SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Distribution, abundance and behavior of fish stock changing
By Laine Welch


March 19, 2007
Monday AM

Global warming is changing the distribution, abundance and behavior of important fish stocks, and it is occurring faster at northern latitudes. In recent years, fishermen and researchers have reported that Bering Sea boats must search farther north for pollock, and snow crab stocks are also on a steady march to colder waters.

The North Pacific and Arctic oceans are especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming, because cold water absorbs carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions more readily. That has prompted Alaska fishery managers to expand protections for Arctic waters, even before potential problems arise.

Last October, the North Pacific Council tasked its staff to prepare a discussion paper on options for expanding protections for resources of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. In December, the panel agreed to put in motion plans to develop a strategy that would potentially close Arctic waters north of the Bering Strait, and/or waters north of Point Hope, to commercial fishing until a fishery management plan is in place for any species not already covered under an existing plan.

Because warmer waters are also reducing the number of smaller organisms that make up much of the marine food web, the plan could expand to include resources like krill and other forage species, said Dave Benton, a former North Pacific Fishery Management Council chairman and now director of the Marine Conservation Alliance.

"It's very unique for a management entity to actually say 'let's not do anything until we have a plan in place'," Benton said.

Such forward thinking tops the list of world conservationists, said Brad Warren of Seattle-based Natural Resources Consultants, and author of a new report called 'Conserving Alaska's Oceans.'

"If you look at what conservation advocates want most in world fisheries, it is precaution. This is a good example of it," Warren said.

The North Pacific Council oversees management of fisheries in federal waters from three to 200 miles offshore, an area that encompasses 900,000 square miles. The NPFMC is scheduled to take up the issue of Arctic waters next month in Anchorage. Find the discussion paper at . Contact is Bill Wilson.

Offshore fish farm entrepreneurs

The U.S. has an $8 billion seafood trade deficit, and imports 80 percent of the seafood that Americans consume, mostly from foreign aquaculture operations. The Bush Administration wants to turn that around and recently unveiled a revamped plan that moves offshore fish farming closer to reality.

Congress is expected to pass laws that would allow companies to get 20 year permits to sink fish cages in federal waters, but without many of the rules on size, season and harvest methods that apply to other commercial fishermen.

Inventors from around the world are coming up with ways to quell environmental concerns and to cash in on the burgeoning fish farming industry, which is growing at a worldwide rate of 10 percent each year. A Turkish company called Denizsan Maritime, Inc., for example, is converting a 20,000 ton freighter into a computerized, integrated fish farm/factory to produce finished products at sea. The vessel will resolve problems like storm damage to cages or tanks and quell concerns about pollution and interactions with wild fish.

According to the Turkish Daily News, eleven production tanks will each hold about 30 feet of water and have no links to the sea or other tank. The tanks will have the capacity to farm seven different types of fish with production pegged at nearly 800,000 pounds per month. The fish factory will sail the open seas in international waters, and discharge its waste in a "computerized and environmentally friendly way," said the article.

When the fish grow to about eight pounds, they'll be transferred via special pumps to a production area where they will be anesthetized, cleaned, packaged and frozen. The unused parts will be used to produce omega three oils and animal feeds. The ship will begin by producing "crops" of Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout. It expects to be out on international waters within a year.

Meanwhile, Alaska fishermen and lawmakers say they will fight any offshore fish farms in its offshore waters. Last month Sen. Lisa Murkowski proposed blocking aquaculture in federal waters until Congress can study how it might affect Alaska's wild salmon, halibut, sablefish and crab.

"We oppose fish farms anytime, anywhere, any place. Inshore. Offshore. Period," said Bobby Thorstenson, president of United Fishermen of Alaska.

Seafood ice cream

Ice cream with seafood chunks has become popular in Japan, where the Kagawa Fishery Cooperative has been selling it for nearly ten years. It's available in six flavors ­ yellowtail flounder, baby sardine, seaweed, octopus, crab and shrimp.

According to the Japan Times, the makers have developed a way to remove as much of the fishy smell as possible, while keeping the delicious flavors. Although some tend to think of it as a joke product, the sellers take their ice cream very seriously. They said they developed the product because more children and young women are shifting away from a healthful fish diet, and seafood ice cream is one way to draw them back. The ice cream is currently being sold at some airports, highway parking lots and resorts. The co-op also sells its ice cream by mail.

People in Taiwan have also gotten a taste for the seafood confection. For one dollar a scoop, they can select from thirteen flavors- including strawberry tuna, wasabi cuttlefish and pineapple shrimp. The savory ice cream, which comes in stark colors like orange, green and black, is topped with sprinkles of dried fish, roe or chopped squid.

The novel dessert, sold under the brand name 'Doctor Ice', was created three years ago by a woman named Liny Hsueh. She is expanding to a second outlet and adding scallops as the newest flavor to her seafood ice cream line up. Codfish creamsicles or surimi ice cream sandwiches anyone??



Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska