The 2013 total allowable catch (“TAC”) quota for the Alaska cod harvest in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands was set at 260,000 mt in December 2012. The freezer longliner fleet’s initial share of this TAC quota was set at 113,000 mt, and additional community development quota (CDQ) was set at 28,000 mt, most of which will be caught by freezer longliners.
For the “A” season, which began January 1st, the quota for Alaska cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands is 57,462 mt, and the balance will be harvested during the “B” season, starting June 10th.
The 2013 TAC quota for the Alaska cod harvest in the Gulf of Alaska was set at 60,600 mt. The freezer longliner fleet’s initial share of this TAC quota was set at 13,953 mt.
The 2012 harvest of Alaska cod by all gear types totaled 221,000 mt in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, of which the freezer longliner fleet total was 115,000 mt from cooperative fishing. In addition, the community development quota (CDQ) harvest for Alaska cod was 24,000 mt, most of this was also caught by freezer longliners.
The 2014 preliminary TAC for the Bering Sea and Aleutians Islands was set at 261,000 mt and 63,150 mt for the Gulf of Alaska.
Blue North, a sustainable natural resource company crafted for the 21st century, today announced that it has signed a contract with Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington, to build one of the most environmentally friendly and technologically advanced fishing vessels in the world.
The innovative “green” boat – which will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2014 – was specifically developed for the Alaska cod hook-and-line fishery, and was designed by Skipsteknisk AS, a Norwegian ship design firm.
Blue North holds an option to build a second vessel starting late in 2013.
“One of our main objectives in designing and building this vessel is making absolutely certain that we move forward in a way that is environmentally sensitive and thoughtful,” says Patrick Burns, Vice President at Blue North. “We recognize, accept and embrace our responsibility as stewards of sustainability in everything we do at Blue North.”
Five Key Sustainable and Safety Advantages
The new state-of-the-art Blue North fishing vessel offers five key environmental and safety advantages.
First, the boat will deploy hook-and-line gear, which means that one fish will be caught at a time, with a focus on quality, as opposed to quantity. The benefit here is that the small lines leave a greatly reduced environmental footprint on the bottom of the ocean, compared to other gear types.
Second, the boat will be constructed with an internal haul station – a first in the United States. In terms of sustainability, the internal haul station assures the careful release of non-target species. And, in terms of safety, the internal haul station allows all vessel personnel to accomplish their work inside the boat.
Third, the boat will efficiently utilize proteins that currently go to waste, with the ultimate goal of 100 percent utilization. That said, the new Blue North vessel is not focused on catching more fish; instead, its onboard processing facility will use
more of the fish that are caught. To accomplish this, every consumable product will be retained – including the liver, stomach, roe, milt and head. Currently, many hook-and-line fleets that process onboard only use the dressed fish, or 50 percent of the entire weight; the rest of the fish is ground up and discharged overboard, due to a lack of space, refrigeration capacity or onboard labor.
“This present practice is extremely wasteful and inefficient,” explains Kenny Down, Blue North’s President and CEO. “We believe we can implement significant processing changes that will make considerable sustainability and efficiency differences.”
Fourth, the new Blue North vessel will offer lower emissions and fuel savings of an estimated 30 percent or more, versus conventional designs. The vessel will be cleaner, thanks, in part, to the unique use of diesel electric twin-bladed dual-azimuth propulsion. The boat will also be one of the first fishing vessels in the United States built to meet new Tier III emissions standards set by the Federal government.
Another factor behind the vessel’s strong fuel-and-emission credentials is the fact that it will be built with a molded or formed hull, which has a more efficient flow through the water because of decreased resistance. The new Blue North vessel will be the first purpose-built hook-and-line processing vessel in the United States to have a molded hull.
Fifth, the new Blue North vessel will greatly enhance the safety of life at sea. Its internal haul station means that crews will no longer be exposed to rough seas and freezing temperatures for hours on end, and the risk of falling overboard during hauling is negated. In addition, the vessel is built with a heavily weighted box keel design, to keep weight low, as well as an anti-roll tank; these features combine to provide an extremely stable working platform and further enhance the safety factors and crew comforts designed into every detail of the vessel.
