Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fuglvog: I'm loyal to Lisa

Here's an open letter to the Alaska seafood industry from Arne Fuglvog, a former commercial fisherman and aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who's mounting a write-in bid for re-election. Fuglvog didn't send this to Deckboss; a reader did.

Oct. 28, 2010

Members of the fishing industry,

There are lots of rumours flying during election season, but one that I feel compelled to respond to, is whether I would take a job with Joe Miller or Scott McAdams, if either one is successful in winning the upcoming election.

I have been extremely honored to work for Lisa Murkowski for the past four years. She took a chance on me, when she did not know if I could do the job. She has been such a pleasure to work for and I have the utmost respect for her. Her tremendous support of the fishing industry, our fishing families and coastal communities is unquestionable. I have watched her assume the mantle of Ted Stevens in being the go-to Senator on Alaskan fishing issues.

I did not know Lisa Murkowski when I took the job in DC. I had a very good sense of who I thought she was, but during the four years of working for her, I have truly grown to respect and admire her. I would not work for any other Senator in Washington DC. It is such a personal job and you have to trust and believe in the person you are working for. You don't have to agree with everything that they do or believe in, but you must believe in their honesty, integrity and motives. There is not one question in my mind about Lisa Murkowski's honesty, integrity and willingness to do absolutely everything she can to help Alaska and her constituents.

So, to put this one to bed, I would ONLY work for Senator Lisa Murkowski in Washington DC. Period.


Arne Fuglvog

ASMI hires a new spokesman

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has appointed Tyson Fick as its new communications director.

He replaces Laura Fleming, who moved on recently after 12 years with the state agency.

Fick is a lifelong Alaskan with a marketing degree from Washington State University, an ASMI press release says. He's been a small business owner, a legislative staffer, a chef and a flight dispatcher. Most recently, he served as legislative liaison for the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

At ASMI, Fick will manage communications with the Alaska seafood industry, policymakers, the media and the public.

He starts work Nov. 16.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hilsinger, commercial fish director, retiring Dec. 1

John Hilsinger, state commercial fisheries director, will retire Dec. 1, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman confirms.

That is the same date Hilsinger's boss, Commissioner Denby Lloyd, plans to step down, as previously reported.

News of this second departure highlights a big problem Hilsinger himself has addressed — the struggle to attract and retain top biologists and other staff in the Division of Commercial Fisheries.

You'll recall we reported just last week that the state's crab manager at Dutch Harbor, Forrest Bowers, is leaving for a new job with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau.

Lloyd appointed Hilsinger to the position of commercial fisheries director on Feb. 18, 2007.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Russia's pursuit ... death at sea ... shark parts

U.S. Coast Guard officers recently briefed the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on a wide range of response and enforcement activity, and Deckboss was there to hear it.

Here's a rundown:

• Quite a dramatic episode occurred this summer in the vicinity of the Donut Hole, the international waters at the center of the Bering Sea. It began when the Cambodian-flagged Asadara, described as a "fishing support vessel," was sighted in the Russian exclusive economic zone. The Asadara immediately fled toward the Donut Hole with a Russian patrol vessel in pursuit. The Russians asked for help from the Coast Guard, which sent a C-130 aircraft to report the ship's position. After warning shots from the Russians, the Asadara stopped and was boarded and seized on June 10 for escort to Russia.

• Coast Guard officers disclosed the deaths this summer of two crewmen aboard Bering Sea fishing vessels. On Aug. 18, the Coast Guard in Kodiak received a report that a 39-year-old male "was found not breathing and foaming at the mouth in his bunk" on the trawler American No. 1, at sea 90 miles east of Dutch Harbor. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and the vessel steamed to Dutch Harbor to turn the body over to the Alaska State Troopers. The man's name was not disclosed. In another case, the Coast Guard received a call on Sept. 7 from the captain of the longliner Siberian Sea, 38 miles west of St. Paul Island. A 32-year-old crewman "was found unconscious and unresponsive in the fish hold." His mates tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but to no avail. Again, the Coast Guard didn't identify the deceased.

