The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced its approval of genetically engineered salmon.
The FDA decision pertains specifically to a line of fish known as AquAdvantage salmon, from Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies Inc.
Here's the FDA's main determination:
After an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review, FDA has arrived at the decision that AquAdvantage salmon is as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon, and also as nutritious.
The agency added:
FDA assessed the environmental impacts of approving this application and found that the approval would not have a significant impact on the environment of the United States. That's because the multiple containment measures the company will use in the land-based facilities in Panama and Canada make it extremely unlikely that the fish could escape and establish themselves in the wild.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game veteran Scott Kelley will be the state's new commercial fisheries director, succeeding Jeff Regnart.
Here's the memo sent last week to department employees:
Dear ADF&G staff, I am pleased to announce Scott Kelley has accepted the position of Director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries. Many of you know Scott because he has worked for the Division of Commercial Fisheries for nearly 25 years, most recently as a fish and game coordinator for the shellfish and groundfish fisheries in Southeast. Scott holds a Bachelor’s degree in fisheries management and Master’s degree in fisheries science. He also has substantial expertise in the Alaska Board of Fisheries process, years of experience in salmon enhancement planning and project development, a solid understanding of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and intimate knowledge of the budget process and the various fund sources that make up the division’s budget. His education and experience will be a valued addition to the leadership team. His first day as director will officially be Wednesday, October 21. Scott will begin by representing the department at the Board of Fisheries Work Session in Anchorage. Many thanks to Forrest Bowers for stepping forward to act as director during the last few weeks while recruitment efforts were underway. Please join me in welcoming Scott to his new role, and offering your assistance as he transitions to the director position. Sincerely, Sam Cotten Commissioner
Location: Old Harbor Type: Death investigation
On 10/11/15 at approximately 1336 hours, Alaska State Troopers were notified of a deceased individual at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. Investigation revealed the U.S. Coast Guard had medevaced a diver from the F/V Momo and Maddie to the hospital emergency room. The vessel was participating in the sea cucumber commercial dive fishery near Port Hobron, approximately six miles from the village of Old Harbor. Further investigation identified the commercial diver as Gary Graves, 36, of Kodiak. The state medical examiner was notified of the death and requested the body be transported to their office for examination. Next of kin has been notified and the investigation continues.
Editor's note: State records list Gary A. Graves, of Dover, N.H., as the owner of the 47-foot Momo and Maddie.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Crab Plan Team will meet all next week in Seattle, and a key document on the table will be this technical memorandum with the results of this year's Eastern Bering Sea bottom trawl survey.
Deckboss certainly didn't have time to read the full 172-page report, but he did manage to find these intriguing snippets regarding the two most important commercial species: Bristol Bay red king crab In 2015, an overall decrease in male red king crabs was observed compared to last year. (page 16) Bering Sea snow crab Mature male and female and pre-recruit-male abundance and biomass is substantially down from 2014, and below the previous 10-year average. However, an increase in juvenile abundance over the past 3 years provides hope for strong recruitment in upcoming years. (page 25)
A couple of tables within the report are certainly worth a look: Table 6 for red king crab (page 37) and Table 19 for snow crab (page 50). Each table indicates a big drop in "legal male" biomass in 2015 compared to 2014.
It won't be too long before fishery managers announce catch quotas for the upcoming crab fisheries, which open Oct. 15.
Jeff Regnart is stepping down as the state's commercial fisheries director, effective Oct. 2.
That's according to a note sent on behalf of Commissioner Sam Cotten to Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees.
"Jeff has done an exceptional job serving the division, the department and the state in many capacities for over two decades," the note said. "We hate to see him go, but also understand that personal reasons will take him outside the state."
Regnart was appointed commercial fisheries director in February 2011 during the Parnell administration.
