achievement award for his work for sustainable fisheries spanning Alaska’s first 50 years of Statehood, including establishing the 200 mile limit; the Magnuson-Stevens Act, establishment of regional fishery management councils, ban on high seas driftnets, and his continuing work to bring a stop to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries worldwide.

“Alaska’s fisheries were a focal point in the impetus behind the statehood movement, and through statehood, Alaska was able to influence national fisheries and ocean policy. Alaska’s founding fathers and fishing leaders took many very difficult steps to bring the necessary protections to rebuild and sustain fishing communities. Without the work of these twenty individuals, and especially Senator Stevens, we can only guess what would now remain of our fisheries stocks and fishing communities,” said UFA President Joe Childers.

In accepting the award, Senator Stevens called upon commercial fishermen to join together to continue his work to stop IUU fishing.

UFA followed a two-step process of open nominations followed by voting by the full board of 41 fishing leaders that comprise the UFA. Over fifty people were nominated and the top twenty after voting were named as inaugural inductees. The awards were presented at an industry banquet at the Comfish trade show this week in Kodiak, Alaska.

“The nomination and voting process was a very educational look back into the fifty years since Alaska statehood, reminding all of us that we owe our fisheries to the vision and hard work that so many individuals have made, and inspiring all fishermen and those who work in fisheries to continue this arduous and often frustrating work. The nomination list includes statesmen, innovative fishermen, activists, processors, biologists, regulators, and many who spanned across more than one of these categories.

“There are many men and women in the fishing community whose work might already well qualify them for inclusion, but that would agree that their work is not yet done. The list of eligible individuals will continue to grow and UFA will elect new members yearly,” said executive director Mark Vinsel.

UFA honored the following Alaska Seafood Hall of Fame Charter Members: Bob Alverson, U.S. Senator Bob Bartlett, Bob Blake, The Brindle Family, Chuck Bundrant, Al Burch, Phil Daniel, Oscar Dyson, Senator Dick Eliason, Governor Ernest Gruening, Governor Jay Hammond, Gordon Jensen, Knute Johnson, Armin F. Koernig, Jerry McCune, Alaska State Representative Drew Scalzi, Alaska State Senator Clem Tillion, Tommy Thompson, and Bob Thorstenson Sr.

“These individuals each made lasting contributions that helped Alaska fishermen and women continue our sustainable fisheries to the present and into the future. We look forward to recognizing the many others that are helping ensure our sustainable fisheries through to future generations,” Vinsel said.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seafood Hall of Fame honorees announced

United Fishermen of Alaska unveiled its inaugural Alaska Seafood Industry Hall of Fame list at a gala dinner tonight in Kodiak (Deckboss, April 16).

And now, without further ado, here are the 20 big names:

Bob Alverson
U.S. Sen. Bob Bartlett
Bob Blake
The Brindle family
Chuck Bundrant
Al Burch
Phil Daniel
Oscar Dyson
State Sen. Dick Eliason
Gov. Ernest Gruening
Gov. Jay Hammond
Gordon Jensen
Knute Johnson
Armin F. Koernig
Jerry McCune
State Rep. Drew Scalzi
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens
Clem Tillion
Tom Thompson
Bob Thorstenson Sr.

I'll have more tomorrow when UFA issues its formal press release.

'Serious violations'

Here's a recent warning letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued to Virgil Umphenour, owner of Interior Alaska Fish Processors Inc. and a former state Board of Fisheries member.

The agency says it conducted an inspection of Umphenour's Fairbanks fish processing plant and found "serious violations" of food sanitation regs.

A state Web site says the plant produces canned salmon, salmon caviar, salmon corndogs, salmon ikura, salmon sausage and smoked salmon, and markets goods under the brand name Santa's Smokehouse.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Legislators to processors: Pay up!

The Alaska Legislature wrapped up its 2009 session Sunday and near as I can tell, our elected officials didn't pass very much affecting the commercial fisheries.

Probably the most significant item to make it through was Senate Bill 1, raising the state's minimum wage from $7.15 to $7.25 an hour through this year. Employers thereafter will be required to pay at least 50 cents an hour more than the federal minimum wage.

The federal minimum will go to $7.25 after July 24, so the minimum in Alaska starting next year will be $7.75.

Seafood processors fought a hike in the state minimum.

In a letter to legislators, Joe Plesha of Trident Seafoods Corp. said the Seattle-based processing company employs some 4,000 people in its shore plants and ships, and they all start out at minimum wage with regular raises every six months.

A 50-cent bump, he said, will increase the company's costs by more than $4 million.

"A large increase in costs will make it more difficult for the industry to reinvest in its operations as well as impact the price it is able to pay for the fish delivered to its plants," Plesha wrote.

SB 1 becomes law, of course, only if Gov. Sarah Palin signs it.

