Sunday, June 24, 2007

Monday Headlines 6/25

Dave Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance in Juneau, called the action to ban bottom trawling in the Arctic "an important step for the health of Alaska's oceans and the seafood industry." As if this is some great revelation he alone got, or a Quest for the Holy Grail he has accomplished.

The middle of the three dams on the Rogue River in S. Oregon. The upper one now has a toxic bloom of algae. Pray for the king salmon in the river.

It was 28 Native villages and their political allies that convinced the NPFMC to not sic the Seattle and Tokyo fleet on their fish. Ask him if he feels the same about the rest of Alaska and see what he says.

North Pacific Council business (remember this is mostly Sen. Ted Stevens' handiwork) reminds me of a CNN segment today telling about how PBS cancelled airing of a documentary on "Moderate Muslims Against Jiihad." A not very moderate Muslim consultant from Chicago was consulted by PBS and a big thumbs down came from the PBS top brass. What struck me though was the fact that PBS called the documentary "slanted." The producer fairly stated that you don't make a documentary or report on much of anything unless there is an issue you are focusing on. Call it slanted if you want, or call it an issue, but semantics aside, where would we be without investigative journalism following a premise?

You wouldn't have the FBI house cleaning now underway in Alaska without the dedication of the people whose faces you see on the home page of, have been on, and of course the webmaster. Public integrity type law enforcement people love us, but ironically, marine resource law enforcement ignores us.

The law enforcement establishment comes from a military outlook, not a biological one. Deputize the biologists instead and things will change. That comes from the East Coast experience where some environmental watchdogs do pack heat. I'll bet if there was a riot at a North Pacific Council meeting, NMFS law enforcement would just break out the popcorn.

And this leads to an article I read yesterday on how folks are at least taking the National Marine Fisheries Service to task for not doing anything about all the poisons going into salmon spawning streams. I wrote about this last month because the State Troopers seemed to white-wash a fish kill down here in Southern Oregon.

B.C. natives mourn missing eulachon

Shrimp trawling in the inlets around Bella Coola is thought to kill the juvenile eulachon. The Mainers are up in arms over the by-catch by the herring fishermen over there too. Management for production instead of ecosystem health is the problem. Fishing families and many others vote for fish production, not knowing that a healthy ecosystem is their better choice.

Drowning in Plastic
"Increasingly, researchers are peering through their microscopes at the specks in seawater samples and finding minuscule bits of poisonous garbage instead of life-sustaining mini-critters." "In the summer of 1997, while steering his catamaran home from a sailing competition in Hawaii, he ventured into the North Pacific Gyre, a 10-million-square-mile, slow-moving vortex that sailors usually avoid. What he saw there shocked and disgusted him: truck tires, disposable utensils, shopping bags, buoys, toys, a mountain of trash spread across hundreds of miles— the world’s largest garbage dump, circling unceremoniously in the open sea." Who was it that said Alaska doesn't need Ocean Rangers on the cruise ships?

Fisheries Netted In Federal Alaska Probe
"Metcalfe estimates that Stevens has been paid at least $904,000 in fees by fisheries between 2000 and 2005." That's why those 1200 king crab fishermen lost their jobs, they didn't pay Ben Stevens/Ted Stevens. And will the fishermen that are left need to pay someone else, since the structure of fish management is the same? Twice in the last two days I heard quotes that keeping this a Republic is not guaranteed. We need lots more patriotic folks like Ray Metcalfe. Is it that out of vogue to want honesty and integrity from our leaders?

My final comments this week have to do with my son and the rest of "our boys" sweeping through Baghdad today in 110 to 115 degree heat. They are dodging bullets while we all make preparations for a Fourth of July picnic. Last time my son was in Iraq on the Fourth, he was slogging through fields looking for arms caches in 115 degree heat, at night, with a 100 pound pack. I didn't report on it until after the fact. This time let's remember ahead of time who it is that lets us toast our buns in the sun on the 4th with "no worries mate."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Headlines 6/18

UVic makes ocean history off Vancouver

"The first phase of the most challenging ocean observatory installation ever attempted was completed early last month in the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver." $10 million is an unusually large amount of money to put a bunch of sensors and video gear on the bottom of the ocean to take a look around. But it's an indication of how much information they will gather, how little everyone else knows about ocean ecology, and how well the public will be included in the process.

