Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another perspective on the 32-foot limit

As noted in my last post, the state Board of Fisheries soon will consider whether to eliminate the longstanding 32-foot vessel length limit in the state's biggest salmon fishery at Bristol Bay.

In the past, I suppose I always considered this proposal rather narrowly.

Could an aggressive fisherman pack more sockeye than his competitors? Could he add chilling or even processing equipment to maximize the value of his catch?

Or might a bigger boat allow the bay's more boorish players to simply bully smaller boats off the line?

Well, on my recent visit to Seattle I ran into a fisherman who broadened my perspective a little. He made two points I'd never considered before.

First, he said bigger boats wouldn't necessarily offer an advantage, as they would have a deeper draft and couldn't fish shallow waters like lighter boats.

Second, a bigger vessel might offer fishermen more versatility. For example, the boat could be used not only to net sockeye at Bristol Bay, but also to work in waters or fisheries such as halibut that ideally require more size.

Deckboss is confident plenty more points will be made at the board's Dec. 1-8 meeting at the downtown Hilton hotel in Anchorage.

Bigger boats at Bristol Bay?

We've got a major meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries on tap starting Tuesday through Dec. 8 at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage.

The topic is Bristol Bay finfish.

Quite a few controversial proposals are on the table, including one that would allow the use of salmon boats longer than the current limit of 32 feet.

Other proposals would allow a person to own and fish more than one gillnet permit.

These proposals have come up before, but I'm sensing a little more buzz around them this time.

A reader kindly sent me the following opinion column, which I'm happy to share with you now. The author, Fritz Johnson, fishes the bay aboard the F/V Jazz. He also works for the Dillingham-based Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

Please note the views in the column belong to the author, not Deckboss, who tries to keep his head down and stay neutral on these fish fights!

Bristol Bay: Riches To Rags? Alaska Policy Decisions

By Fritz Johnson

Readers who follow the Alaska Board of Fisheries may be reminded this week of Yogi Berra's comment about deja vu all over again.

Proposals before the board, mostly from out-of-state fishermen, would allow bigger boats and multiple fishing permits to be used in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, changes that Bristol Bay residents remain convinced will hurt their income and the region's economy.

Three years ago the board took no action on these so-called
"restructuring" proposals other than to table the proposals for further study. Further study is what the board's guidelines call for if regulation changes are expected to have "substantial economic, social or biological impacts."

If board members have actually studied how bigger boats and multiple fishing permits will affect Bristol Bay's watershed residents, they've kept the findings to themselves. Except for the pro and con views of others, the board hasn't published anything, and five of the seven board members have been replaced since the proposals were tabled back in 2006.

The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. took that initiative. BBEDC is the region's Community Development Quota organization that invests in economic development and education projects in the Bristol Bay region. Its research ought to be of interest to every public policymaker, from the Board of Fisheries to Alaska legislators and the Office of the Governor, because the picture it paints is of a fishery that's gradually slipping away from the Alaskans who are most dependent on it for their survival.

According to U.S. census data, in 1980 per capita income of residents of the Bristol Bay Borough was among the highest in the United States. Today it is below that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation.

Alaska salmon fishing rights, which provided that enviable per capita income 30 years ago, have been disappearing as nonresidents buy up resident-owned salmon fishing permits. When the state's limited entry system was adopted in 1976, Bristol Bay watershed residents owned nearly 50 percent of the drift gillnet fishing permits. Today they own barely 20 percent and the money they earn from salmon fishing is 30 percent less than what non-Alaskans earn.

That gap will widen if changes in Bristol Bay fishing regulations give advantages to people with access to capital. That's the conclusion of Gunnar Knapp, economist with the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research. Not only do watershed residents earn less money from fishing, their living costs are more than twice that of the Lower 48, and except for commercial salmon fishing in the summer, other job opportunities are extremely limited.

