Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April Newsletter

SEAS Brailer Scoop... April 2007

Legislative Update
Although not in SEAS radar screen, you will hear about this piece of legislation from the several less than credible sources so I thought I’d lay it out for consumption for SEAS membership. HB188 simply memorializes the exact same powers that the Board of Fisheies has always had to allocate “within” a single fishery. It’s sideboards include:

1. No Chignik-style allocations to establish Cooperatives
2. No IFQ’s or historical harvest shares within a fishery.
3. 67% vote of active fishermen within the fishery. ( excludes this provision when a conservation action is necessary to make the change in the fishery)(provision has not been added to current CS yet)

This bill is one of the many tools that the commercial fishing industry in Alaska needs to move forward. Chatham Sablefish, Clarence Sablefish, PWS Sablefish, GOA state waters P-cod, and the 48 hour Bristol Bay district transfer periods all depend upon the board’s ability to allocate within a single fishery. And of course, future Sitka Sac Roe equal split determinations by the board of fisheries would need this legislation as well. The necessity of this legislation was developed when the “Grunert” case (throwing out the Chignik Coop) wrapped up and determined that the board did not have the simple authority to allocate within a fishery.

ADFG Budget:
The initial $4 million budget cut for the department was dramatically reduced to $600,000 by the administration, so we should wind up with close to status quo by the end of the session when the budgets are passed by both bodies of the legislature. Commissioner Denby Lloyd did a remarkable job at balancing the proposed cuts between the Sportfish and Commfish divisions which helped smoke out the earlier administrative posturing that precipitated the initial Administration budget. SEAS believes that we are not only treading water by passing a slightly lower budget, but that we should be looking at expansion of the ADFG budget to allow for further research and development needs within the department as well as better pay for the men and women in ADFG blue.
Once the initial budget cut announcements were made in January, the current President of UFA was quoted as such “These cuts are unacceptable. This industry needs a budget expansion rather than contraction. The commercial fishing industry is one of those areas in the state of Alaska where you have to spend money to make money.”

Fisheries Fairness Act:
We’re on a slow bell on this one. Banking and Securities (in the department of Commerce) Director Mark Davis is working on the bonding provisions but his desk has been fairly full lately. He has been working for 2 ½ years to institute the first-ever provisions and regulations for the home mortgage industry in Alaska. You can imagine what a task this has been. We should have a draft bill and possible introduction by the end of the session and then we’ll make the real progress in the 2008 session. The arbitration and contract provisions of the legislation are being drafted by an attorney working on behalf of UFA and USA. It appears that this legislation will have to take place as a FFA part 1 and FFA part 2, with the bonding and placement provisions done now and holding arbitration and contract provisions until a later date as UFA could not get around the axle on this one and we cannot wait any longer to institute the bonding provisions. Although Representative Peggy Wilson has indicated a willingness to take this on for us, it is likely that Representative Bill Thomas will be the primary sponsor but will get a lot of support from Representative Wilson.

Habitat Legislation:
There is both Mixing Zones legislation and Habitat division legislation this session. The mixing zones are embedded in Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) policy and the habitat division is still within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These are where the Murkowski administration left them. Although there has been a movement to change a lot of what occurred during the previous administration, it is apparent that the Palin administration is going to allow at least a year to pass while determining whether changes are needed on both of these important environmental issues.

Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Although this isn’t a fish issue, it is a big deal for the state of Alaska’s future, which will, in turn have a major impact on whether there is income taxation in the future, increases in the ADFG budget, transportation improvements, etc. etc. So while it is peripheral to our major focus, it is the case that the oil and gas issues so vital to Alaska’s economy does indeed have a direct impact on SEAS members. The Governor has put together a $500 million inducement up front to make the project more attractive for prospective partners. There will invariably be a special session to deal with this contract sometime after the regular session.


