Thursday, May 28, 2015

Missing Trident worker found dead at Akutan

From the Alaska State Troopers:

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Observer issues 'fully and satisfactorily resolved'

The Alaska Seafood Cooperative, representing Bering Sea flatfish trawlers, submitted the following response to yesterday's post: Observers report taking abuse over halibut.

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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Observers report taking abuse over halibut

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.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A trawl group, Groundfish Forum, has launched a special website as part of efforts to fend off tighter halibut bycatch limits.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two council members barred from halibut vote

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, at its June 1-9 meeting in Sitka, will consider reducing halibut bycatch limits in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fishery.

Two council members, however, will not be allowed to vote on this high-profile issue.

Simon Kinneen and David Long work for groundfish harvesters that could be significantly impacted by the council's halibut bycatch decision, according to federal recusal determinations.

See pages 9-11 for the Kinneen and Long determinations.

American Seafoods — all paid up

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."

Obama administration doesn't like Young's bill

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.

Young's bill passed the House Natural Resources Committee on April 30.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mediation proposed for MSC squabble

Back in April, you'll recall, the state's largest salmon processors announced they wanted to rejoin the Marine Stewardship Council program.

The move was motivated, apparently, by the need to have MSC certification in order to sell salmon into certain markets such as Europe.

To rejoin the MSC, the processors must reach agreement with an association of generally smaller companies, led by Silver Bay Seafoods, that holds the MSC certificate for Alaska salmon.

Evidently, negotiations between the two sides haven't gone smoothly.

Trident Seafoods, on behalf of the major processors, recently appealed to the MSC for help with "certificate sharing."

And now the MSC has responded with this statement on the situation. Most significantly, the MSC is offering to line up a mediator to work with the parties.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Retired state trooper appointed to Board of Fish

Gov. Bill Walker has appointed Robert Mumford to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

This is the governor's third attempt to fill the seat formerly held by Karl Johnstone.

The Alaska Legislature rejected one of the previous appointees, Robert Ruffner. The other, Roland Maw, withdrew.

According to this press release, Mumford lives in Anchorage and is a retired wildlife trooper.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A big day for Cannon Fish, APICDA

Cannon Fish Co. plans to cut the ribbon Saturday on a new seafood processing plant in Kent, Washington, south of Seattle.

Cannon Fish belongs to Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, one of Alaska's Community Development Quota organizations. APICDA acquired the company in 2013.

The new plant has the potential to employ 200 people and will work in conjunction with APICDA processing plants in two remote Alaska communities — Atka and False Pass.

More details in this press release.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Humble harvest in first Copper River opener

Thursday's 12-hour season opener at the Copper River produced a modest catch of 16,100 sockeye salmon and 1,400 Chinook, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports.

"This compares to an anticipated harvest of 37,200 sockeye salmon for this period," the department said.

The Copper River District will open again at 7 a.m. Monday for a 24-hour period. More details here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Peter Pan's Collier elected ASMI board chair

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board of directors, at its May 5 meeting in Juneau, elected a new chair and vice chair.

Barry Collier, president of processing company Peter Pan Seafoods, was elected board chair. He replaces Kevin Adams, a Bristol Bay fisherman, in the position.

Ketchikan fisherman Tomi Marsh was elected board vice chair. She replaces Mark Palmer, president of Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

The final numbers on Togiak herring

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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Togiak herring fishery wraps up

The Togiak sac roe herring fishery will close for the season at noon today.

The purse seine fleet was expected to reach its full quota, while the gillnet fleet quit fishing on Saturday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Three notes

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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Changes at the top for Icicle

Icicle Seafoods Inc., one of the biggest fish processors operating in Alaska, has named a new chief executive officer.

Chris Ruettgers takes over for Amy Humphreys, who becomes board chairman.

Naturally, the press release doesn't really say what this change is about.

Humphreys became CEO in February 2013, replacing Dennis Guhlke.

Seattle-based Icicle is held by Paine & Partners, a private equity firm.