For the most part, people who live in the Bristol Bay watershed will not be able to afford the cost of bigger fishing boats and second $80,000 fishing licenses.

Others will, however, largely nonresident fishers, and with bigger boats fishing multiple permits their share of Bristol Bay's salmon harvest will grow at the expense of Alaskans with smaller boats and single fishing permits.

Calls to restructure Alaska's salmon industry came following several years of poor returns and low prices that were felt most strongly beginning in 1997. Since that time, fish runs and prices have rebounded, and Alaska's wild salmon are increasingly valued on world markets.

Natural cycles in salmon abundance are to be expected, however, which explains why some are driven to consolidate competitive fishing advantages by regulation. But Alaska policymakers need to ask if improving our salmon fishery should be guided by those who would, in the name of maximizing economic efficiency, give a larger share of the resource to fewer people.

Is such a course in the best interest of the state of Alaska? Or should state fisheries policy be guided by concern for sustaining coastal communities where Alaska livelihoods depend on access to nearby fishery resources?

Fifty years ago with statehood came Alaska's ban on fish traps, symbolic of the exploitation of Alaska's resources by West Coast canners. It would be a sad comment on our failure as Alaskans if 50 years from now Alaskans are sitting on shore while nonresidents do all the fishing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Cheesecake combat'

Check out the latest Dutch Harbor report on our sister blog, The Brig.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

UFA offers limited OK for ASMI hookup with MSC

Deckboss has written recently about the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute likely becoming the Marine Stewardship Council's "client" for purposes of maintaining the MSC sustainability ecolabel for Alaska salmon.

We also observed how the state's main commercial fishing organization, United Fishermen of Alaska, seemed to have some reservations about such an alliance.

Well, it seems the UFA has mulled it over and come to a final position on the matter, the terms of which are contained in this press release:

United Fishermen of Alaska

Nov. 23, 2009

UFA supports ASMI as client in MSC salmon sustainability certification

United Fishermen on Alaska voted on Wednesday, Nov. 19, to support the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in assuming "client" status for the Marine Stewardship Council’s ongoing sustainability certification of Alaska wild walmon. Ray Riutta, executive director of ASMI, and Joe Bundrant, ASMI board chairman, talked to UFA about the advantages of ASMI assuming the client role and also about their concerns with the MSC certification program.

Chris Ninnes, deputy CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council, also addressed the UFA board. Mr. Ninnes acknowledged that the MSC made a number of mistakes in working with their Alaska clients. He assured UFA that the "Stinky Fish" campaign was clearly one of their missteps and that, on his watch, this type of industry attack would not occur again. Chris recognized that MSC certification for sustainability needed review and consistency worldwide.

On the other hand, Chris championed the merits of MSC certification. MSC is working to expand markets for certified Alaska wild salmon, it has intervened with more aggressive environmental groups to defend Alaska's management of certified fisheries and MSC twice refused to certify famed salmon as "sustainable." Finally, MSC is reviewing a funding construct, proposed by ASMI, for collecting logo use fees.

The UFA motion to support ASMI's association with MSC was conditioned on the satisfactory resolution of six concerns.

1. The "Alaska brand" is protected by allowing use of the ASMI logo on all Alaska seafood regardless of whether it includes the MSC logo. And, the Alaska brand is promoted by continuing an independent ASMI certification of sustainability.

2. The MSC certification program remains "cost neutral" for ASMI with the primary costs of certification paid by MSC logo licensing fees.

3. MSC certification "conditions" do not require substantial changes to Alaska's current fisheries management.

4. MSC maintains consistent certification standards.

5. MSC aggressively defends its brand.

6. MSC refrains from certifying farmed salmon.

Mark Vinsel, executive director of UFA, commented that "UFA support for the ASMI-MSC relationship was one of the big issues at the semiannual UFA board meeting. The initial time allocated for debate was not enough for the board to voice their views and the issues were further discussed late into the evening."