Present day main street, Pelican, Alaska. We have lots of pictures of people and activities on this street, from 57 years ago. We moved to Petersburg in '51 and I got a whole bunch of board streets to play on, including the main street.

Grand jury probes Alaska senator's ties to oil-field contractor

A fight about fish farms
National Fisheries Institute, a Washington-based trade association, is all for fish farms in the ocean off the U.S. coastline. They are the businesses that would have the money and infrastructure to take advantage of the opportunity, and they are already joined at the hip with NOAA, the licensing agency. If you like how NFI members and NOAA have run the Regional Fisheries Management Councils, you'll like how they will farm fish. Good hyper-links in this article.

New processors springing up like mushrooms in Alaska
The resurgence of shoreside fisheries entrepreneurship seems to be concentrated in Southeast Alaska, except for Copper River Seafood new operation in Anchorage. I wondered why the Panhandle's Regional Seafood Development Association floundered. This is enough excitement for the moment.

There's also a darn good sized floating processor out under the radar somewhere, purchased by seven highline fishermen, the organizer being from Petersburg. I remember discussing the possibilities of a floater in S.E. with him while studying at the Oregon State University Library around 1970. He finally realized his dream. Only goes to show perseverence furthers.
Petersburg Cold Storage.
Wrangell Seafoods
The old Sitka pulp mill rises as a cold storage
Floating fish by-products processor
Juneau's Alaska Glacier Seafoods expansions

Lobbyists and more lobbyists
This is the official list from the State of Alaska. It's all neatly organized into columns. The whole data-base amounts to a "fifth column" I guess. But you sure can get ahold of someone with this list that's interested in the same things you are.

Environmentalists and villages unite to stop bottom trawling in Arctic waters
With cod and crab spreading(or moving) north out of the Bering Sea, trawlers were eying fishing grounds farther north. This was nipped in the bud when twenty odd villages signed a resolution and gave it to the NPFMC meeting in Sitka recently. They cited the ecological destruction it would cause, to jeopardize their livelihoods. So, what about the livelihoods of all the other Alaskans living adjacent to where bottom trawling goes on?

12 Page written testimony before Congress of Gordon Kruse of UAF on Effects of Climate Change, etc., on Marine Resources.
Gordon lists all the species in Alaska that have had problems recently after heavy fishing effort, but points to unknown climate related variables. Newer unknowns compound the old ones which are compounded further by the unknown effects of bottom trawling(Next to zip observer coverage on trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska, etc.)

Remember how fast numbers grow from Probability 101 class? Pushing for more bottom trawling in the GOA is going in the wrong direction, if understanding the marine environment is any goal at all. So much for the greatly hyped finesse of the North Pacific Council/company lobbyists.

Oceans: A new frontier in planning
"Determining what can and cannot happen in state-controlled waters is too important to leave to a case-by-case permit review." "The act would create two advisory groups: a 16-member ocean management commission composed of legislators and representatives of state agencies and the fishing industry, and a nine-member scientific advisory council." "With their guidance, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs would craft an ocean management plan laying out a guide to future placement of commercial operations — things like sand and gravel mining, dumping of dredged material, aquaculture, liquefied natural gas terminals, and, yes, wind turbines."

"There's no room for small fishing entrepreneurs in Alaska"

"This Wal-Mart model of shipping our processing industry overseas may provide profits to the out-of-state-owned large processors in the short term, but ultimately will put China in charge of our state's salmon-processing industry -- and is that a place we want to go?" I've been saying this for two years in my articles. The anti-trust violations and product laundering has been documented for longer than that. Government at all levels knows about it, that's why marine resources folks from Maine to Depoe Bay Oregon are forming new mechanisms to utilize ocean services(the new buzz-word for fish).