“This boat is the culmination of 30 years in business,” says Michael Burns, Blue North’s Chairman. “Not only is it cutting edge in terms of technology, the environment, safety, and comfort for the crew, but it’s also a beautiful vessel.”
High Quality and Low Environmental Impact
Blue North’s new boat will be designed to produce boneless cod fillets, cod loins, and a host of vacuum-packed consumer-ready cod products on board. Each fish will be individually handled, immediately processed, and frozen within minutes of processing.
In addition, Alaska hook-and-line cod has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC); and it’s been designated as a “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.
“We will sell our fish to environmentally conscious consumers who know they’re buying a quality product that’s from a low-impact, sustainable, monitored and regulated fishery,” says Blue North’s Kenny Down. “And we’ll use nationally known grocery retailers for distribution of this product as well.”
Sustainable Next-Generation Fishing Boosts the Economy
Looking around the world, Blue North products will be sold in traditional global markets that appreciate the difference in quality offered by hook-and-line-caught fish. These markets include Japan, Norway, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil. For its part, China has begun to demand more of this product and is expected to become a major force in the consumption of high-quality hook-and-line fish in the future.
“Blue North currently sends about 10 percent of its yearly catch to domestic U.S. markets, primarily located in the Boston area,” explains Lance Magnuson, Managing Director of Blue North Trading Company and President of the Alaska Longline Cod Commission. “We believe that this new vessel’s production will open up further domestic markets, so that Americans can take pleasure in the same quality fish as foreign markets have enjoyed for many years.”
And, when it comes to global developments, adds Helge Slagnes, Chief Designer of Fishing Vessels at Skipsteknisk AS, “Blue North has adopted innovations developed in Norway, made meaningful improvements, and is now taking them to a positive new level halfway around the world.”
The implications for the United States economy are positive, too. In the coming years, Blue North’s sustainable next-generation fishing vessel is expected to help drive domestic consumption and exports, in addition to creating much-needed jobs here at home.
Says Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator from Washington state: “Today’s announcement of a new fishing vessel for Blue North is great news for our fishing and shipbuilding industries. This construction will support shipbuilding jobs in Anacortes while adding to a strong legacy of building cutting-edge fishing vessels in Washington state. I was proud to write and help pass legislation into law in 2010 that gave freezer longliners the stability they needed to invest in new vessels and grow their businesses. I congratulate the skilled workers at Blue North and Dakota Creek Industries for their innovative work on this state-of-the-art vessel that helps grow our maritime economy.”
The Freezer Longline Coalition (FLC) today filed suit on behalf of its members against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and entered the Steller Sea Lion litigation opposing NMFS’s interim final rule and final Biological Opinion (Bi-Op). In the lawsuit, the FLC asks the Court to declare that the actions of NMFS were arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with law, and without observance of procedure required by law. Accordingly, the FLC requests that the Court vacate the Bi-Op, the Interim Final Rule, and use other sources of relief available to the Court.
The FLC’s mission is to promote public policy that facilitates the intelligent and orderly harvest of Alaska cod and other groundfish species in the Bering Sea /Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska and to encourage the reduction of waste and improve resource utilization in the longline fishery. The FLC also represents longline fishery interests in matters concerning the management of the longline fishery with respect to target species and protected resources
Speaking on behalf of the FLC, FLC President David Little said “The National Marine Fisheries Service delayed the issuance of the Bi-Op for 5 years; during this period the SSL population has continued to increase. After 5 years, NMFS finally releases the Bi-Op, immediately declares an emergency situation, and decides to waive public processes; this is not a justified course of action.”
The complaint focuses among other things on NMFS’s arbitrary application of Steller sea lion mitigation measures to the freezer longline fleet. FLC Executive Director Kenny Down, commenting on the Bi-Op, stated “By far the most concerning issue to our sector is the insufficient reasoning given in the final Bi-Op for the mitigation measures to include the hook-and-line fleet. Including the longliners in these measures is arbitrary and not supported by the document, by NMFS’s past findings, or by NMFS’s own science.