At our recent board meeting that occurred February 24-26th in Juneau, SEAS elected new slate of officers:
President- Dan Castle
Vice President-Randy Stewart
Secretary-Gary Haynes
Treasurer-Sven Stroosma

The meeting began Saturday at 2pm with a Marketing, Environmental and EEZ FishFarming update from Mr. Bruce Wallace. Mr. Wallace is the UFA Environmental-Farmfish Chair as well as one of 3 commercial fishermen on the ASMI board of directors. Following this session, the board spent 2 hours working the stamps and envelopes to send out membership applications and letters to those of you from whom we haven’t had the grace of membership lately. Then, around 5:30, the first guests began arriving for our annual Poker Night at the Alaska Fishermen’s Building, where we broiled about 30 pounds of meat and Ed Jones, sportfish biologist and member of the Pacific Salmon Commission science and negotiating team, won all the money.

Sunday was a heavy day of getting down with the issues. Our major issues of fleet consolidation, access to our traditional fishing areas, the Pacific Salmon Treaty renegotiations and subsistence were discussed. Fleet consolidation is status quo from the last newsletter. We yet have need of the loan authorization language and the accompanying $180-250K provision to kick start NMFS on the loan. And we also need the SSSF to send down the final $3 million grant as well.

Monday was a busy day, with meetings separate meetings with nearly all of the Southeast delegation as well as meetings with ADFG Hatchery Coordinator Craig Farrington and lunch with Kevin Monagle and ADFG Commissioner Denby Lloyd. Commissioner Lloyd is having a bit more difficulty with his confirmation hearings since that time but we are certain that he will overcome these difficulties and will remain ADFG Commissioner. Several sports groups and hunting groups, along with a few scattered commercial folks resented the Board process of his nomination ( his was the only name sent to the Governor for consideration) as well as some of his policies toward game management. Certainly that has been slightly modified with the first bounty on wolves in 35 years (it’s $150- back in 1972, if you’ll recall it was $50).

The SEAS board was able to give a hearty congratulations to Representative Bill Thomas, who spearheaded the effort to put HB218, the Cost Recovery bill, into law last spring. Representative Thomas has done an exceptional job for his district and for commercial fishermen in general throughout Southeast. Actually I need to back up a bit, as some of our delegation were unavailable to meet Monday, so Randy Stewart, Bruce Wallace and your ED met with deputy Commisioner Al Clough on Friday afternoon and followed up with a meeting with Representative Peggy Wilson, of Wrangell. Recall it was Peggy Wilson who sponsored HB484 last spring which gave us the flexibility we needed within state law to protect our investment in the fleet consolidation loan from adverse impacts of potential optimum study court cases. Monday night we concluded the meeting with a dinner at the Canton House sponsored and hosted by the ED where we entertained Senator and Mrs. Tom Wagoner along with our recent addition to the Southeast legislative caucus, Representative Kyle Johansen, of Ketchikan.

Our budget predicts a shortfall of $34,000 this year. We had built up decent sized reserves during the cost recovery years (1995-2004) and with the advent of lifetime memberships, of which we have a dozen. But SEAS will need stronger membership support in order to remain vibrant and strong to represent you on your issues. Since the meeting, our membership count has been growing and we are double the membership over last year at this time. Please be one of us who are working to protect your fishery. We may not all be friends but we have a common purpose when it comes to protecting and promoting our common fishery and way of life.


UFA reaches alltime high membership
March 9, 2007 Contact: Mark Vinsel
For Immediate Release Executive Director
UFA Reaches All-Time High Group Membership, Announces New Officers

With the addition of the Alaska Trollers Association, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Alaska Shellfish Association, United Fishermen of Alaska group membership has reached an all-time high of 36 member groups.
“This marks a milestone for UFA and points to the strength and breadth of UFA as the statewide commercial fishing umbrella association,” said UFA President Bob Thorstenson Jr.
“The more groups we have at the UFA table, the more inclusive is our process and the stronger our voice is on the issues we hold in common.”
UFA President Thorstenson, who is stepping down after seven years service in the volunteer position, will be replaced by Joe Childers. Childers, who currently trolls for salmon from Juneau, represents Western Gulf of Alaska Fishermen on the UFA board and was elected to serve as its next president at UFA’s January meeting. Deborah Lyons of Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association was elected as Vice President, formerly held by Childers. Duncan Fields will continue in his position as Secretary. The new officer positions take effect on June15.