Location: Kagalaska Strait Type: Commercial fish closed waters
On 2/24/15 Dutch Harbor Wildlife Troopers received information regarding three commercial trawl vessels that had fished within closed waters between 175 and 178 degrees W longitude in the Aleutian Islands area. The three vessels were the 296-foot Katie Ann operated by Daniel Skauge, of Oregon; the 102-foot Muir Milach operated by David Willmore, of Washington; and the 88-foot Aleutian Challenger operated by Michael Murdock, of Washington. Investigation revealed the three vessels made multiple tows with their trawls through state waters in violation of state regulations. A non-pelagic trawl used to harvest Pacific cod during the state waters A season may not be more than 60 feet in overall length. Skauge pled guilty to three counts of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $6,000 fine and forfeiture of 6,989 pounds of cod. Willmore pled guilty to one count of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $3,000 fine and forfeiture of 248,035 pounds of cod. Murdock pled guilty to one count of commercial fishing in closed waters, with a $3,000 fine and forfeiture of 138,767 pounds of cod. The approximate value of cod forfeited to the state was $106,326.
Editor's note: All three defendants entered their pleas on Aug. 25 in Unalaska District Court.
Here are a few items of interest from Alaska's commercial salmon season thus far.
• The statewide, all-species salmon catch stands at 73.5 million fish. Of these, 38.4 million are sockeyes and 27.8 million are pinks. The season forecast calls for a statewide harvest of 221 million salmon.
• Just like that, the Southeast Alaska summer troll Chinook salmon season is over. The Department of Fish and Game says the fleet caught the full 150,000-fish allocation during the eight-day opener that began July 1. Managers say 729 troll vessels made landings, and catch rates were "very good."
• The Prince William Sound pink salmon seine harvest through July 16 is estimated at 22.4 million fish, including pinks taken for cost recovery at the Valdez hatchery. "This is a record cumulative total for the date," the department says.
The gillnetter St. Charliett alongside the tender Tempest during heavy weather yesterday in Bristol Bay. The fishery's remarkable late surge continues, with the catch at nearly 29 million sockeye coming into the weekend. Our thanks to Jack Molan, captain aboard the tender Cornelia Marie, for the fine photo.
Here are a few highlights from Alaska's young salmon season.
• The action is starting to pick up at Bristol Bay, where gillnetters had landed 2.6 million sockeye through Monday. The season forecast calls for a bumper harvest of 37.6 million fish, so we could see the bay explode in the next few days as the fishery peaks. Track the daily catch here.
• In Southeast Alaska, the chum salmon return to the Hidden Falls Hatchery has been a huge disappointment.
• At the Copper River, gillnetters have caught just over 1.2 million sockeye and 22,492 Chinook. The preseason forecast called for 2.24 million sockeye and 6,000 Chinook.
• At Chignik, it appears about 50 seine permit holders are taking part in the fishery, down a bit.
• On the Lower Yukon River, chum fishermen are again restricted to dipnets and beach seines instead of gillnets. This allows for the safe release of scarce Chinook.
• Way up north at Kotzebue, commercial salmon fishing is expected to open July 10. At this point, however, the area has only one confirmed buyer compared to three last year.
Location: Kodiak Type: Unattended death
On 6/23/15 at about 0630 hours, the Larsen Bay medical provider for Icicle Seafoods Inc. notified the Alaska State Troopers of a death aboard a fishing vessel parked in Larsen Bay. Subsequent investigation revealed Steven King, 61, of Randle, Wash., died of apparent natural causes aboard the vessel during the night. Next of kin have been notified.
Location: Akutan Type: Death investigation
On 05/26/15 at about 1350 hours, the Alaska State Troopers were notified by the Akutan village public safety officer that Yuliana Zazueca, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif., was missing and did not report for work for her scheduled shift at Trident Seafoods. A search of the island was conducted using resources from Trident, the Aleutians East Borough and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers out of Dutch Harbor. Yuliana's body was located on 5/27/15 at about 1100 hours. Next of kin has been notified. The body will be transported to Anchorage for an autopsy. No foul play is suspected.
Every May, NMFS' Fishery Monitoring and Analysis Division (FMA) releases a report describing various aspects of observer deployment in fisheries off Alaska. Topics include coverage levels and distribution in the partial coverage fleet, coverage rates given certain budget constraints, and general monitoring compliance among different sectors of the fleet. This latter section was highlighted yesterday in a post on Deckboss.
