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Fish Factor

Alaska seafood safe


February 10, 2014
Monday PM

(SitNews) -  Alaska seafood is free of radiation stemming from Japan’s 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster. 

That was the take home message from the Alaska Dept. of Conservation to the state Senate Resources Committee at a recent hearing.

Citing  information from  the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and   the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Pacific states including Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Health Canada, “all have demonstrated there are no levels of radiation that are of a public health concern,” said Marty Brewer, director of DEC’s Environmental Health Division.  

She added that only small amounts of radiation have been detected from the reactor source.

“There has been detection of cesium that is reportedly from Fukushima but at miniscule levels,” Brewer said. 

DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig said programs in the Lower 48 are testing fish that swim between the Gulf of Alaska, the West Coast and Japan, and they have come up with a clean bill of health.   The DEC also is monitoring marine debris washing ashore in Southeast Alaska and  Prince William Sound, Hartig said.    

None of the debris that has washed ashore anywhere in the US so far has shown signs of radiation.

Fish behavior cuts bycatch

Fishing gear experts are using fish behavior to take a bite out of unwanted salmon bycatch in trawl nets. Video cameras inside nets revealed several years ago that Alaska pollock and salmon behave very differently when captured. Salmon were able to swim against the strong flow within the net better than the pollock, said John Gauvin, a gear specialist who for decades has worked closely with the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawl fleets.

“You would see the salmon moving forward in the net at times, and you would see the pollock steadily dropping back, with some ability to move forward but at a loss. They would move a little bit forward and then move a lot back,” he explained.

Trawlers will soon begin field testing a so called “over and under”  net device to see how it performs.  

“We are pretty excited about this device and we are going to be doing testing this spring in the Gulf and then, hopefully, in the fall in the Bering Sea,” Gauvin said.

A ‘flapper’ excluder device, used by many trawlers since 2012, has resulted in a 25% - 37% Chinook salmon escapement with very little loss of pollock. While it works well, Gauvin said the design is difficult to adopt widely into the fishery and takes a lot of fine tuning. 

Finding ‘cleaner,’ gear that is affordable and adaptable will drive the future of our fisheries, Gauvin believes.  

"What is interesting to me today is that in many ways, success in the fisheries is not so much of what you catch, but what you don’t catch,” he mused. “Fishermen spend a lot of time figuring out how to avoid things they are not supposed to catch so they can continue to make a living.”

Fish=Healthy Hearts

February is American Heart Month and the role of seafood and heart health is being featured in a nationwide media blitz.

The American Heart Association has placed one million magazine inserts in major newspapers from Boston to LA, and they include full page ads about the importance of eating more seafood.

“The science is there to help all of us understand that eating seafood twice a week can be great for our heart health, but that message is just not getting out. So this is our first effort to work with health partners to bring a credible message to Americans. We are very excited about it,” said Linda Cornish, executive director of the nonprofit Seafood Nutrition Partnership, which promotes the twice a week message across the country.

“I can see that people understand that seafood is good for them,” she continued. “The hurdles come from knowing how to buy it and cook it, and   understanding the different varieties of seafood they can include in their diet.”  

Getting women across those hurdles is especially important for women (who do most of the home food shopping), as heart disease is by far the #1 killer of American women.

Cornish said the Seafood Nutrition Partnership also is testing various outreach messages to see how they resonate with consumers – and to balance out negative messages.

“What you are seeing in terms of the different messages on mercury and toxicity is very well founded; it’s just that you hear more of those messages versus the good news on seafood. So our initiative is to try and get more positive messages out about seafood and provide a more balanced view.”

Pick the winners! 

The Fishing Family Photo Contest from the Alaska Seafood marketing Institute attracted more than 700 entries, and it’s now time to vote for your favorites. Categories include Best Family or Kids photo, Best Old School or Throwback, Best Fish, Best Scenic, Best Boat, Best Humor and Best Action photo.

The Fan Favorite wins two Alaska Airlines tickets; other top winners get iPads. The winning images may be used in ASMI’s promotions in 21 countries

Finalist photos are hosted in a Facebook app that allows visitors to browse and vote for the images they like best.

To vote, “like” Alaska Seafood on Facebook at  and locate the  contest app in the upper right,  or by visiting

Each visitor may vote once per photo per day.  Voting ends at midnight February 17.


How Radioactive is Our Ocean? By MARY KAUFFMAN - Nearly three years after the tsunami that resulted in Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident, questions remain about how much radioactive material has been released and how widely and quickly it is dispersing in the Pacific Ocean and our northwestern coast line. - More...
SitNews - January 27, 2014


This year marks the 24rd year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. 

Laine Welch ©2014

Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]
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SitNews ©2014
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


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