Canada Places Restrictions on Halibut Recreational Fishery

On February 21st Dept of Fisheries and Ocean Canada (DFO) issued a fishery notice on the recreational halibut fishery. DFO delayed the start of the recreational fishery for one month while they picked a solution to reduce their recreational fishery from  a sport harvest in 2007 of 1.55 Mlbs to 1.08Mlbs in 2008. They reduced the harvest for a portion of the season from a two fish bag limit to a one fish bag limit and changed their electronic licensing conditions so that “no person who is not a Canadian resident may fish for or retain halibut under this license in Areas 121, 23 and 123.  For more information, visit the DFO website at: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/recfish/Tidal/area23_e.htm

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Hobart Bay Herring Fishery Announced

Petersburg…. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today the following information

concerning the 2008 Hobart Bay-Port Houghton (District 10) herring sac roe gillnet fishery:

No herring were harvested in the Hobart Bay-Port Houghton winter food and bait fishery by the time it

closed on February 28, 2008. By regulation, this means the 462-ton guideline harvest level will be

available for the sac roe gillnet fishery to harvest.

During the past 10 years, herring spawning has started in the Hobart Bay-Port Houghton area as early as

April 19 and as late as May 4. The average date of first spawning during the past 10 years has been April

27. The average date of peak spawning has been April 30. In 2007, spawning started on May 4.

Regulations for this fishery are the same as for the Seymour Canal herring fishery. Buoy stickers issued

for the Hobart Bay-Port Houghton fishery are also valid for the Seymour Canal fishery. The same buoys

should be used for both fisheries. Gillnetters are reminded that permit cards and picture identification

will be required to obtain the buoy stickers. Stickers are available in the Petersburg, Ketchikan and

Juneau offices until Department personnel are present on the fishing grounds. After that, buoy stickers

will only be available on the grounds.

This is the first time a sac roe fishery will occur in the Hobart Bay-Port Houghton area since the spring of

2005.

News releases web site: http://documents.cf1.adfg.state.ak.us/TopicContents.po.

Office Ketchikan Petersburg Wrangell Sitka Juneau Haines Hoonah Yakutat

ADFG 225-5195 772-3801 874-3822 747-6688 465-4250 766-2830 784-3255

AWT 225-5111 772-3983 747-3254 465-4000 945-3620

Herring Hotline 225-6870 747-1009 465-8905

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2007 SABLEFISH TAG RECOVERY INCENTIVE DRAWING WINNERS

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced today the winners of the annual Tag

Recovery Incentive Drawing for sablefish tags returned in 2007. The winners are:

1. Dwight Riederer F/V Falcon Enumclaw, WA $1,000

2. Jason Miller F/V Aleutian Spirit Petersburg, AK $500

3. Andy Kittams F/V Sara Dawn Petersburg, AK $500

4. Dick Curran F/V Cherokee Sitka, AK $250

5. John Waale F/V Aleutian Isle Clearlake, WA $250

6. Albert Melnychuck F/V Pacific Viking Fort Langley, BC, CAN $250

All persons who turn in an ADF&G groundfish tag receive a hat or T-shirt and a letter with the release

and recovery information for the sablefish tag(s) they returned. Each ADF&G sablefish tag returned with

valid recovery information (date of recovery and precise latitude and longitude or set number if attached

to a logbook page) was placed into the drawing, and the winning tags were randomly chosen. A total of

708 of the 1,190 ADF&G sablefish tags returned from commercial fisheries qualified for the drawing.

The drawing was held February 28, 2008 at ADF&G’s Juneau office.

The Southeast Groundfish Project has been tagging sablefish since 1979 to obtain information on

sablefish movement, growth and abundance. The tags are bright orange or green in color, approximately

three inches in length, and are located below the first dorsal fin of the fish. Sablefish tagged in the

internal waters of Southeast Alaska have been recovered from as far away as Coos Bay, Oregon and the

Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.

Information from tagging studies provides an important contribution to the management of sablefish

fisheries. The department appreciates the participation of fishermen and processors in this program.