In the end, the board vote was unanimous.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NMFS wins halibut charter case

A federal judge today declared the National Marine Fisheries Service the winner in a lawsuit some halibut charter boat operators were pressing to try to invalidate a new rule holding charter anglers in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C) to a bag limit of one fish per day instead of two.

This is a victory not only for NMFS, but for commercial halibut longliners who believe the one-fish rule is badly needed to control the growth of the charter catch in a region where halibut abundance has been declining.

Judge Rosemary Collyer, by the way, previously had blocked the rule temporarily at the request of the charter operators.

Here's the judge's opinion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

So long, Seattle

I wrapped up my visit to the Emerald City today. Naturally, I spent considerable time walking around Fishermen's Terminal taking pictures, despite what seemed like gale conditions all week.

The harbor was full of seine boats targeting fall salmon in Puget Sound, plus a lot of longliners that I assume just finished up the halibut season.

Anyway, here are a few postcards, including one at the end showing a good activity for a really soggy Seattle day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jury says Icicle owes hurt crewman $1.5 million

Here's the story in today's Seattle Times.

Expo time!

Today's the start of the three-day Pacific Marine Expo, a showcase for everything from engines to electronics to bait. It's billed as the largest such event on the West Coast, and is being held in the grand Qwest Field Event Center smack in downtown Seattle. Qwest Field, in case you don't know, is home to the Seattle Seahawks. Deckboss will be hanging out in there today and looking to score a few new contacts among Alaska commercial fishermen. Wesley Loy photo

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Man dies after fall overboard near Wrangell

Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission records show the boat named in the press release below belonged to the deceased.

It's not clear what the 32-footer was fishing for, but the records indicate it's rigged for longline and pot gear.

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Canoe Pass near Wrangell
Type: Death investigation
On 11/17/2009 at 1729 hours Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan received a call from Wrangell Search and Rescue who reported receiving a mayday call from the F/V Willow in Canoe Passage, south of Wrangell. The mayday was from David Sweat, age 60, of Wrangell, reporting that Allan Hayes, 56, also from Wrangell, had fallen overboard and was unresponsive. Sweat reported he was unable to get Hayes back onboard. Wrangell SAR responding by boat and the U.S. Coast Guard responding by helicopter. The P/V Enforcer was on wildlife patrol in the area and responded to assist with the investigation. At 1845 hours, Wrangell SAR reported Hayes was deceased. Next of kin were notified of the death. Alaska State Troopers are continuing with a full investigation.

What? Alaska salmon not MSC-certified?

Here's news that the Metlakatla Indian Community in Southeast Alaska will seek Marine Stewardship Council certification.

It seems the Metlakatla tribe, in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, manages a small commercial salmon fishery around Annette Island and neighboring isles south of Ketchikan.

The state manages the rest of Alaska's vast salmon fisheries. And, as regular visitors to this blog know, the state has achieved MSC certification for Alaska salmon as a sustainable fishery.

All the best to Metlakatla.

But one wonders what happens if the Annette Island Reserve salmon fishery doesn't qualify for the MSC ecolabel.

Will we no longer be able to say without qualification that "Alaska salmon" is MSC-certified?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

$370 million worth of salmon!

The Department of Fish and Game has posted a preliminary tally of the 2009 salmon season.

Here are the key numbers:

Total catch: 161.8 million fish

Total value: $370.2 million off the boat

That sounds like a pretty impressive season.

But in 2008, the value was considerably greater at $452 million despite a smaller catch of 146.4 million fish.

I'm not sure how to fully explain the substantial drop in value.

But in comparing the state's 2008 and 2009 tallies, it appears the big mover was pink salmon.

This year's catch of 96 million pinks brought $68.5 million. Last year's 84 million pinks was worth $103.4 million.

The state says the average pink price took a tumble this year to 22 cents a pound, versus 35 cents in 2008.

Matter of fact, average prices for all species of salmon fell this year. Blame it on the recession, perhaps?