• Two boats netted serious trouble after Coast Guard boardings in June. In Southeast Alaska waters, a boarding party on June 19 found "multiple fishery and safety violations" aboard the halibut boat Godfather. Federal authorities seized the catch. On June 25 in Area 610 in the western Gulf of Alaska, the Coast Guard noted "retention of shark tail without the carcass" aboard the Capt'n Andrew.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alaska bacalhau para o Brasil?

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is looking for a contractor to study the feasibility of forming a marketing program in Brazil.

Among other things, the contractor would determine how Alaska seafood products stack up against the competition in Brazil; analyze potential for expansion of the bacalhau (codfish) market; determine how much Alaska cod is processed in countries such as Norway and Portugal for re-export to Brazil; evaluate tariffs and other trade barriers; report the Brazilian cities and regions with the highest seafood consumption; and estimate the cost of an effective Brazil marketing program and the potential benefit to Alaska industry.

The contract is for up to $20,000, and all work must be completed by April 1 of next year, says this request for proposals.

Hmm, Deckboss is thinking he might go for this gig if he can score a trip to Rio!

Seriously, targeting the Brazilian market sounds like a smart move.

"With its estimated 201 million inhabitants, Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world," says this U.S. State Department background note.

Brazilians increased their average annual fish consumption by 40 percent between 2003 and 2009, from 14.2 pounds to 19.9 pounds, said a recent study from Brazil's Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

ASMI, a state agency, already is an avid marketer in Europe, Japan and China.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wrangell packer to pay $96,332 pollution penalty

The fish processor cited in the press release below is a division of Pacific Seafood Group of Clackamas, Ore.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

Oct. 22, 2010

State reaches settlement agreement with Sea Level Seafoods LLC

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation today announces it reached an agreement with Sea Level Seafoods LLC to address numerous wastewater permit violations at its Wrangell facility. The company agreed to pay $96,332 to settle violations.

Sea Level Seafoods discharged crab and seafood processing wastewater and waste into marine waters at its Wrangell facility for many years without a federal or state permit authorizing the discharge. The discharges could have been authorized under a general permit that would have included specific discharge limits, and treatment, monitoring and reporting requirements.

DEC considers the violations serious because without the sort of monitoring and reporting required by a permit, it is difficult for the state to determine if a facility is complying with laws that protect water quality.

“Alaska’s regulatory system to protect water quality largely depends on having good permits in place and monitoring compliance with the permits,” said Lynn Kent, director of the Division of Water. “Long-running compliance issues like these are a grave concern to us. Penalties help create a level playing field by ensuring that violators do not obtain an unfair economic advantage over competitors who have obtained and complied with a discharge permit.”

Sea Level Seafoods cooperated with the Alaska Department of Law and voluntarily entered into the settlement agreement.

Murkowski bags another fish endorsement

The Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association endorses the re-election bid of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Be sure to check the end of the endorsement for some interesting economic data on the Community Development Quota program.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crab bits

The lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea snow crab fisheries opened at noon Friday. Get your drawn butter ready.

Here are a few notes to mark the season start:

• It's been five years since the crab fisheries were "rationalized." That is, since the quotas were sliced into individual shares for fishermen and processors. That took a lot of the fight out of the fisheries. Another effect was the drastic consolidation of the fleet; once the race for crab ended, the need for so many boats evaporated overnight. Here's the trend: 101 vessels fished in the first year of rationalization, 91 in the second year, 87 in the third, 88 in the fourth and 78 in the fifth. For this season, 63 crab boats had registered to fish as of opening day. That's a far cry from the 250-plus boats that used to go after the top prize, Bristol Bay red king crab, prior to rationalization.

• The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is losing its longtime crab fishery manager at Dutch Harbor. Forrest Bowers is leaving at the end of the year to take a new position with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau. Thanks, Forrest, for all your help over the years.

• Finally, although the crab fisheries are tamer than they used to be and nowhere near as deadly, what would a new crab season be without a TV film crew to stir things up? From the Unalaska police blotter:

Disorderly conduct, Oct. 14 — Drunken crew members of two vessels from the quasi-reality show "Deadliest Catch" squared off against each other in the lobby of the Grand Aleutian hotel. Those interviewed claimed "bad blood" between the two vessels had instigated the altercation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PVOA likes Republican incumbents

The Petersburg Vessel Owners Association favors U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Rep. Don Young and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell in the Nov. 2 election.