While the FMA report covered certain compliance issues with the Amendment 80 sector, the effectiveness of efforts by the FMA, NMFS, and industry to address some misunderstandings that spawned those complaints should be understood. Late in 2014, the Alaska Seafood Cooperative (AKSC) became aware of a small number of observer complaints relating to halibut accounting within our sector. In addition to discussing these issues, dialogue with Martin Loefflad and Chris Rilling from FMA brought to light some conflicts between observer protocols and the needs of captains for timely information concerning halibut bycatch to effectively avoid halibut. During the meeting, an acceptable solution was reached, and observers now provide raw data to captains. This information is now available in a much more timely manner.
As many may know, AKSC and its members have been collaborating with NMFS on a program to release halibut as soon as possible from a vessel's deck to improve survival. NMFS issued an exempted fishing permit (EFP) for all AKSC member vessels because of their confidence that the issues that led to the complaints are fully and satisfactorily resolved. Absent satisfactory resolution of the issues, vessels would have been prohibited from participating in the EFP.
AKSC is appreciative of NMFS' willingness to proactively work with our co-op and member companies to resolve issues with observers quickly and efficiently. This allows companies to proactively address operational issues that arise under the observer program. The effectiveness of conversations with NMFS is evident, as observers have had no such complaints in 2015.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued its 2014 annual report for the North Pacific fishery observer program.
The report is loaded with interested reading, not the least of which is on pages 87-88.
The agency notes a "significant trend" involving catcher-processor vessels and observer reports of harassment, intimidation and other issues.
Multiple investigations have been initiated, NMFS says. The report continues:
These investigations include allegations of physical sample bias including removing halibut from observer samples, or physically preventing a halibut from entering an observer's sample during collection. Additional allegations include hostile work environment due to industry behavior and remarks to the observer in an attempt to influence how
they sample the catch to reduce the number of halibut in their sampling.
The report further says officials issued two "outreach letters" to the Amendment 80 trawl fleet and the freezer longline fleet.
These letters identified trends involving intimidation, harassment, hostile work environment, sample bias and attempted coercion regarding halibut bycatch sampling methods as well as catch weighing and record keeping and reporting requirements.
Readers surely will recall how federal regulators last year reached a $1.75 million settlement with American Seafoods Co. for alleged monkey business involving flow scales aboard three of the company's Bering Sea factory trawlers.
At the time, the feds failed to release the written settlement agreement.
Deckboss acquired the agreement through a Freedom of Information Act request, and is happy to share it with you here.
The two-page document says American Seafoods "admits the facts constituting the violation." It also set a March 31 deadline for paying the entire $1.75 million civil penalty.
So, has the company paid?
Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, sent the following in response to our recent inquiry:
American Seafoods paid $1,750,000.00 on April 2, 2015. This case is considered "paid in full."
The Obama administration last week issued a statement indicating Alaska Congressman Don Young's rewrite of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act might not pass muster with the president.
If Obama were presented with Young's legislation (H.R. 1335), "his senior advisors would recommend that he
veto the bill," the statement says.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the foremost federal law guiding management of the nation's commercial fisheries.
Young says his legislation would reauthorize and "strengthen" the act.
But the administration statement says in part:
H.R. 1335 would interfere with the tremendous success achieved in rebuilding overfished fisheries by setting rebuilding targets that are not based on sound, credible science, and that unnecessarily extend the time to rebuild fisheries. In making these changes, H.R. 1335 introduces a series of ambiguous provisions that could improperly extend rebuilding periods, delaying the significant economic and environmental benefits of rebuilt fisheries to both fishermen and the Nation as a whole.
Tim Sands, area biologist with the Department of Fish and Game in Dillingham, kindly provided Deckboss with final numbers from the Togiak sac roe herring fishery, which closed for the season on Monday.
• The total harvest was large at 21,594 tons, but fell short of the preseason quota of more than 29,000 tons.
• The purse seine fleet took its full allocation with a harvest of 20,374 tons, including an estimated 500 tons of deadloss.
• The gillnet fleet took 1,220 tons, or only 14 percent of its allocation.
• As for fishing effort, 16 seine boats and six gillnet boats took part in the fishery.
• Four processing companies showed up to buy herring: Icicle, North Pacific, Silver Bay and Trident.