My assumption is the value of the 2009 salmon season will climb some as Fish and Game collects better data on what processors actually paid fishermen, including any post-season bonuses.

Pollock holds steady

Federal scientists meeting in Seattle this week appear primed to advise only a slight change in next year's eastern Bering Sea pollock catch.

I haven't spoken to the scientists directly, but it looks like KUCB radio out in Dutch Harbor did, and they favor an "acceptable biological catch" of 813,000 metric tons.

If that number is adopted as the commercial quota, it would be only a nibble off this year's limit of 815,000 tons.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will recommend a quota at its December meeting in Anchorage. The final say belongs to the U.S. commerce secretary.

Bering Sea pollock is the nation's largest commercial fishery by weight. Pollock are used predominantly for goods such as fish sticks and surimi, a protein paste that's fashioned into an array of specialty products in Asia.

The pollock stock is at a low ebb right now, scientists say. That's why the catch quota is way off its peak of 1.49 million tons in 2004.

Sleeping well in Seattle

Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle, hub harbor for North Pacific commercial fisheries. Wesley Loy photo

Deckboss is on the road for a spell, and Seattle is my first stop.

What a city. I could spend hours walking the piers at Fishermen's Terminal looking at fish boats of every size and shape. The restaurants, entertainment and general pace of Seattle is marvelous. Heck, I even like the rain.

I do have some business here. I'll be attending Pacific Marine Expo, also known as Fish Expo, starting on Thursday.

If you go to the expo and see me walking around, by all means step up and say hello.

Monday, November 16, 2009

That's a wrap for halibut

The halibut fishery closed at noon Sunday after an eight-month season.

As usual, fishermen holding individual fishing quota left very few halibut in the water. According to National Marine Fisheries Service figures posted today, IFQ fishermen took 42,075,201 pounds or 97 of the quota.

Going into the season, halibut producers worried about the effects of the global recession on demand for what has become quite a pricey fish.

Based on all the anecdotal evidence I've seen and heard, prices did fall off a bit this year, but not as badly as we might have expected.

I'll try to get better data to see what really happened.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Big Togiak herring quota announced

The Togiak sac roe herring fishery, one of the Alaska's biggest herring harvests, has really struggled the past few years. But it hasn't been for lack of fish.

Seiners and gillnetters willing to keep fishing in the face of Japan's weakened appetite for herring eggs can expect to find plenty of fish again come spring.

A state Department of Fish and Game forecast issued today sets a harvest quota of 25,905 tons of herring for the 2010 season.

That compares to last season's harvest of 16,571 tons on a quota of 21,260 tons.

The sac roe fishery typically plays out in May.

Bristol Bay forecast: 30.5 million sockeye

Bristol Bay next season will produce a commercial sockeye salmon catch of 30.5 million fish, according to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast issued today.

That's a really strong number.

For comparison, Bristol Bay this past summer produced a catch of 30.9 million sockeye on a forecast of 24 million.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lawyers yesterday worked out a sale of troubled processor Adak Fisheries to a newly formed Norwegian-backed concern called Adak Seafood LLC.

Here's the order signed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Donald MacDonald.

Adak Seafood got the plant on Adak Island, way down the Aleutian chain beyond Dutch Harbor, for $488,000 in cash plus assumption of $6.7 million in loans from Independence Bank of Rhode Island.

The sale price "is millions of dollars higher" than a competing bid from Trident Seafoods Corp., the judge's order notes. Trident didn't offer to take on the bank debt.

It appears the key to the deal was the pledge of certain sums to satisfy Aleut Enterprise, the processor's landlord on Adak.

The order says the sale should clear the way for the plant to open in time for the lucrative Pacific cod season in January.

That would be a good scenario for the young community of Adak, which is counting on its only fish plant to help to convert the former Cold War military outpost into a viable civilian town.