“A case has simply not been made that including the longliners in the interim final rule’s mitigation measures contributes in a measurable way to Alaska cod availability for the Steller sea lion diet. The fishing method employed in the hook and line fleet, and historical patterns of activity, including very low overall catch, clearly show that the fleet meets the principles and objectives of the Bi-Op under current management measures, and as such longliners should not have been included in mitigation regulations implemented without due process on January 1st.”
Rob Wurm with Alaskan Leader Fisheries, one of the FLC charter members, said before the group in summation “The actions of the agency in this case gives us no other reasonable option apart from filing this complaint in court.”
The Freezer Longline Coaltion (FLC) applauded passage today of Senate bill 1609, the “Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act,” by the U.S. House of Representatives. S. 1609, which now goes to President Obama for his signature, establishes a process and framework for the formation of a fishery cooperative among eligible members of the longline catcher processor subsector in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
“Today’s vote by Congress is a win-win for vessel operators, crew, and the environment,” said David Little, president of the FLC. Little, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife described a few of the most valuable benefits to the nation of fisheries cooperatives, “Eliminating the race for fish will allow vessel operators to safely slow down with the knowledge that they will still catch their share of the resource. A slower pace will improve safety, allow the crew more time to rest and provide greater job stability by extending the fishery over the entire year. Fishermen will have greater flexibility to maximize the value of their catch, they will increase product yield and quality, and will become even better stewards of the resource.”
S. 1609 passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on November 19th, 2010. It was sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mark Begich (D-AK). Identical legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives and supported by a bipartisan coalition of members including Congressmen Rick Larsen (D-WA), Doc Hastings (R-WA), Don Young (R-AK), Jay Inslee (D-WA), and Dave Reichert (R-WA).
“The FLC is so thankful for the bipartisan support this legislation received from members of the Washington and Alaska Congressional Delegations, and especially to Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Rick Larsen, and Congressman Doc Hastings who lead the effort to pass legislation this year, and for their consistent support of sustainable fishing practices,” said Kenny Down, executive director of the FLC.
We must move toward viable sustainable fisheries, that could include fixed gear fisheries such as longline, pots, and jigs, that can support local communities. Where tradeoffs are possible, NMFS should favor these more sustainable alternatives. The agency cannot simply weaken the proposed RPA to allow additional fishing for Steller sea lion prey, but it can consider strengthening other protections to allow these fisheries to continue and to continue to develop in a sustainable manner. For example, NMFS could strengthen protections by addressing overall harvest levels, further reducing the biomass taken from the western Aleutian Islands by the cod and Atka mackerel trawl fisheries. While it is difficult to determine the importance of the various components of the Steller sea lion diet, an approximation of the prey biomass increased through harvest restrictions multiplied by caloric values for prey (i.e. those calculated by Loggerwell and Schaufler 2005) could give NMFS a metric to evaluate small changes to the RPA designed to move toward sustainable fisheries. NMFS must also consider the inherent characteristics of the trawl fisheries (a large pulse harvest on aggregated schools), which provides few options to minimize impacts.”
The Freezer Longline Coalition (FLC) has received confirmation that two short-tailed albatross have been incidentally taken by longline vessels fishing in Alaska. The first was taken by a longline vessel fishing in the Bering Sea on August 27th 2010; a second bird was confirmed this morning as a short-tailed albatross taken on September 14th 2010 also in the Bering Sea fishery. FLC executive director Kenny Down responded in a statement to his board of directors, “After twelve years with no takes this has come as especially bad news. A perfect record for twelve years has been viewed by all concerned as remarkable and we were hopeful this day would never come.”
The FLC fleet of vessels was the leader in implementing avoidance measures that resulted in reducing all bird bycatch by nearly 80%. These vessels voluntarily implemented measures in nearly two years before governmental regulations mandated them. The fleet has also been the leader in pursuing funding for the short-tailed albatross recovery plan and the numbers of birds are on the increase as a result.
In a statement issued by FLC president David Little he reiterated the fleet’s commitment to protect the short-tailed albatross and all seabirds. “Efforts at eliminating these incidental takes are being reviewed by every Freezer Longline Coalition vessel and known effective measures reducing these takes are always in effect on the vessels. We are consulting with bird avoidance experts to identify any additional measures that can be put in place.”
