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Alaska Fish Factor: Good Science Should Drive Fisheries Policy

20 January 2014
 Alaska Fish Factor: Laine Welch Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska’s seafood industry for print and broadcast since 1988. She also has worked ‘behind the counter’ in wholesale and retail seafood businesses in Alaska and Cape Cod, MA. Laine lives in Kodiak, Alaska. www.alaskafishradio.com

msfish@alaska.com
 
 

US - Good science should drive all fisheries decisions, and Lite Guv Mead Treadwell says he has the chops to maintain a true course.

Treadwell, a Republican who hopes to unseat Democratic US Senator Mark Begich in November’s election, paid a recent visit to Kodiak and “talked fish” in a brief interview.

Few can claim Treadwell’s experience and understanding of the Arctic, where he has represented Alaska on U.S. Delegations in three circumpolar government groups, and been a director of the Institute of the North. He said he “doesn’t expect any major fisheries there anytime soon.”

Treadwell called ocean acidification one of the “most pressing effects” of climate change, and “one of the toughest things to adapt to.” The solutions, he believes, lie in better technology.

“I have always supported trying to make our energy cleaner,” he said, pointing to potential in CO2 sequestration technology and use of hydrogen vehicles. “I believe we can and must be a proving ground for some of these new technologies.”

Treadwell added that he always has been a “tireless advocate for our oceans.”

“But you are not going to find me, as a responsible official from a state known for three things: cold, dark, distance - and where people are already paying too much for energy, trying to raise their energy prices,” he said.

Treadwell has played a leading role in the launch of nearly every Alaska research center from Ketchikan to Barrow; he is a past director of the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation, served as Cordova’s director of oil spill response after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and was a founder of the Prince William Sound Science Center.

“I would come to the Senate with that background,” he said. I am probably one of the most scientifically savvy people to have ever served.”

On the fisheries side, Treadwell believes “knowledge is power.” He said his entire career has focused on ‘commons management’ of resources, starting with his first job in Alaska as an intern to Wally Hickel when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1974. Treadwell helped Hickel pen his position on the 200 mile limit, and he later wrote his graduate thesis at Yale on the limit’s history going back to 1937.

“I also am no stranger to the senior fisheries managers in this country. I have been part of the fight to get CDQ’s – and I will be there fighting with knowledge even if I don’t have seniority,” he said.
Treadwell said he is “passionate” about protecting the livelihoods of fishermen and coastal communities.

“I think of our fishermen as some of the last free people on earth and I want to make sure we maintain that freedom,” he said. “To do that, it takes three things: make sure the biology is sustained, make sure any program works economically and you don’t drive the fishermen out of business, and make sure there is equity so that you keep fishing families fishing.”

“My motto to any young person is ‘never leave your government alone,’ the Senate hopeful added. “If you do, they will get their own ideas and they are not always useful to you.”

Comment deadline flub – No one appears to know that a deadline to have a say on how man-made sounds affect marine mammals is January 27. Two days after Christmas, NOAA released its “Draft Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic [man made] Sound on Marine Mammals,” which seeks to improve understanding of acoustical impacts on the animals.

Senator Lisa Murkowski was irate at NOAA’s untimely “holiday surprise” in announcing the opportunity for the public to comment.

“This is a national issue, but when you think about Alaska, it is something that has the potential to affect our coastal communities, the maritime sector, the transit of all of our goods, the fishing industry, oil and gas - basically anyone who is out on the water,” Murkowski said in a phone interview. “It will include the noises of seismic activity from exploratory depth soundings, or driving piles to expand a dock at the Port of Anchorage or a coastal community.”

Specifically, the ‘guidance assessments’ identify the thresholds above which marine mammals are predicted to experience changes in their hearing sensitivity from all underwater manmade sound sources. The document outlines NOAA's updated acoustic threshold levels, describes how they were developed and how they will be updated in the future. It is the first time NOAA has presented this information in a single document.

Murkowski has urged NOAA to allow an extra 60 days for the public to become more familiar with the draft report and comment.

“If you are going to have good process and get meaningful feedback on such a complex issue, you have to allow for time to weigh in. We really need to have an extension,” she said, adding that she has yet to hear back from the agency. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm

Salmon permits soar - The value of Alaska salmon permits are soaring in many fisheries. At Bristol Bay drift gillnet permits are being offered at $140,000, compared to $90,000 at the same time last year.

A scan of listings by four brokers shows that Prince William Sound seine cards are over $200,000 - they were in the $140,000 range a year ago. The Sound’s driftnet permits also are selling at over 200K.

Southeast Alaska seine permits are the priciest at $320,000, up from $250,000 last January. Kodiak seine values continued an upward creep to $50,000 compared to $36,000 on average. Chignik permits are listed in the $225,000 range. At Area M on the Alaska Peninsula drift cards were at $90,000 and seine cards at $65,000, down slightly.

Cook Inlet drift permits are being offered at $85,000 or higher, which is $10,000 more than a year ago Cook Inlet seine cards are listed in the $65,000 range and setnets at $16,000.

Cook Inlet will be the focus of the Board of Fish when it takes up 235 proposals at its meeting later this month. Fishery managers have provided a list of Frequently Asked Questions about managing king salmon on the Kenai River in advance of the meeting. It uses the 2013 season to explain escapement policies, how salmon are counted, king salmon research and more.

The Fish Board meets January 31 through February 13 at the Egan Center in Anchorage. All sessions will be webcast. Find a link to the FAQs at www.alaskafishradio.com

This material is protected by copyright. For information on reprinting, contact msfish@alaska.com

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