But never mind the island's future. Deckboss just wonders how long it'll take Kjetil Solberg to turn up again at Adak.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are you too old for this job?

The state Department of Labor's Alaska Economic Trends newsletter for November has a cover story about employment in the seafood industry.

It's an easy and interesting seven-page read. Here's a few highlights:

• The fishing and processing sectors combined for 16,297 jobs last year, up almost 12 percent since the bottom of the salmon depression in 2002.

• The industry's youth is on deck with almost half of vessel crewmen under 30 years old last year. Processing workers generally are older, averaging 39 in 2008. Fishing permit holders are the graybeards, averaging 46 years old.

• Alaska's highly seasonal seafood industry has a huge nonresident component, with 27 percent of permit holders 46 percent of crewmen and 74 percent of processing workers living out of state last year.

The latest on Adak Fisheries

Again this morning, Deckboss trudged through new snow to the bankruptcy court in Anchorge to check out continued proceedings in the case of Adak Fisheries.

So far today, the result has been the same as yesterday: No action on a sale of the faraway fish plant.

If anything, a sale sounds less likely than it did a couple of days ago.

"We are losing momentum, judge," Cabot Christianson, the lawyer for Adak Fisheries, told Bankruptcy Judge Donald MacDonald. "We are losing momentum on the deal."

Presumably, the deal to which Christianson refers is the offer from a Norwegian concern for $488,000 in cash plus assumption of $6.7 million in bank debt on the plant.

Aleut Enterprise, landlord for Adak Fisheries on Adak Island, doesn't like the offer because Kjetil Solberg, which whom Aleut has jousted over the years, might somehow be involved with the buyer.

A competing offer of $2 million in cash is on the table from Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp.

The bank that holds the debt on the Adak plant, we assume, doesn't care for the Trident offer.

The numerous lawyers involved in the knotty case are expected to convene again at 2 p.m. at the courthouse.

Search ends without recovery of missing crewman

The U.S. Coast Guard reports it suspended its search at 5:11 p.m. Monday for John Ree Payla, a 21-year-old Filipino crewman reported missing Sunday from the 754-foot coal carrier Corona Infinity 40 miles north of Dutch Harbor.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lawyers haggle over fate of Adak Fisheries

Deckboss did indeed make it down to the courthouse in Anchorage today for a hearing on the Adak Fisheries bankruptcy.

A bunch of lawyers were gathered there, but spent very little time in the courtroom. Instead, they huddled privately most of the day before asking the judge to postpone matters until 11 a.m. Tuesday.

We've got a tricky situation here involving the debtor processor, its landlord, an East Coast bank looking to recoup several million dollars in loans, and two companies vying to buy the assets of Adak Fisheries.

Lawyers say the key is finding some resolution quickly so a new owner can reopen the plant on distant Adak Island in time for the main cod season in January.

One of the prospective buyers, Trident Seafoods Corp., showed me it's pretty serious about its $2 million cash offer, as the company has sent its ace staff attorney, Joe Plesha, to the court proceedings.

Please be on the lookout

The bulk carrier Corona Infinity. Photo courtesy of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., Tokyo

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

Nov. 9, 2009

Coast Guard searching for missing crewman north of Dutch Harbor

ANCHORAGE — The Coast Guard is searching for a 21-year-old Filipino crewman reported missing Sunday from the 754-foot Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel Corona Infinity 40 miles north of Dutch Harbor.

The Coast Guard received a call from the crew of the vessel about 5:30 p.m. indicating that one of their crewman had gone missing and his uniform had been found on the back of the ship about 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Coast Guard immediately diverted an Air Station Kodiak HH-65 Dolphin helicopter assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell and issued an urgent marine information broadcast encouraging vessels in the area to keep a look out for the man and assist if possible.

Coast Guard rescue crews searched until 7 p.m. and have continued with a first-light search by an HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Air Station Kodiak and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the Coast Guard’s forward operating location in Cold Bay. The 92-foot fishing vessel Andronica from Dutch Harbor has responded to the broadcast for assistance and is searching the area.