The short-tailed albatross is a listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As such, incidental takes in the longline fishery are regulated and limits are set. The limit set under the current ESA biological opinion is four birds in a two year cycle. If that level is exceeded, it automatically initiates an ESA Section 7 Consultation, which involves a consultation between the US Fish and Game Department and the National Marine Fisheries Service. New regulations and further avoidance measures could be placed on the fishery.
Reaction from experts in the field have been supportive of the Freezer Longline Coalitions efforts to date and continued commitment to proven practices.
Shannon Fitzgerald, with National Marine Fisheries Service and Seabird Biologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center reacted with the following statement. “The Alaskan cod freezer longliner fleet has been one of the most proactive fleets anywhere in the world in trying to reduce their bycatch of seabirds. They have been especially concerned with trying to eliminate the bycatch of short-tailed albatross. Given the high levels of observer coverage on these vessels, they should be commended for going 12 years without an observed take and for the nearly 80% reduction overall in seabird bycatch. Their history of collaboration and taking the lead in seabird bycatch reduction is a model for other fisheries. Early on, they stepped up and asked for mitigation gear to be required, were an integral component of the research led by Washington Sea Grant on streamer lines, voluntarily started using streamer lines two years before regulations required their use, and have worked throughout it all to take advantage of inseason data produced by the Observer Program to monitor individual vessel performance. Their efforts continue as we are currently working with the Freezer Longline Coalition to develop programs to further reduce seabird bycatch by its vessels.”
In another expert statement in reaction to the news, Ed Melvin, the Washington Sea Grant scientist whose research led to the current seabird bycatch mitigation requirements in Alaska longline fisheries had the following to say. “The performance of the freezer-longline vessels fishing for cod has been exemplary over the last decade.” “These recent mortalities of short-tailed albatross in the Bering Sea are very unfortunate,” added Melvin, who is also a member of the short-tailed albatross recovery team. “But I am sure that the industry will explore fully what led to these incidents and improve its seabird conservation efforts.”
For more information regarding the Freezer Longline Coalition, please contact the Freezer Longline Coalition office at 206-284-2522 or send inquiries to email@example.com
The Freezer Longline Conservation Cooperative is making plans to start its new voluntary cooperative fishing program for Alaska cod on August 15, 2010. This voluntary program will end the “race for fish” that has characterized the Alaska freezer longline fishery since its inception in the 1980s. Fishing for Alaska cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands will be spread over a longer than normal period, with some boats expected to continue fishing into December. The harvest for this “B” season fishery will total around 40,000 mts of Alaska cod, depending on final adjustments by National Fisheries Service.
Fishing in the 2011 “A” season will start early January and continue into April, as a smaller fleet of boats will be needed to harvest the expected quota over a longer season. Plans for the 2011 “B” season will depend upon changes that will be requested in the start date allowed by regulations, but some boats could be targeting “B” season quotas as early as June. Fishing is expected to continue again into December.
With international consumer demand growing for sustainably caught fish, a majority of the Alaska longliner fleet has created a new export trade group to promote one of the world’s most eco-friendly fisheries: Alaska cod.
The Alaska Longline Cod Commission (ALCC), representing 70% of the Alaska freezer longline fleet, will promote the export and international marketing of frozen-at-sea, longline-caught Alaska cod. The fleet’s harvest this year is expected to exceed 70,000 mt. European markets, which account for 75% of ALCC member sales, are especially hungry for sustainable products, as consumers place a high premium on sustainable fishing practices.
The 26 vessels represented by the ALCC are ready to meet this demand with the recent certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international non-profit organization that sets standards for sustainable fishing based on third-party assessments by accredited certifiers. (www.msc.org)
“ALCC member vessels strive to produce the highest quality Alaska cod within carefully managed quotas,” said Lance Magnuson, ALCC president. “The ALCC longline fishing technique selectively targets Alaska cod, reducing by-catch of other species. It is considered to have one of the lowest environmental impacts of any commercial fishery.”
The ALCC was established under the regulatory guidelines of the U.S. Government Export Certificate of Review Program, which were developed to assist U.S. commodity producers to compete more effectively in international markets.