SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Wild salmon sales boosted; Nation's fish basket is safe for now; Seismic testing and fish; Boom Boom 101; & Salmon spawns skin cream


April 05, 2010

Continued misfortunes by Chilean salmon farmers should give an added boost to sales of wild salmon again this year.

Wild Alaska salmon faces stiff competition from farmed fish, delivered fresh to markets year round, usually as glistening fillets. Chile is the largest supplier of farmed salmon to the U.S. but the industry has been battling a deadly fish virus since 2007. Last year Chilean salmon production dropped 60% and exports are predicted to be down 40% in 2010. Salmon farms in Chile have been cut nearly in half, from 344 in 2007 to 174 farms last year, reported Seafood Source News.

"It has helped to keep the salmon market somewhat stronger than it might have been if the Chileans had been producing as much as people expected them to," said Gunnar Knapp, a fisheries economist at the University of Alaska/Anchorage.

Chilean fish farmers also have been widely criticized for using 'hair raising' amounts of antibiotics to curtail disease outbreaks. Last year federal seafood inspectors discovered three chemicals in Chilean farmed salmon that are banned in the U.S., including a pesticide that kills sea lice.

Nation's fish basket is safe for now

Fishing cheers went up when President Obama withdrew offshore oil and gas leases for Bristol Bay and the eastern Bering Sea, an area encompassing 5.6 million acres of America's most important fishing grounds.

The decision cancels planned 2011 and 2014 lease sales in the nation's fish basket - waters that supply more than 40% of the US seafood harvest, valued at over $2 billion dollars annually.

Leases for the region were pulled by President Clinton after the Exxon Valdez oil spill - but reinstated in 2007 by President Bush in his final days in office. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the Bristol Bay region last year, and called it a "national treasure."

Dan Strickland of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council said it was gratifying that he heard the people's voices.

"Sixty-six native groups, fishing organizations, local tribal governments all lined up in support of protections for the Bay and Bering Sea. President Obama and Sec. Salazar acknowledged it is a very special place, and especially valuable for the jobs and the revenue it provides through fisheries," Strickland said from Homer. "I would hope that same sort of analysis would take place when the state and federal government look to further development in the area."

Strickland cautions, however, that the reprieve is not a done deal -

"It's not permanent. It provides protection for Bristol Bay and the eastern Bering Sea until 2017," he explained.

"The focus now will be to get permanent protection because, as we have seen, this could just as easily be withdrawn by another president. We are going to work towards perhaps legislative action so we don't have to fight this again and again."

Seismic testing and fish

From the Norway Post: "Sound waves from seismic data acquisition resulted in increased catches for some species and smaller catches for others. It appears that pollack may, to some extent, have withdrawn from the area, while other species seem to remain.

These are the main results from the research commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) and carried out by the Institute of Marine Research during the summer of 2009 on the effects of seismic surveys off Vesterålen. This consequential research project is one of the largest ever conducted. The survey clearly indicates that the fish reacted to the sound from the seismic guns.

The most probable explanation for both the increased and reduced catches for the various species and fishing gear is that the sound waves from the seismic guns put the fish under some stress, causing more swimming activity.

The NPD both initiated and funded this research project, which had a cost ceiling of NOK 25 million." ($4.1million USD)

Boom Boom 101

Seismic testing evolved from the discovery that when earthquakes occur, it is possible to capture the sound waves created and use the data to map geophysical features that lie underground. Much of what we know about the Earth's core, mantle, and crust is the result of this discovery, and it follows that man-made or sound waves can also be used to map subsurface formations that indicate stores of fossil fuels.

When oil and gas companies explore and measure the ocean for oil and gas, large ships fire high-intensity and low frequency sounds are emitted into the marine environment. During seismic surveys, an array of between 15 and 45 air guns fires shots every ten to 25 seconds, twenty four hours a day. The blasts can reach volumes of 260 decibels (anything above 180 decibels is believed to be harmful to marine mammals). Seismic testing occurs throughout the entire lifetime the offshore oil and gas industry operates in an ocean area.

Salmon spawns skin cream

A chance discovery by farmed salmon hatchery workers has spawned a line of skin care products that help cure disorders and also keeps skin younger looking. According to Intrafish, scientists in Norway became curious after it was noticed that hatchery workers who spent long hours handling salmon fry in cold seawater had softer, smoother hands. Normally, hands held in cold water become red, dry and cracked.

Researchers at Norway's University of Science and Technology discovered the skin softening component came from the enzyme zonase, found in the hatching fluid of the salmon eggs. The enzyme's task is to digest the protein structure of the tough egg shells without harming the tiny fish. The scientists hailed this dual ability as the secret behind the beneficial properties for human skin.

Zonase helps dead skin flake off and stimulates the growth of healthy, new skin cells. It also has proved helpful in healing wounds. The new product underwent clinical trials at a hospital in Sweden and is now patented.

This weekly column focusing on Alaska's seafood industry began in 1991, and it now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A spin off - Fish Radio - airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. The goal of both is to make all people aware of the economic and social importance of Alaska's fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world. Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support of fishing news!

Laine can be reached at msfish[AT]


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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