Here are the written endorsements: Murkowski, Young, Parnell.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Here are the Exxon Valdez payment lists!

As Deckboss reported over the weekend, the administrator of the Exxon Valdez lawsuit winnings is preparing to make a large "final distribution."

Depending on the outcome of certain remaining issues in court, the administrator intends to pay claims according to one of these three very long lists:

Scenario 1 list
Scenario 2 list
Scenario 3 list

Click on each list to find your name and the possible amount of money you can expect, before deduction of attorney fees.

For more information, click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

$100 million 'final distribution' nears in Exxon case

After nearly two years of handing out winnings from the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, the court-appointed administrator of the process is now talking about a "final distribution."

Lynn Sarko lays out the plan in this 15-page declaration.

Unless you're just itching to decipher this complex document yourself, let me give you some highlights:

• The final distribution will be big, more than $128 million.

• As in past rounds, this distribution will go out in stages. Fishermen and other plaintiffs with no holds on their claims will get their money first. The initial release will be around $100 million.

• Payments could come in December, but January is more likely.

• People in almost claim categories will share in the final distribution.

• Sarko, the administrator, reckons it'll take until 2014 to fully wrap up this case. That is, for example, to deal with claims that have multiple liens against them, to work out disputes among fishing partners over how to divide a claim, or to handle instances of bad addresses or checks never cashed.

• Any "residual funds" will be distributed by year-end 2013.

One final note: Lists for the final distribution showing the amount each claimant is due (before deduction of attorney fees) have been filed in federal court in Anchorage. Normally I would post these lists, but this time Deckboss can't afford the considerable cost to download them from the Pacer court records database. I'll get them somehow.

Anyway, looks like the end of the Exxon Valdez ordeal is finally on the horizon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Council amends Tanner crab bycatch plan

After passing a plan Sunday to reduce Tanner crab bycatch in the groundfish fisheries off Kodiak, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took up the matter again the following day and made some amendments.

Here's the final motion the council passed.

Fisheries loan office folded into new state agency

The state Division of Investments, cited in the following press release from Gov. Sean Parnell, is heavily involved in making loans to Alaska fishermen for permits, quota shares, vessels and gear. The division also has made substantial loans for hatcheries.

Oct. 12, 2010

Governor signs order creating Division of Economic Development

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell today issued an administrative order to combine the Division of Investments and the Office of Economic Development into a new Division of Economic Development within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED).

The merger will reduce duplicative functions in state government while bringing department front-line staff and leadership together to focus on economic strategies. It will create a “one-stop shop” that can provide an existing or new Alaska business with financing, marketing and general assistance.

“This consolidation will aggressively re-assert the state’s leadership in creating a business-friendly climate necessary for responsible, sustainable development,” Parnell said. “By combining Investments and the Office of Economic Development, we will decrease red tape for the private sector.”

To help identify economic development opportunities and reduce barriers, DCCED also recently formed an Economic Advisory Council consisting of industry leaders from around the state.

“These changes help us better serve the business community and more effectively promote economic development in Alaska,” said DCCED Commissioner Susan Bell. “We look forward to partnering with the private sector in pursuit of a better future for Alaskans.”

The administrative order takes effect immediately. The new Division of Economic Development will be managed by Division Director Wanetta Ayers and will operate from state offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Semper paratus

A chopper from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sherman conducts a rescue drill with a dummy yesterday at Dutch Harbor. The training is for Friday's start of the Bering Sea crab season. Jim Paulin photo

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trawlers win!

That's right, trawlers win. But Kodiak crab stocks might be winners, too.

That's my assessment of today's action at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in downtown Anchorage.

On a 9-2 vote, the council passed a plan to minimize the bycatch of bairdi Tanner crabs off the east coast of Kodiak Island.

The council considered simply closing large blocks of water to trawlers, particularly those using bottom-dragging nets that can accidentally catch and kill crab while in pursuit of groundfish.