UFA’s board of directors includes the 36 member groups and four at-large representatives elected by individual members. Elections for UFA’s four at-large board seats will be conducted this spring.


Alaska Crab Coalition • Alaska Draggers Association • Alaska Independent Tendermen’s Association • Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association
Alaska Shellfish Association • Alaska Trollers Association • Armstrong Keta • At-sea Processors Association • Bristol Bay Reserve
Concerned Area “M” Fishermen • Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association • Cordova District Fishermen United • Crab Group of Independent Harvesters
Douglas Island Pink and Chum • Fishing Vessel Owners Association • Groundfish Forum • Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association
Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association • North Pacific Fisheries Association • Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association
Old Harbor Fishermen’s Association • Petersburg Vessel Owners Association • Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation
Purse Seine Vessel Owner Association • Seafood Producers Cooperative • Sitka Herring Association • Southeast Alaska Fisherman's Alliance
Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association • Southeast Alaska Seiners Association • Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association
United Catcher Boats • United Cook Inlet Drift Association • United Salmon Association • United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters
Valdez Fisheries Development Association • Western Gulf of Alaska Fishermen


John Hilsinger Appointed Director of Commercial Fisheries
For the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

– Commissioner Denby Lloyd today announced the appointment of John Hilsinger, to the position of Director of the Division of Commercial Fisheries. Hilsinger previously had been regional supervisor for two different regions within the division before he retired in 1998. Since retirement, he has been working in various short-term capacities for the department, most recently on issues pertaining to dual state/federal subsistence management.
“John is one of those special people who combines both a depth and breadth of experience,” Lloyd said. “He has been involved in the research and management of commercial and subsistence fisheries throughout central, western and northern Alaska, and he will provide the calm deliberate guidance needed for the division statewide.”
The remainder of the department’s leadership team will remain in place, including David Bedford as Deputy Commissioner dealing mostly with commercial fishery issues, Kelly Hepler as Director for the Division of Sport Fish, Matt Robus as Director for the Division of Wildlife Conservation, Elizabeth Andrews as Director for the Division of Subsistence, and Tom Lawson as Director for the Division of Administrative Services.
This was the excerpt from the ADFG announcement that we copied above. Mr. Hilsinger has been a very committed advocate for sustainable fisheries management in Alaska, although his involvement in Southeast fisheries has been minimal until this new post. SEAS has spent some time with Mr. Hilsinger already and has had the opportunity to educate the new Director on the importance of the Treaty as well as the mixed stock management as the basis of our salmon harvest opportunities in the Southeast Alaska purse seine fishery. We are pleased with his appointment and believe that he will be a very effective leader that SEAS can work with in the future.


Southeast Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Meeting in Kake

This winter’s RAC meeting was in Kake, February 28-March 2. Chairman Bert Adams of Yakutat was chairing his first meeting. His presence and demeanor towards SEAS Executive Director was nothing but respectful and honorable. The process was not well attended as I was the only person from the sport, commercial or subsistence community in Southeast Alaska present to testify.

The issue du joir with the USDA Forest Service and the RAC is Kanalku sockeye. There has been a tremendous effort on behalf of the ADFG to research and develop a strategy for dealing with recovery of this Angoon area sockeye stock which has been returning in lower than average numbers in the past 4 or 5 recent years. Ironically, 2006 was a fairly decent return with approximately 1200 spawners, which is about 5 or 6 times higher than several of the last few years.