The Copper River salmon fishery will open for the season at 7 a.m. May 14. It'll be a 12-hour period, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says. More details here.
Out west at Togiak, the sac roe herring fishery cruises along. The seine fleet has taken 15,654 tons on its quota of 20,309 tons. As for the gillnet fleet, the department is holding the catch total confidential because only two companies are buying gillnet fish.
On the Yukon River, managers don't anticipate a commercial fishery for Chinook salmon due to continued weak returns. The picture is brighter for chum and coho. Read the Yukon outlook here.
Deckboss was scouting Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle last week and spotted this gleaming new, jet-powered gillnetter. Jeff Quinn plans to put his boat to work this summer chasing sockeye in Bristol Bay. Click on the photos for a bigger view.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Anchorage, took two significant actions over the weekend.
First, the council voted to tighten limits on Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. Here's the final motion, which passed by a vote of 10-0. Member Simon Kinneen, of Nome, was not allowed to vote due to a conflict of interest.
The council also voted 11-0 to approve pots as legal gear for taking sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska. Switching to pots could help fishermen frustrated over whales snatching fish off their longline hooks.
A mysterious person, presumably a public relations man, just sent the following press release to Deckboss.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Alaska Salmon Producers Decide to Rejoin MSC
10 April 2015 (Seattle, WA) — Several Alaska salmon producers announced today that they have decided to rejoin Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) through the client group that holds the MSC certificate for wild Alaska salmon, Alaska Salmon Processors Association, Inc. This is in addition to their ongoing commitment to, and participation in, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-based Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification program.
This expansion would provide multiple certification choices in the global marketplace for virtually 100% of the gold-standard of sustainable seafood: wild Alaska salmon.
"This decision is based on the recognition that both the salmon market and sustainability landscape have changed in recent years," said Stefanie Moreland, Director of Government Relations and Seafood Sustainability at Trident Seafoods. "Today, there is growing market acceptance for multiple sustainability certifications, underscored by the significant progress made in establishing a common global benchmarking tool for those certification programs."
Moreland added, "The successful launch of Alaska's RFM program in 2010 and its ongoing refinement was undoubtedly a major factor in this market shift, and we continue to pledge our full support for the RFM program and the Alaska brand."
Adopting both RFM and MSC certifications would eliminate arbitrary sustainability product differentiation in the market place for Alaska salmon and ensure that even more consumers around the world will be able to enjoy the world's most sustainable and high-quality seafood.
"We project historic runs of wild Alaska salmon this year, and it is important that as many global retailers as possible have access to our abundant supply," said Barry Collier, President and CEO of Peter Pan Seafoods. "We recognize different markets have different preferences for certification, which is why we look forward to offering choice."
As a testament to the long-standing sustainability success of Alaska's seafood industry, the 2015 run of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is forecasted to be approximately 50% larger than the long-term mean, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"In Alaska, we work hard to ensure that we maintain the most advanced and rigorous science-based approach to ensuring the sustainable management of our fisheries," said Jeff Regnart, State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Director of Commercial Fisheries. "The decision of the Alaska salmon producers to expand their certification options reaffirms Alaska's commitment to keeping responsible fisheries management at its core, and to promoting choice and competition in the marketplace."
The group of Alaska salmon producers entering into the discussions includes Alaska General Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Kwikpak Fisheries, Leader Creek Fisheries, North Pacific Seafoods, Ocean Beauty, Peter Pan Seafoods, Triad Fisheries, Trident Seafoods, and Yukon Gold. The group has also requested that any other interested Alaska salmon producer also be given the opportunity to join under the same cost-sharing agreement as the new members.
For more information, please contact Stefanie Moreland, Director of Government Relations and Seafood Sustainability at Trident Seafoods, at 206-297-4627.
In a column in the forthcoming April issue of Pacific Fishing magazine, four former directors of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association urge members to "fix an organization that has gone far off course."