Weather in the area is forecasted as 30 mph winds, 11-foot waves, air temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit and a water temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Corona Infinity is a bulk coal carrier and was in transit to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, when they noticed the crewman had gone missing. The missing crewman’s name is being withheld pending next of kin notification.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


A stolen purse seine at card fraud at a Trident plant...illegal shrimping in Southeast.

Check out The Brig for lots of fresh crime notes, plus the latest Dutch Harbor report!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Commission: Most of N. Pacific awash in salmon

The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission yesterday issued this press release via the U.S. Coast Guard summarizing last week's commission meeting in Niigata, Japan.

For those who don't care to read the full and rather lengthy release, here is the first and most interesting paragraph:

"Unprecedented high catches of Pacific salmon continue in most areas of the North Pacific, reports the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. Only at the southeastern part of their range off British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California are Pacific salmon stocks in low abundance."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reaction from Japan

My recent rant about the lack of information as to just what the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission would be discussing at its meeting this week in Japan drew some quite reasonable criticism of Deckboss for suggesting the international panel might be operating under a degree of "secrecy."

It also yielded this agenda, which was all I was after as an ordinary, interested citizen.

Trident reveals Adak interest

Trident Seafoods Corp. is offering $2 million in cash for the assets of Adak Fisheries.

Seattle-based Trident, in a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Anchorage, said it would like to reopen the plant on far-flung Adak Island in early 2010.

The plant is known mainly as a cod processor, but Trident indicates it might process pollock there, too.

As we've previously noted here on Deckboss, however, Trident is not alone in pursuing the plant.

An outfit called Adak Seafood purportedly is offering $488,000 in cash plus assumption of $6.7 million in bank debt.

In papers filed this week in the bankruptcy court, Aleut Enterprise, landlord for Adak Fisheries, opposes the sale to Adak Seafood in part because the processor's former owner, Kjetil Solberg, appears to be involved with the prospective buyer.

Aleut Enterprise said it "does not believe that Mr. Solberg or any company in which he is involved can provide adequate assurance of future performance, based on past performance issues."

The whole affair is set for a big hearing in the Anchorage bankruptcy court starting at 9 a.m. Monday.

Deckboss just might amble down there and check it out.

Exxon payments might come by year's end

The Seattle administrator who won court approval yesterday to distribute almost $300 million in Exxon Valdez interest is "committed to issuing payments before year end assuming no court orders or appeals to the contrary."

Click here for more details about the payout schedule, as well as deductions to be made from individual payments.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crab boat hobbled but OK in Bering

Just talked with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is monitoring a crab boat with engine trouble in the Bering Sea.

The Lisa Marie dropped some cylinders and is limping its way to Dutch Harbor, making 3-5 knots, a Coast Guard spokesman in Juneau told me.

Weather isn't especially rough at this time.

The Lisa Marie has been featured on the hit cable show "Deadliest Catch." I'm not sure whether she has a camera crew aboard this season.

Here comes the Exxon money

Sure enough, Judge H. Russel Holland today signed the order authorizing distribution of a big piece of the interest money in the Exxon Valdez case.

I'll get back to you as soon as I know more about the timeline for sending checks and direct deposits.

Meantime, here is the main payout list, broken into two parts:

Distribution list, part 1

Distribution list, part 2

Major ruling looks near in Exxon Valdez case

Having taken care of a couple of snags, it appears federal Judge H. Russel Holland is ready to issue an order as soon as today authorizing the biggest single distribution yet of Exxon Valdez winnings — close to $300 million — to thousands of commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs.

When the order comes down, I'll post it here!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More on the case of Coast Guard Capt. Hamilton

I found this charge sheet on the Web site of Anchorage television station KTUU Channel 2.