Additional information on Southeast Regional Groundfish Fisheries can be found on our web site at:

http://www.cf.adfg.state.ak.us/region1/finfish/grndfish/grndhom1.php

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Exxon Case argued before the Supreme Court Today

The link below will take you to a copy of the oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court today.  Interesting reading.  The decision should come out by June.

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/07-219.pdf

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Senators Stevens, Murkowski, and Kennedy Champion Fishermen’s Health Care Bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today introduced the Commercial Fishing Industry Health Care Coverage Act with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). This bill directs the federal government to work with states to help provide health insurance to commercial fishermen and their families. Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) is sponsoring the same legislation in the U.S House of Representatives.
Reasonably priced health insurance is difficult for fishermen to obtain because of the seasonal and dangerous nature of their profession.  In addition, most fishermen are self-employed or work for small businesses.  These factors drive up the costs of health insurance premiums.  Surveys conducted in different parts of the country show fishing families are significantly more likely to be uninsured than other Americans. 
The United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) recently completed a survey, concluding that Alaskan commercial fishermen’s options for both health care delivery and insurance are limited.  UFA estimates that there are thousands of uninsured Alaska fisherman.   Alaska fishermen are more likely to work and live in communities without a hospital, while fewer private insurance companies offer individual or small business medical coverage in Alaska than in other states.
“Alaskans don’t have to watch Deadliest Catch to know that commercial fishing can be perilous,” said Senator Stevens. “But what alarms us is how difficult it is for fishermen to get affordable health care. This legislation addresses this growing problem by allowing fishermen to band together to purchase group coverage, which will give them an opportunity to get the health care they need.”
“This legislation will provide Alaskan fishermen and their families better access to comprehensive health insurance,” said Senator Murkowski.  “As health care becomes more expensive, families may be forced to look to other professions for access to insurance.  It would be a travesty to see the fleet of commercial fishermen dwindle because they simply can’t afford to keep themselves and their families healthy.”
The Commercial Fishing Industry Health Care Coverage Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund health care grants for commercial fishing states or organizations. The $50 million in funding authorized in this bill could also be used to help offset individual’s health insurance costs. In addition, commercial fishermen and their families who have no health insurance or who are underinsured could qualify for the health insurance programs set forth in this bill.  
The legislation would authorize a series of grant programs. To qualify for these funds, states or organizations must provide matching funds of $1 for every $2 in federal funding. Under the plans, coverage would extend to boat owners, captains, and crew, as well as other individuals performing fishing industry-related work, such as shore-side support company employees, and their families.
·    Research and Program Planning Grants – HHS would provide up to $200,000 annually for up to two years to organizations or states to conduct initial research and planning for development of a qualified health care coverage program within the state.
·    Implementation and Program Administration Grants – Programs that have completed the research and planning phase would be able to apply for initial implementation grants for up to $2 million annually for two years.
·        Administration Grants – Established programs would be eligible for administration grants of up to $3 million a year for up to five years.
·    Continued Administration Grants –  Programs that received administration grants for the full five years of eligibility, could apply for grants of up to $3 million annually for up to five years, if the state they serve  experiences insufficient fish stocks or depressed markets that jeopardize the ability of the program to continue providing affordable health care coverage.

Companion legislation was introduced on the House of Represenatives by Kennedy, Kerry, Frank, Tierney and Delahunt 

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Dr Jim Balsiger appointed as Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (NMFS)

VADM Lautenbacher called Dr. Jim Balsiger today with confirmation of his selection by White House Personnel to serve as the Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries for the remainder of the Bush Administration.  This is great news for the National Marine Fisheries Service as this will ensure continuity of leadership during the last year of this Administration. 