This week it's a "town review": Pelican, AK
I bumped into the Wikipedia rundown on Pelican yesterday, so was checking my recollections against the unknown "contributor's." I lived in Pelican for the first two years of my life, but had to visit it in my troller to get the picture. I remember when delivering my troll catch, Bosco Max took my fish ticket into the office about the time I started looking at trolling spoons in the adjacent store. I heard this loud, "JOHN ENGE!" come from the back office. Seems that both Bosco and the bookkeeper had worked for my father of the same name for the few years he ran the plant around 1950. And of course Rose made me stand on the pool table at Rose's Bar and sign my name on the ceiling. I think this was in 1981.

I remember hearing Charley Raatikainen's name mentioned frequently in our house. Wikipedia made clear why he sticks out in my mind, he founded the cold storage, the whole reason for being of the town. And I remember hearing the name Larry Freeburn associated with Sitka and this area, but didn't know he put canning equipment in the cold storage one year. (I worked on a tender in Naknek in 1970 when Larry was running the Whitney-Fidalgo cannery there. I left my Mustang GT at his house in Seattle that summer.)

The good stories won't ever show up on Wikipedia though. Like the time one bar patron showed up one stormy night without his partner, and the rest of the patrons got worried about him. "Don't worry, they were told, when he fell off the street drunk I went down to the beach and tied his leg to a piling." (The lone street is on pilings and the tide comes up under it. This was also a source of continual consternation to my mother who had a growing number of small boys who liked playing on this street.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Monday Headlines - 6/11

Adopt-a-Stream Program
What do you know, there really is such a program, and it's alive and well here in Oregon. Well it figures. They have thousands of miles of dead salmon streams they feel a little guilty about. I'd thought for awhile that a program like this would be good for Alaska, to keep what it has of it's salmon spawning streams. Many of them are more degraded than you might think, mostly just overfished.

Someone would be a hero if they would restore this stream in the Medford, OR city park. This dam and rubble serve no other purpose than to block entry to baby king salmon condos; little hide-outs and feeding areas all along a natural stream.

In Alaska it's not a matter of dam and litter removal, but game-hog removal. Not that you want to start issuing side-arms to Boy Scouts, but they could do a lot and learn a lot, judging by(much of) Oregon's program. And if the Boy Scouts don't want to do it, then the Girl Scouts might, or the Jaycees, or the Kiwanis, or nerdy Harold down the street with the weatherproof web-cam. The spawning streams are going to be won back one at a time, with hip-boots.

Overfished tale
"While most everyone agrees in principle to sustainable fishing, it's never pretty in practice." and, "A federal court in Houston recently ruled that the current management plan for red snapper is in violation." I'll bet they have been assigning the same importance to a pound of baby snapper caught in a shrimp trawl as a pound of adult snapper, if they even count them. The same way they count baby halibut caught in cod trawls in the North Pacific; not at all.

International panel eyeing dogshark
Alaska bays and inlets are being overrun with spiny dogfish shark, as Alaskans call them. Europe is looking at listing theirs as endangered and the East Coast fishermen are getting a limited crack at theirs. As for the abundance in Alaska and the shortage in Europe, n'er the twain shall meet it seems. Someone in the Netherlands should just fly to Soldotna, AK June 13 and 14 and make a deal with Alaska's Governor at Global Food Alaska for some of the dogfish shark in her domain. (Also check out the Achievement Award nominees.)

US supports NZ-sponsored fishing proposal
"American politicians are now united in their support of a proposal in which NZ was a leading architect, which seeks to impose an international ban on harmful fishing subsidies." Congress has recently gotten behind banning "destructive fishing practices" on the high seas too. We look forward to the day when Congress and the public holds the Regional Fishery Management Councils to the same standard.