The document provides explicit details on the U.S. Coast Guard's investigation of its former Sector Anchorage commander, Capt. Mark Hamilton.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crewman with eye injury airlifted off longliner

I believe the vessel named in this press release, the Clipper Surprise, is a Seattle-based cod freezer longliner.

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

Nov. 3, 2009

Coast Guard medevacs Bering Sea fisherman

ANCHORAGE — A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward deployed in Cold Bay on Monday medevaced a 30-year-old crewman with a reported eye injury from the 124-foot fishing vessel Clipper Surprise more than 50 miles north of Dutch Harbor.

Holden Jonan-Serrano, an El Salvadorian citizen, reportedly sustained the injury to his right eye when he collided with a pipe while working aboard the vessel.

The crew of the fishing vessel contacted their health force provider, which in turn contacted the Coast Guard 17th District Command Center for medevac assistance.

The Cold Bay helicopter crew was already airborne when they received the call for assistance and diverted from their patrol. Arriving on scene at 5:55 p.m., they safely hoisted Jonan-Serrano into the helicopter for medevac to Cold Bay.

Jonan-Serrano arrived in Cold Bay at 7:47 p.m. where he was transferred in stable condition to a Guardian Life Flight jet for further transport to Anchorage.

The Coast Guard stations an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew in Cold Bay as a precautionary measure during the busy fall Bering Sea fishing season.

EPA proposes $177,550 fine for Haines processor

This arrived this afternoon:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Nov. 3, 2009

Fish processing plant in Haines, Alaska, faces a possible $177,500 fine for discharging fish waste without a permit

HAINES, Alaska — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against Chilkoot Fish & Caviar Inc. for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The violations occurred at Chilkoot's fish processing plant located at Mile 5 Lutak Road in Haines. The company, which repeatedly violated its permit over a four-year period, could face a penalty of $177,550, the maximum civil penalty allowed under the Clean Water Act.

EPA alleges that Chilkoot violated the Clean Water Act by discharging fish processing waste into Lutak Inlet without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The administrative complaint alleges illegal discharge activities from May to October in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Fish wastes are the unused portions of the processed fish. The permit requires processors to grind the waste to half-inch size or less. From 2004 through 2007, Chilkoot processed over 824,000 pounds of fish waste.

"Fish processing waste, especially from shore-based facilities, can cause serious harm to the marine environment in the surrounding area," said Edward Kowalski, EPA's director of compliance and enforcement in Seattle. "Obtaining and adhering to discharge permits are fundamental rules that must be followed in order to protect Alaska's waters."

The NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating sources that discharge pollutants to waters in the United States.

Fish processing waste from the Chilkoot plant runs into Lutak Inlet. Lutak Inlet is a tributary of Lynn Canal. Both Lutak Inlet and Lynn Canal are considered "navigable waters" and waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.

Case against Capt. Hamilton disclosed

A few months ago we posted an item about the sudden removal of the U.S. Coast Guard's Sector Anchorage commander, Capt. Mark Hamilton.

Today, the Coast Guard is explaining the reasons why, though full details remain lacking.

Here's the press release:

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

Nov. 3, 2009

Senior Coast Guard officer investigated for misconduct

JUNEAU — The former commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage has been charged Tuesday with multiple violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Capt. Herbert Mark Hamilton was charged with six specifications of failure to obey a lawful general order under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; two specifications of false official statements under Article 107; two specifications of indecent acts under Article 120; three specifications of sodomy under Article 125; one specification of fraud against the United States under Article 132; eight specifications of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman under Article 133; two specifications of fraternization under Article 134; three specifications of adultery under Article 134; one specification of indecent language under Article 134; and three specifications of soliciting another to commit an offense under Article 134.

The charges were based on the results of a preliminary investigation conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service.