Here's a look at what became of a few other pieces of legislation:

• House Bill 20, to expand state loans for energy efficiency upgrades to fishing vessels, passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

• House Bill 207 and Senate Bill 163, to boost insurance claim amounts available to injured or ill fishermen from the state Fishermen's Fund, each had strong committee runs but failed to advance to a floor vote.

• Senate Joint Resolution 22, opposing a commercial fishing association lawsuit the resolution sponsors consider a threat to dipnet fisheries (Deckboss, April 11), passed the Senate but didn't move very far in the House.

By the way, a lot of the fightin' words in the original resolution were dropped from the version that passed the Senate, specifically the reference to the "inordinate and potentially unfair, unethical, and disproportionate influence of the commercial fisheries industries on fisheries management in Alaska."

A resolution carries no weight of law. It's essentially just an opinion or request.

Bills that failed this session aren't dead. Lawmakers work on a two-year cycle, so bills filed this year will remain in play during the 2010 session.

Don Giles to retire at Icicle

Here's a recent press release about changes at the top at Icicle Seafoods Inc., one of Alaska's biggest processors:

Dennis Guhlke Named Chief Executive Officer of Icicle Seafoods

Brenda Morris appointed CFO

Company Looks to Build on Success Driven by the Leadership of Retiring CEO, Don Giles

SEATTLE, April 17, PRNewswire – Icicle Seafoods, Inc., a diversified seafood harvesting, processing and marketing company, today announced the appointment of Dennis Guhlke to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer, effective July 1, 2009. Mr. Guhlke succeeds Don Giles, who will retire as CEO on June 30, 2009 after 36 years at Icicle. Mr. Giles will continue to serve as an advisor for the next three years to Icicle on various projects. Mr. Giles has been Chief Executive Officer since 1994.

Read the rest of the release here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Slow going on trawler rescue

The trawler Mar-Gun as she appeared April 11. USCG photo

An update from state pollution regulators says the soonest a salvage crew might recover the beached Bering Sea trawler Mar-Gun is April 27-28, the next high-tide window.

The 112-foot pollock boat went aground March 5 on St. George Island. All five crewmen got off safely, but extracting the boat from the beach has become a major chore.

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to investigate why the vessel grounded.

Here's part of yesterday's "situation report" from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation:

RESPONSE ACTION: Salvors conducted vessel, helicopter and fabrication operations during the past few days although poor weather prevented work on the vessel most of last week.

On board the vessel, crews continue to knock off accumulated ice as it forms on the vessel. Workers prepped and completed laying a fairlead cross-member foundation to support recovery operations on the aft deck port and starboard sides. Workers were also able to enter the shaft alley through the forward cover plate. The packing gland was tightened down, and Splash Zone (marine epoxy putty) was applied over miscellaneous fittings and holes in the bulkhead between the engine room and the shaft alley. The packing gland is a gasket system through which the propeller shaft passes through the hull. Work also continues on the inspection of the vessel double bottom tanks, and work was performed in preparation for removing the rudder from the vessel.

The salvors continue to use helicopter operations to transfer additional steel and fabricated parts to and from the vessel.

The vessel is ready to receive the blocks for the multi-part tackle system, but heavy winds and freezing spray have delayed the block and tackle installation until the weather improves.

The M/V Redeemer crew has loaded the first of three offshore anchors sets which will be needed for the recovery operations. The M/V Redeemer is currently in Dutch Harbor waiting for a favorable weather window to travel to the Mar-Gun grounding location where the M/V Redeemer will set the first anchor system.

FUTURE PLANS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Continue operations on board the vessel and in temporary fabrication locations to prepare for vessel recovery. Set three large anchor systems in preparation for the vessel removal. The next high-tide window for the potential removal of Mar-Gun from the shore is April 27-28, 2009.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trident wraps up Wrangell Seafoods

Evidently the sale of bankrupt processor Wrangell Seafoods Inc. to Trident Seafoods Corp. of Seattle is complete.

I still haven't seen anything official, such as a company press release, but a "receipt from proceeds of sale" was filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Anchorage.

The receipt is for $4.3 million.

How they voted

Here's a breakdown of how legislators voted today on whether to confirm Brent Johnson's appointment to the Board of Fisheries:

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Yes
Austerman, Chenault, Edgmon, Johansen, Kerttula, Munoz, Seaton, Thomas, Wilson

No
Buch, Cissna, Coghill, Crawford, Dahlstrom, Doogan, Fairclough, Gara, Gardner, Gatto, Gruenberg, Guttenberg, Harris, Hawker, Herron, Holmes, Johnson, Joule, Kawasaki, Keller, Kelly, Lynn, Millett, Neuman, Olson, Petersen, Ramras, Salmon, Stoltze, Tuck

Excused
Foster

SENATE

Yes
Dyson, Hoffman, Kookesh, Olson, Stedman, Wagner, Stevens

No
Bunde, Davis, Ellis, French, Huggins, McGuire, Menard, Meyer, Paskvan, Therriault, Thomas, Wielechowski

Johnson board appointment shot down

Real quick, let me tell you that state legislators today voted 42-16 against confirming Brent Johnson for the Board of Fisheries (Deckboss, April 14).