Launch of Aquaculture New Zealand
This speech by the Prime Minister is a classic. If anyone anywhere wants to launch aquaculture, drag out this speech. They have great opportunities in aquaculture, and those are about all the opportunities they have in seafood.

Book review of the week
From his Merchant Marine marine days during WWII, to gillnetting for those high priced reds on the Copper River, Stanley Samuelson says he's "Been everywhere except the electric chair." The bulk of his life has been spent in Alaska and he literally was on the ground floor of some things, like digging permafrost with a pick on the North Slope for exploratory drilling rigs. Most of the work he did was in a survival situation, even the routine of working for the Alaska Railroad, at 50 below zero. He helped rebuild after the '64 earthquake, and cleaned up oil after the Exxon spill, that is, until he got sick of seeing all the malfeasance.

Other people have stories like this of course. I even remember strictly board streets in Petersburg, Alaska. But "Sam" Samuelson took the time to write it all down. And amazingly, he has pictures from even his teen years as a Merchant Mariner. At 80 years of age now, "Sam" has mellowed and offers gold nuggets of wisdom throughout. I know four boys, mine, that are going to get a chance to read this book. It's 35o pages of raw Alaska-style fighting for a living in a frontier where they are just now getting around to the justice part.

I'd like to say more about his book, but this column gets long as it is. I was sold on "Sam" as a man when his comment on my column was, "Why, it's about fourty fathoms long." I identify with that "would rather be doing it than watching it" attitude. It took guys like Sam to "git 'er done" in the pioneering period of Alaska he lived in, so he needs to make no apologies for the way he writes. Again, he "got 'er done." Give Sam a holler at his e-mail address for a copy. It was first published in 2006 by Bergit Publishing Company, Inc.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Monday Headlines

Registration for Global Food Alaska - 2007
This chance to meet buyers, sellers and other food chain participants in Alaska seafood, agriculture and bio-products won't happen again for two years. The June 13 and 14 event in Soldotna, Alaska is a first, and right around the corner. Governor Palin is coming now too. Movers and shakers, big and small, with sea legs and without, will be there in force it looks like from their list of registrants.

The wild side of Alaska is often just down the street.

Ecocide in the oceans
"EU fishermen only managed to catch two-thirds of the 2005 cod quota. Nevertheless, they will probably keep on fishing, with gradually reducing quotas, until the stock is completely eliminated."

Codfish Nursery Plan Promoted
"We have waited 17 years for the government to bring back the cod and it hasn't happened. We can't wait." "If we wait for the government, it won't happen. This has got to happen from the inside out, it is not going to happen by the outside working in."

New Report Shows Maine's Working Waterfront Dwindling, Vulnerable
Mapping Maine's Working Waterfront, is the culmination of two year's of community-based research in 142 coastal towns along Maine's coast. A copy of the complete report is available on the Island Institute's Web site.

"Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services"

"The ongoing erosion of marine biodiversity is exceedingly well
as are some of the functional and societal consequences."

Sanctuary in name only
SLAPPING THE title of "national marine sanctuary" on the 842-square-mile stretch of ocean known as Stellwagen Bank back in 1992 did little to protect whales from being hit by ships, or to prevent trawlers from degrading seafloor habitats that sustain dozens of species of fish.

PSPA hires Alaska lobbyist

"Get it straight - PSPA does not have a 'Vice President' - it has lobbyists who want the foreign-owned corporations dominating its membership to take more dollars out of the US economy through their hollow corporate subsidiaries in Alaska, where they intend to leave no profits." I don't think the Seattle processors intend to leave any profits if they can help it either, and that's the bulk of the "pack."

"Food Miles"
Here's an article about the growing consciousness of how far food travels to market. Of course it takes fuel to transport it, and some of it loses nutritional value in the process. We wonder if anyone computes the carbon cost of shipping Alaska seafood to China for processing, which seems to be all the rage with the processors, then ship it back to the U.S.