SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Time to comment on new aquaculture policy


April 23, 2010

Federal fishery managers began accepting public comments last week on a new aquaculture policy in waters from three to 200 miles offshore. The input will guide NOAA Fisheries as it creates a regulatory framework for open ocean fish farms.

An independent Marine Aquaculture Task Force that spent two years canvassing the country and studying the issue already has urged Congress to above all, ensure strong environmental standards are in place to regulate offshore farms.

"There is a complex jurisdictional framework over ocean space and to some extent, these laws cover the major issues of aquaculture expansion, but they are not well coordinated, they overlap in some issues and also there are a number of serious gaps in terms of issues not covered," said panel member Alison Rieser. "And there is no one lead federal agency that has the power to issue authorization for a private company to occupy a portion of the ocean space for commercial aquaculture and oversee potential impacts."

The task force recommended that NOAA Fisheries work closely with states, and that regional fishery councils should not be tasked with oversight.

"It doesn't seem prudent to also have them consider how to balance aquaculture and wild capture fisheries," Rieser added.

The task force said offshore fish farms should be limited to native species, and questioned how much wild fish will be captured to feed all the farmed fish.

Aquaculture already produces half of all seafood consumed in the world and it is growing by 10% a year. The U.S. imports 80% of the fish it eats, most of it farmed.

Panel member Daniel Benetti said good regulations and technology advances can address any concerns about aquaculture, and it should be expanded into a profitable new U.S. industry.

"What's at stake here is not whether we should do it, the question is how and where," Benetti said. " It is going to get done abroad, regardless, and then we're going to import the fish and get into the same model that we have in other forms of production - even in the clothes we wear, it's all got a U.S. brand but is produced abroad."

NOAA is holding listening sessions around the country, including a Seattle session on April 22. At the urging of Gov. Parnell, an Alaska session was added for early May (no date yet). A two-hour national call in is scheduled for May 6. Public comments are accepted through May 14. Get more information at - click to Aquaculture.

For the national call in- Time: 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. (Eastern); Tollfree number: 1-877-779-7421; Pass code: NOAA.


A small group of Alaskans is in London to attend Anglo American's annual shareholders meeting on Earth Day, April 22nd. Anglo American is one of the world's biggest mining companies and the developer of the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The open pit copper and gold mine would be one of the largest in the world. Many are concerned about the impact the mine will have on subsistence, commercial and sport fisheries.

It is the Alaska group's second appearance at the London meeting - one year ago they brought survey results from 35 communities that showed overwhelming opposition to the mine. This time, however, each Alaskan bought one share of Anglo stock so they can participate in the meeting.

"Like any other corporation with shareholders, we will be allowed to ask questions and vote on any issues coming before the floor. That is one big difference," said Bobby Andrew of Koliganek/Dillingham, a leader of Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of the Land) representing eight tribal villages in Bristol Bay.
Also making the London trip are Everett Thompson of Naknek, George Wilson Jr. of Levelock, Lydia Olympic of Igiugig, former Sen. Rick Halford of Chugiak and Verner Wilson, of Dillingham.

"Our primary message to them will be to take the statement made by Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll last year into consideration - that they would not do the project if it was not supported by the communities or the leaders," said Andrew.

"We have to make sure we are heard and Cynthia Carroll has to keep her promise."

Andrew said it has been very difficult to get a response from Carroll over the past year, but her communications have indicated that the company plans to pursue the project.

Members of the National Resources Defense Council also will attend the annual meeting and present the mining officials with a petition containing over 100,000 signatures opposing the Pebble Mine. The NRDC also is placing a large in the London Financial Times and New York Times (link to the ad), and blogging about the trip at NRDC's Switchboard.

The Pebble Partnership, which includes Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty, plans to invest another $73 million into the project this year, and submit permit applications in 2011.

Andrew says opponents of the Pebble Mine will never stop their fight to end the project.

"We are not going to stop," he said. "We will go all the way through the end."

Revenues to Alaska from the Pebble Mine (not including various taxes) are projected at 3% - 7%, according to Mike Heatwole, the Partnership's director of Public Affairs.

Fish prices

Fishermen are enjoying some nice prices in most ports across Alaska. The big swings for halibut have steadied from the inflated first of the season highs that topped $6 a pound, to settle most recently into the $4 - $4.50 range at major ports. About 5.8 million pounds of halibut has crossed the docks so far, or 14% of the catch limit. Most of the fish has been landed at Seward and Homer, followed by Kodiak and Juneau.

Sablefish (black cod) is seeing strong landings with prices ranging between $5 - $6 per pound, depending on fish size. Seward, Kodiak and Homer were the top ports for sablefish landings totaling about 4 million pounds, or 16% of the catch quota. Cod prices are creeping upwards, in the past few days going from 28 cents to 32 cents a pound in Kodiak. The overall supply of codfish from Alaska is up 4.6% from last year, topping 500 million pounds. For Gulf of Alaska fishermen the cod quota is up 42.5% from 2009.
Winter trollers in Southeast Alaska are seeing strong catches for king salmon, with prices dropping a bit to around $7.37 a pound, according to market watcher Ken Talley. Trollers will likely catch their limit of 45,000 winter kings.

Finally, industry reports say the market for sockeye salmon is 'white hot' - due in great part to disease problems that are continuing to ravage farmed fish from Chile. Prices for farmed Atlantic salmon have jumped 20.6% since the start of this year.

Fish bits

Kodiak roe herring fishermen have refused to fish for the low $200-$250/ton offered by processors. The herring season opened on April 15. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute now has high definition videos available of Alaska and its fisheries. Contact ASMI at 1-800-478-2903.

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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