The charges against Hamilton are merely accusations. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty under proceedings conducted in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Rear Adm. Christopher Colvin, the Coast Guard 17th District commander, has directed the charges against Hamilton be investigated in accordance with Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. An Article 32 hearing is a formal investigation where an investigating officer inquires into the truth of the matters set forth in the charges and recommends disposition of the charges. The accused member and his counsel are present and have the right to question witnesses at such a proceeding. A date and location has not yet been set for the Article 32 hearing.

If the charges against Hamilton are tried at a general court-martial, Hamilton faces a potential maximum sentence that may include confinement, a dismissal from the Coast Guard or a number of other lesser forms of punishment.

Monday, November 2, 2009

'Fishery porn'

A while back we posted some pictures, purportedly shot by a crewman aboard an unidentified Gulf of Alaska flatfish trawler, showing what appeared to be extreme Tanner crab bycatch.

Those pictures caused quite a stir.

Now an anonymous somebody has steered Deckboss to another blog featuring a five-minute video, again from an unidentified trawler, appearing to show extreme halibut bycatch.

Crewman on the video look to be chucking chicken halibut overboard for all they're worth.

Of course, I can't vouch for the authenticity of the clip, which is time stamped Sept. 1, 2004. The host blog is avowedly anti-trawl.

All I can say is the video is fascinating to watch, and looks real enough. Make of it what you will.

Salmon, sake and secrecy in Japan

Regular visitors to this blog know Deckboss doesn't spend a lot of time complaining about what a tough job we journalists have.

But I'm breaking form now to carp a little about an outfit called the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

The commission is holding its annual meeting this week in Niigata, Japan.

For those unfamiliar with the organization, the commission draws together Canada, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States under a convention to "promote the conservation of anadromous stocks in the convention area."

An excellent mission, I'm sure you'll agree.

Naturally, I was curious to see what was on the agenda for this big annual meeting.

Salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea, perhaps? Genetic testing to pin down whose salmon are headed where? Or maybe an update on the effects of large-scale Japanese and U.S. hatcheries on wild fish?

But no agenda is on the commission's Web site. At least none that I could find.

All I saw was this barebones notice of the meeting.

Apparently, much additional information is behind a wall labeled "member's area." Click it and all you get is a box for plugging in a password.

I'd be less annoyed with the uncooperative Web site were it not for the lack of a reply to my Oct. 28 e-mail to the secretariat in Vancouver, British Columbia, requesting an agenda.

Here's what I can tell you: For travel opportunity, it must be nice to be a representative on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

Since 2000, the commission has met in such cities as Tokyo, Victoria, Vladivostok, Honolulu, Sapporo and Seattle.

Now the commission is talking salmon and trout in Niigata, which Lonely Planet describes as a "lively capital" where "sake reigns supreme."

Behnken honored

I see the December issue of National Fisherman magazine features Linda Behnken, a Sitka halibut longliner, as one of its Highliner honorees for 2009.

Capsized boat sinks during salvage effort

Sounds like things have gone from bad to worse for the Carley Renee.

Here's a joint press release issued late last night from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation:

Nov. 1, 2009

Juneau fishing vessel sinks during coordinated recovery operation

ANCHORAGE — The Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Magone Marine Services were coordinating a recovery operation of the fishing vessel Carley Renee when it sank in Sedanka Pass at 3:10 p.m. Sunday.

The Western Viking, a Magone salvage vessel, arrived at the location of the Carley Renee on Sunday.

The Juneau-based fishing vessel was partially submerged near Egg Island with approximately 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board.

Magone salvage crews successfully increased the Carley Renee's buoyancy by pumping air into the engine room. The Western Viking began towing the fishing vessel toward Beaver Inlet, a more suitable location for salvage operations and fuel removal, when the vessel sank approximately one and a half miles northwest of Egg Island.

A 2-mile rainbow sheen was reported in the vicinity of the sunken vessel. Based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration drift models and the weather conditions the sheen is expected dissipate quickly and cause no significant environmental impacts.

The cause of the incident is under investigation by Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unalaska.