But for the most part, the trawlers escaped that fate. Instead, the council gave the trawlers a way to keep fishing in most of waters proposed for closure. They can do this by modifying their trawl gear to have less impact on crabs.

These "trawl sweep modifications" reportedly have worked to reduce crab bycatch mortality in the Bering Sea.

Kodiak's trawl fleet as well as the island's major processors all pushed for the modified gear approach, rather than simply booting boats out of crabby areas.

Here's how council members voted on the final motion:

Voting yes
Jim Balsiger, Dave Benson, Cora Campbell, Sam Cotten, John Henderschedt, Dan Hull, Roy Hyder, Eric Olson (chairman), Bill Tweit

Voting no
Ed Dersham, Duncan Fields

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Council passes observer restructuring plan

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council yesterday voted 11-0 for an overhaul of the observer program.

This makes big changes in how observers are deployed. And it requires new classes of fishing boats including halibut longliners to sometimes carry observers, who log the makeup of the catch.

The overhaul also includes a new way to pay for observers — a fee amounting to 1.25 percent of the dockside or ex-vessel value of commercial catches.

As I understand it, the fee will apply uniformly to all fishing vessels covered under the restructured observer program. The council had considered a higher fee for some fleets and a lower fee for others.

Factory trawlers and other large vessels now required to carry one or more observers 100 percent of the time won't pay the fee. They will continue with the existing system, paying directly for observers as needed.

Remember, council decisions are recommendations. The final say belongs to the U.S. commerce secretary.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

UFA likes Parnell for a full four

Here's a press release from the Parnell campaign:

Oct. 7, 2010

United Fishermen of Alaska backs Parnell

ANCHORAGE — Alaska's gubernatorial contest frontrunner Sean Parnell today announced the endorsement of United Fishermen of Alaska, the largest fishing organization in the United States with 38 member organizations that participate in every commercial fishery in nearly every region of the state. Fisheries include salmon, crab, halibut, pollock, Pacific cod and many other species.

Alaska's commercial fishing industry is the largest private employer in the state generating annual revenue in excess of $3 billion.

Today's endorsement comes a day after Parnell met with UFA members and reaffirmed his strong commitment to defend Alaska's fisheries against unreasonable federal management policies. Parnell also addressed many of the statewide issues impacting fishermen in Alaska in that meeting. Gov. Parnell stood up for Alaska's fisheries several times over the past year, fighting federal Steller sea lion regulation, fighting genetically engineered salmon marketing, and funding more marketing for Alaska's seafood.

"I'm glad for the opportunity to stand with Alaska's fishermen," Parnell said. "Their hard work creates a livelihood for families throughout Alaska. I'm humbled by their support."

Hi, I'm running for public office. Write me a check?

Hanging around a North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting, it's not unusual to see lawyers and lobbyists for seafood companies, crewman right off the docks in their Xtratufs, and even a few millionaire fishermen and processors.

Politicians know this, and come election time they're hanging around fishing for campaign cash.

Take this evening for example. From 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Gov. Sean Parnell and Mead Treadwell, who's running for lieutenant governor, are holding a "Let's talk Alaska fisheries fundraiser" in the Crow's Nest at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, where the council is meeting this week. I found a stack of postcards hawking the event on a table in the back of the council meeting room.

The Parnell-Treadwell campaign faces competition for fish funds, as U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is holding his own "very special Alaska fundraising reception" during the same timeframe at the Orso restaurant just up the street. A flier lists some well-known fish lobbyists and lawyers as, I don't know, sponsors I guess.

Seeing as how he has very little money and doesn't care who wins, Deckboss reckons he'll skip both fundraisers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NMFS stands firm on Steller closures

Officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service today rejected, for the most part, pleas to scale back planned fishery closures in the Aleutian chain to protect the endangered Steller sea lion.

The news came in a packed and anxious room at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, where the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting this week.

The council in August sent NMFS a less severe alternative to the closures the agency says are necessary to avoid jeopardizing the Stellers, which feed on the same cod and Atka mackerel that commercial fishermen chase.