Radio telemetry work done by Mr. Ben Van Allen indicated that there is most likely a blockage problem at the falls to the lake. A very large percentage of tags never made it to the lake and not a single fish tagged after the 3rd week of July made it to the lake. Mr. Van Allen is a former ADFG and PST champion who has turned into the main Tongass USDA Forest Service salmon biologist. Mr. Van Allen has been conducting a campaign to “reshape” the Hidden Falls terminal harvest area by pushing the fleet further into Kasnyku Bay and Takacz Bay, stating on the record that the area is not a terminal harvest area. His statements regarding the Upper Admiralty shore as well as the Augusta shoreline were less than remarkable for a biologist of his stature.

There is not one single tag that has been recovered in the Chatham Purse Seine fishery that indicates that one single Kanalku sockeye has been harvested by the fleet. There is not one single scale sample that has indicated that one single Kanalku sockeye has been harvested by the fleet. We are in an arena that would be laughable in it’s biological and scientific findings if it were in any other arena than the Subsistence RAC. Having said that, I have found the RAC to be a place where respect for the opinion and testimony of SEAS ED is heard and respected.

Over half of the Southeast Alaska Regional Advisory Council on Subsistence are current commercial trollers, seiners, gillnetters or longliners, and over 75% of whom are current or former commercial trollers, seiners, gillnetters or longliners. Chairman Adams is a current IFQ fisherman from Yakutat and a former troller. Pelican Mayor Patricia Phillips is a major IFQ holder whose husband owns the Pacific Dawn. Mike Bangs and Don Hernandez are commercial fishermen from Petersburg. Michael Douvier is a commercial power troller from Craig. Another troller on the RAC is Harvey Kitka from Sitka. Joe Hotch is a former drift gillnetter from Haines. Seiners on the RAC include SEAS member Frank Wright (Vagabond Queen) of Hoonah and former SEAS member Nick Davis (Harvester) of Kake. Rounding out the RAC are Floyd Kookesh, director of the Douglas Indian Association and charter skipper from Juneau ( formerly of Angoon and fishes in that area), Merle Hawkins and Lee Wallace…. from Ketchikan-Saxman, and Richard Stokes from Wrangell. If you know any of these folks, please stop them on the street or in the harbor or fishing grounds and let them know that you appreciate the work they are doing and that you are hoping that they recognize the need for balance between all user groups.

This was the last meeting for Bob Schroeder, an anthropologist by training, who has been the coordinator for the RAC since 1999. There may or may not be a replacement due to funding constraints.

One of the fundamental issues we confront with subsistence is that an isolated interpretation of Title 8 of ANILCA, without regard to surrounding user groups, escapement needs or environmental issues, leaves us with a bare cupboard for all other non-subsistence user groups, including, someday, ironically, the subsistence users themselves. A literal interpretation, which is what is being stressed by the SE RAC time and time again, is that NEEDS must be met for the Federally qualified subsistence users. Federally qualified subsistence users in Southeast Alaska include everyone except Juneau and Ketchikan residents.

This means that Petersburg and Wrangell subsistence users have access to whatever their NEEDS are on northern Prince of Wales Island sockeye systems such as Red Bay, Salmon Bay, Lake Bay and Kupreanof systems such as Kasheets Bay. If your needs aren’t met, and this includes all of you who live in SE outside of Juneau and Ketchikan, then the Sumner Strait gillnet fishery would have to be shut down. This is a simple, strict, literal interpretation of Title 8 of ANILCA according to the RAC.

Another example is the POW coho, which became a subsistence priority specie with regulations promulgated in 2002 ( remember, sockeye were really given subsistence priority in 1980, so any localized depletion has had many cycles to generate). If a few cycles pass and not enough coho return to POW systems then the entire SE outside Troll fishery might have to close down to pass these coho if subsistence users NEEDS are not met.