I'll provide a vote breakdown later when I've got a bit more time.

Stevens to resurface in Kodiak

Just got official word today that former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens will appear next Thursday at Kodiak's 50th anniversary of statehood celebration.

The event kicks off the town's annual ComFish trade show.

"Sen. Stevens will be here for the commemorative seafood dinner, and he'll remain in town at least overnight," said Deb King, executive director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, the ComFish sponsor.

The dinner, called "Look How Far We've Come," celebrates 50 years of seafood harvesting and processing in Alaska.

United Fishermen of Alaska will present Stevens with a Lifetime Achievement award at the dinner, a Chamber press release says.

And here's something else: UFA plans to unveil its first slate of 20 fishing industry Hall of Fame honorees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Battle over Brent Johnson

Down in Juneau, the House Resources Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. tomorrow to consider Gov. Sarah Palin's appointments to the Board of Fisheries.

All the hubbub is over one Brent Johnson.

The idea of a Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisherman taking a spot on the seven-member board has sportfishermen in a lather.

An outfit called the Cook Inlet Sportfishing Caucus ran a half-page ad in the sports section of Sunday's Anchorage Daily News urging people to tell their legislators to vote against Johnson's appointment.

The ad features a big fish labeled "Commercial" gobbling up a minnow labeled "Sport."

The ad has three names on the bottom: Phil Cutler, Bruce Knowles and Bob Penney.

On Monday the "friends of Brent Johnson" ran their own quarter-page ad saying in part: "We believe that you will find Brent a very real guy, a regular Alaskan open to your ideas, beliefs and wishes."

People tell me this appointment is so hot that someone is paying for a telephone survey to drum up opposition to Johnson.

Yep, it's always a brawl between the commercial and sport guys in Cook Inlet, isn't it?

The Legislature is scheduled to vote on the appointment Thursday. Let's see if Johnson survives.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uh, yeah

Tomorrow night is the Season 5 premiere of the Discovery Channel reality show "Deadliest Catch."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

'Disproportionate influence'

With only eight days left in the session, members of the state Legislature have introduced resolutions asking Gov. Sarah Palin to examine the "inordinate and potentially unfair, unethical, and disproportionate influence of the commercial fisheries industries on fisheries management in Alaska."

OK.

So what's got these legislators so stirred up?

It's a lawsuit the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, representing commercial salmon fishermen, filed against the U.S. commerce secretary on March 5.

The 13-page suit seeks a measure of federal control over the state-managed salmon fisheries to, among other things, put a stop to personal use dipnet fisheries open to Alaska residents only.

Among other complaints, UCIDA is angry that commercial sockeye fishing was closed at the Kenai River last July while dipnetting "continued unabated," with the minimum sockeye escapement goal going unmet.

In their resolutions, the legislators ask the governor to oppose the lawsuit.

And they ask for an examination of the commercial fishing industry's "disproportionate influence."

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, is the prime sponsor of House Joint Resolution 32.

Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, is the prime sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 22.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another Alaskan to head NMFS?

Wow, what's this talk I'm hearing about Arne Fuglvog being in line to become the new National Marine Fisheries Service chief?

Fuglvog, formerly involved in salmon and halibut fishing out of Petersburg, is now an aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

I've heard his name mentioned several times as a contender to head NMFS.

That would be something.

Of course, we've already got an Alaskan, Jim Balsiger of Juneau, at the NMFS helm now. But because he assumed the post under the Bush administration, he's considered a short-timer.

In some ways, it seems unlikely that Fuglvog gets this prestigious position.

Let's consider geography, for instance.

So far in the Obama administation, we've already seen two West Coast people named to the most important jobs when it comes to ocean fisheries.

Gary Locke, the former Washington governor, is the commerce secretary. And Jane Lubchenco is administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent agency to NMFS.

Some of the most pressing issues facing NMFS aren't in the West but rather on the East Coast, particuarly New England where many fish folk have no love for the agency.

Anyway, Deckboss will surely be interested to see where Mr. Fuglvog lands.

Possible help if you're hurt fishing

One interesting piece of legislation now pending in Juneau would boost from $2,500 to $10,000 the claim amount readily available to injured or ill fishermen under a state insurance plan called the Fishermen's Fund.

House Bill 207 cleared the House Special Committee on Fisheries today.

The prime sponsor is state Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Countdown in Juneau

Only about two weeks left in the session. Wesley Loy photo

Lawmakers are considering a range of fish-related bills, plus some political appointments, as the 2009 session winds down.

Let's see what they come up with, shall we?