Doug DeMaster, science and research director for NMFS in Seattle, today told the council the planned closures probably can be reduced slightly in one section of the Aleutians — area 542.

But for the most part, NMFS said no to the council's alternative. Most significantly, fishing for cod and Atka mackerel will be forbidden entirely in area 543, at the western end of the Aleutian chain.

The restrictions are expected to take effect Jan. 1.

The NMFS decision pretty much seals a multimillion-dollar loss of fishing opportunity for the commercial fleet.

Naturally, consternation was written on the faces of the many industry players in the room. And some council members weren't too happy, either.

Council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak told DeMaster it seemed to him that NMFS had given the council's alternative "short shrift."

Cora Campbell, representing the state of Alaska on the council, said NMFS was basing the closures on "really scanty data."

DeMaster's major argument was that the "prey field," the amount of fish available for foraging sea lions, is projected to expand greatly under the NMFS plan but only a little under the council alternative.

He said the council alternative simply wasn't adequate to avoid jeopardizing Steller sea lions, the numbers of which have been declining markedly in the western Aleutians while generally rising elsewhere in Alaska.

DeMaster conceded, however, that not enough is known about what the region's sea lions actually eat throughout the year, and how they hunt for food.

Not everyone is unhappy with NMFS. Many people sent comments supporting the planned fishery closures.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What in the world?

Now here's something you don't see every day — a yellow halibut.

The crew of the fishing vessel Atka Pride caught the fish in mid-September near Atka in the Aleutian chain.

That's skipper Don Malcolm below holding the curious catch.

Photos of the fish were sent to the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Smithsonian, says Joe Kyle, chief operating officer with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association.

APICDA, one of Alaska's Community Development Quota organizations, owns and operates the Atka Pride through a subsidiary.

Thanks, Joe, for sharing the pictures of this bumblebee halibut!

Monday, October 4, 2010

UFA still likes Murkowski

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's top commercial fishing trade group, has again endorsed the re-election bid of Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

UFA initially backed Murkowski prior to her primary loss to Joe Miller.

Council faces three big issues this week

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets this week at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, and the agenda is pretty heavy.

Here's a quick rundown:

Observer reform: The council is poised to take final action on a plan to restructure the observer program. Observers, of course, are those young biologists who ride along on commercial fishing boats to collect important data on what's caught, kept and tossed. Depending on what options the council chooses, program restructuring could mean two new classes of boats — halibut boats and groundfish boats under 60 feet long — will have to start carrying an observer part of the time. And vessel owners in most if not all Alaska fleets could face a fee of up to 2 percent of the dockside value of their catches to cover the cost of observers.

Kodiak crab protection: The council also is expected to take final action on restricting some areas off the east coast of Kodiak Island to protect bairdi Tanner crab stocks. The council could ban trawl and pot boats from the areas seasonally or year-round, or require them to carry observers more often to keep fishing there. As steady Deckboss visitors know, the killing or maiming of crab while in pursuit of groundfish is a touchy subject.

Steller sea lion verdict: With much anticipation, I'm sure, council members will hear the final word from the National Marine Fisheries Service on just how restrictive the western Aleutians cod and Atka mackerel fisheries are going to be come next year. As you'll recall, NMFS proposed extensive commercial fishing closures along the chain to protect the endangered Steller sea lion. The council at its August meeting suggested ways to reduce the closures. It'll be fascinating to see if NMFS bends a little. Either way, we could see litigation bust out over this one.

Farewell: A reception is planned for Friday evening to say so long to Denby Lloyd, who is retiring Dec. 1 as Alaska's fish and game commissioner and thus a member of the council.

Here's the agenda with all the times, dates and places for the council meeting and side gatherings.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bering Sea crab quotas announced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced catch limits for the Bering Sea crab fisheries opening Oct. 15:

Bristol Bay red king crab: 14.8 million pounds, down 7.5 percent from last season.

Bering Sea snow crab: 54.3 million pounds, up 13 percent from last season.

Bering Sea bairdi Tanner crab: Fishery closed due to low mature female biomass. Last season's quota was 1.35 million pounds.

St. Matthew Island blue king crab: 1.6 million pounds, up 37 percent from last season.