The cod boat Savannah Ray, which wrecked Feb. 16 east of Kodiak, remains stranded and leaking diesel, the U.S. Coast Guard reports. Global Diving & Salvage has been hired to recover the vessel. "We continue to monitor the situation and have not observed any impacts to the shoreline or wildlife, or any visible damage to the hull of the vessel," the Coast Guard says. USCG photo
Location: Kodiak Type: Death investigation
On 2/28/14 at approximately 1120 hours, the Alaska State Troopers were notified of a death on the F/V Alaskan Dream. Investigation revealed that crewmember Sean O'Callahan, 29, of Florida, had passed away in his bunk sometime during the night while the vessel was headed for a fishing area near the south end of Kodiak Island. The vessel turned around and met troopers in Kodiak. The state medical examiner was contacted and O'Callahan's remains were shipped to Anchorage for an autopsy. Nothing suspicious was observed during the investigation and next of kin has been notified.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is preparing to survey its members — again — on potentially buying back some of the drift gillnet permits in the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery.
"BBRSDA is sending a postcard survey seeking the advice of its members as to whether or not to proceed with a socioeconomic impact study," the association says on its website. "The analysis would provide valuable additional information to the fleet as they weigh the pros and cons of proceeding further."
State Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, has filed House Bill 112, titled "An act repealing the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and transferring its duties to a commercial fisheries entry division established in the Department of Fish and Game and the office of administrative hearings."
Stutes is chair of the House Special Committee on Fisheries.
Efforts are under way to salvage the F/V Savannah Ray from the rocks at Long Island, five miles southeast of Kodiak. The boat, with 25,000 pounds of cod aboard, grounded about 3 a.m. Feb. 16. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the crew. A new situation report says most of the boat's fuel has been removed. Representatives for the vessel owner "will submit plans for hull and wreck removal to the Unified Command in the near future," the report says. Public records show the boat belongs to Mystic Blue LLC. USCG photo
We've had a number of hirings, board changes and the like to begin the new year. Here's a quick rundown.
Cora Campbell, the former Alaska fish and game commissioner, has taken a job with Norton Sound Economic Development Corp.
Charles O. Swanton has been named deputy commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. Swanton, who previously was director of the Division of Sport Fish, also has been nominated to the Pacific Salmon Commission.
The Marine Stewardship Council has appointed Brian Perkins as regional director for the Americas.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association has added Lange Solberg to its board of directors.
Megan O'Neil is the new executive director for the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association.
Deckboss also hears that Ephraim Froehlich is the new fisheries aide to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. He replaces Jay Sterne.
Location: Sitka Type: Search and rescue
On 1/19/15 at 0546 hours, the U.S. Coast Guard asked Alaska State Troopers and Sitka Mountain Rescue to assist in the recovery of four adults from the 80-foot tender F/V Eyak, which had run aground 16 miles south of Sitka. The vessel sustained hull damage and was taking on water. The captain was identified as David Castle, 48, of Sitka. Crewmembers were identified as 29-year-old Anna Zallau, 23-year-old Charles Wlaslewski and 49-year-old Debra Rose, all of Port Alexander. The captain and crew had no flotation devices or survival suits. An Alaska Wildlife Troopers vessel and a Sitka Mountain Rescue vessel with divers responded to the scene and recovered the captain and crew from the sinking vessel at 0755 hours. The vessel flipped and sank shortly after and only a small portion remained above water. No one was injured and all rescued parties refused medical attention. A Good Samaritan vessel is attempting to pull the vessel to a better grounding location.
Here's a press release from the state of Washington:
Jan. 15, 2015
Fishing vessel owner fined for 2013 Seattle spill
SEATTLE — The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Lynden-based Alaskan Leader Fisheries LLC $11,000 for a 2013 oil spill to Elliott Bay from one of its fishing vessels in Seattle.
The Bristol Leader, a 167-foot catcher-processor, spilled 181 gallons of diesel fuel into the bay on Sept. 13, 2013, while taking on fuel from a tank truck at Terminal 91.
Incoming fuel — intended for empty tanks on the Bristol Leader — went instead to a partly full tank. Ecology determined that the vessel's chief engineer had not followed the company's written procedures and loading plan. These specified which tanks would receive fuel and in what order, and required the chief engineer to monitor tank levels and valve settings.
"The company could have prevented the spill if they had kept a close watch on the valves and fuel levels," said David Byers, Ecology's spill response supervisor.