New aquaculture policy open for public comment

Fish Factor
by Laine Welch

Federal fishery managers have begun accepting public comments 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 has already urged Congress to — above all — ensure strong environmental standards are in place to regulate offshore farms.
The task force recommended that NOAA Fisheries work closely with states, and that regional fishery councils 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 is growing by 10 percent a year. The United States imports 80 percent 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.

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 www.noaa.gov – click to Aquaculture.
National call-in: 3-5 p.m. Eastern time); Tollfree number: 1-877-779-7421; Pass code: NOAA.

AK2UK2
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 more than 100,000 signatures opposing the Pebble Mine. The NRDC is also placing a large ad in the London Financial Times and New York Times 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 percent, 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 percent 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 and $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 percent of the catch quota. Cod prices are creeping upward in the past few days, going from 28- 32 cents a pound in Kodiak. The overall supply of codfish from Alaska is up 4.6 percent from last year, topping 500 million pounds. For Gulf of Alaska fishermen, the cod quota is up 42.5 percent 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 percent since the start of this year.

Fish bits
Kodiak roe herring fishermen have refused to fish for the low $200-$250 per 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. www.alaskaseafood.org

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Posted by on Apr 21st, 2010 and filed under Fish Factor. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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