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Habitat Division to Return to Department of Fish and Game

     February 5, 2008, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today announced the Habitat Division will be returning to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
     The decision to return habitat permitting functions to the Department of Fish and Game acknowledges that the responsibilities of Habitat Division are better aligned with the overall mission and structure of the Department of Fish and Game. 
      After an extensive review, Governor Palin, Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin and Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd concluded that the Office of Habitat Management and Permitting has done an outstanding job of fulfilling their statutory responsibilities under the Department of Natural Resources. 
      However, the move is expected to improve communications and avoid duplication of efforts while allowing Habitat Division to operate in the same manner it has at DNR to encourage responsible development and protect Alaska’s resources.
     “We are absolutely committed to the protection of wildlife habitat,” Governor Palin said. “But we are just as committed to responsible development of our other resource industries such as oil and gas, mining and timber, and we’re going to make sure that development occurs through strong oversight and cooperation between the departments.”
     The Governor emphasized that both departments share in the State’s mission for responsible conservation and resource development and recognize that balancing these two functions is an integral part of their stewardship responsibilities. 
     “The department and I are committed to bringing these two functions together and making them work,” said Commissioner Lloyd.
     Both DNR and ADF&G commissioners acknowledge that Alaska’s natural resources have not suffered because of the location of the habitat function at DNR.  DNR and ADF&G are committed to continuing and supporting the successful work that OHMP has achieved while at DNR.   
     “I have nothing but praise for the professional staff and the work that OHMP has accomplished at DNR,” Commissioner Irwin said.  “I am committed to making this transfer successful and we will work closely with the ADF&G to ensure that we are working together to achieve resource development with protection for Alaska’s great environment.”
     The Governor will submit an Executive Order to the legislature to return fish habitat permitting responsibilities to the Department of Fish and Game.  Detailed planning for the move will begin immediately and movement of personnel and supervision will occur by July 1, 2008.
 

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Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery

An opportunity to comment on the EIS for reducing the incidental catch of salmon by trawl vessels fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea.  Comments for the scoping are due by Feb. 15th.  Below is the press release on the NMFS website.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the Alaska Region of NOAA Fisheries are getting ready to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on measures to reduce the incidental catch of salmon by trawl vessels fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea.

Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the pollock fisheries has increased significantly in recent years. Reducing and controlling salmon bycatch is one of the most important issues being discussed by the Council this year.

In 2007, NOAA Fisheries implemented management measures that give the pollock industry more flexibility to move their fishing operations to avoid areas of high salmon bycatch. As a follow-up to this action, the Council initiated this EIS analysis of alternatives to further address salmon bycatch. These alternatives include implementing new salmon area closures or establishing bycatch limits that would close the pollock fisheries once the limit is reached.

“The Council is looking at the current regulations and limits on salmon bycatch for the pollock fisheries,” said Doug Mecum, Deputy Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region. “The Council will be evaluating the possible effects of new regulatory closures and salmon bycatch limits.”

“This is the scoping period for the upcoming EIS. We’re asking now for written comments from the public on the issues, including potential impacts and alternatives that should be considered in revising salmon bycatch management,” said Mecum.

The public comment period for scoping on the EIS ends February 15.

Instructions for submitting comments and more detail can be found at www.fakr.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/bycatch/default.htm

Any regulation changes will be designed to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, ensure the long-term conservation and abundance of salmon, and to provide maximum benefit to fishermen and communities that depend on these resources.

Analysts will evaluate potential effects on salmon stocks and other components of the marine environment. Social and economic impacts also will be considered, including the effects that salmon bycatch management measures would have on pollock fishermen and on people who rely on commercial, subsistence, and recreational salmon fisheries.

For further information, contact Gretchen Harrington at 907-586-7228 or gretchen.harrington@noaa.gov

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Gov Palin Backs Biology Based Management in State of State Speech

In her State of the State speech, Gov Palin had the following to say about the fisheries.  “We’re supporting our tremendous fisheries – for 150 years they have been the economic and social heart of our coastal communities. They define and sustain us, and I will not let politics interfere with management-for-abundance of our largest private sector employer. “

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State Supports Punitive Damages from Exxon Oil Spill

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Alaska lawmakers and four former governors says Exxon violated a social contract it had entered into with the state when the tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Prince William Sound in 1989 and caused an 11-million-gallon oil spill.

The brief says that as a result, the oil company should be subject to punitive damages for the environmental catastrophe.

The high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Exxon’s appeal on February 27th.

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