One statement that came up time and again was that we could just wait for the subsistence NEEDS to be met until commercial fisheries opened. And while this was in reference to Chatham Strait purse seining, one can imagine the horror that would reign if we had to wait until late July to open Sumner Strait and Point Baker so that the sockeye needs to be met with Wrangell-Petersburg area subsistence users. Or if we had to wait until the 1st of September for the Troll fishery to open so that we could have the final verdict on what came back insofar as POW coho. This is reality folks, and I sincerely hope that the people who are making the decisions on OUR fishery in Chatham Strait are considering the ramifications on mixed stock fisheries throughout Southeast.

Or perhaps we could wait until traditional, customary and subsistence needs are met in Canada and Washington and Oregon State on Chinook salmon before opening the Alaska Troll fishery. Don’t think we’d want to do that. That is why Alaska has monitoring systems, modeling goals and whatnot so that we can have both healthy mixed stock commercial fisheries as well as passing stocks through to other users.

It is an ironic implementation of a management tool that was banished at the turn of the LAST century, around 1900 or shortly thereafter. Certainly we support subsistence and the rights of subsistence harvest at a level very much on par with the commercial fishing privilege that is granted us by the state of Alaska. However, MSY escapement goal management is what SEAS is all about. We never manage for NEED. We manage for the escapement of the fish and harvest the surplus to escapement needs. That’s where need comes in…….with escapement.

Nonetheless, we actively support a well-managed and well-regulated subsistence fishery and a continued rural priority. We, along with UFA, have always felt that someone who can drive right on over to a Safeway or Walmart is not the same type of subsistence user as someone who lives in a community where there are no restaurants or grocery stores. Ironically, Sitka residents qualify, as do those of you from Petersburg and Wrangell. But while SEAS does not ever intend to trample on those rights, you must recognize that the literal interpretation of ANILCA, title 8, without respect for other user groups, consequently tramples on your commercial fishing rights.


UFA Opposes Newly Proposed Bill for Fish Farming in the EEZ

"United Fishermen of Alaska and SEAS oppose fish farms anytime, anywhere, any place. Inshore. Offshore. Period," said Bob Thorstenson, currently in his last months as UFA President "Even if it is done halfway across the country, subsidized fish farms are going to compete with our product," he said. "No ifs, ands, or buts."

The US Offshore EEZ Aquaculture plan introduced last month by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez would allow companies to operate fish farms in federal waters three to 200 miles offshore. The plan is largely similar to one that was introduced in 2005 and won little support in Congress. The latest plan would set up a framework for permits, regulation and environmental oversight with the aim of making the United States more competitive in the $70 billion worldwide fishfarming industry. "I think we need to stop perpetuating the misconceptions and myths that are circulating about aquaculture. Fishing and aquaculture are complementary technologies," said Bill Hogarth, director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, in a teleconference Monday.
"It is not a competition between wild harvesting and aquaculture," he said. "This is a complementary process."

Alaska fishermen don't see it the same way.
Overseas fish farming nearly crippled the salmon fishing industry in the 1990s, when it caused prices to drop. It has taken several years and thousands of dollars in marketing to bring the market back. "It was not only Alaska's salmon that took a big hit with the over-proliferation of overseas fish farms," warned Bruce Wallace, longtime SEAS member and UFA Environmental and Farmfish Committee Chairman, who has closely followed the issue.
"Farm fish prices also dropped in half," he said.

The latest plan would allow states more control over protecting their wild stock by allowing them to opt out of permitting seafood farms within 12 miles of shore.
Many of Alaska's seafood species are highly transitory, Wallace said, meaning the proposed framework wouldn't work in Alaska. "We don't want them anywhere off our waters. We already have enough problems with British Columbia's fish farms," said Mark Vinsel, executive director of UFA. UFA would support an opt-out provision that extended to the 200-mile limit, he said. Wallace said a better way to boost the country's edge in the world seafood market would be to help Alaskans sell more fish. "We have fish here that is not getting to market," he said.

UFA is formulating an opposition strategy. "We will voice our opposition as a group. We will work hard with Senator Ted Stevens and Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young and with the Palin administration," Thorstenson said. "We believe that all of Alaska's leadership will be supportive."


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