Abundance Based Management - Fishing Vessel Owners and Deep Sea Fishermen's Union again call for immediate and practical approach to reducing Halibut bycatch

In the lead up to the October 2-9 North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) meeting the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association (FVOA) and the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union (DSFU) again calls on the Council to embrace our proposal as an efficient and much need step towards a sustainable Halibut fishery.

At the October meeting, the Council will review possible options for study regarding the Abundance­ Based Management (ABM) of Halibut bycatch. ABM establishes harvest levels based on the status of the fish affected by the fishery. ABM’s purpose is to provide more protection when the status of the fish is low and the conservation need greatest, and more harvest opportunity when abundance is high. 

So far, this concept of Halibut harvest levels that are predicated on the availability of fish now seems hopelessly mired in overly complex suite of cumbersome options that only serve to seriously delay the proper and much needed reduction of Halibut bycatch.

The Council is scheduled to entertain possible options for analysis at the Council meeting in October. We understand there are numerous possible options with the following given assumptions. DSFU and FVOA strongly believe the best ABM approach to developing options is with some format of vector analysis with a reasonable starting level, an index that measures halibut abundance and a nimble method of increasing or decreasing the Halibut CAP depending on the vitality of the Halibut fishery.

Please click on the content below to see a copy of our most recent letter to Council calling for action and let your voice be heard in support of our suggested course of action on Halibut Abundance Based Management!

China's Seafood Tariffs - Not Just Alaska

Sen. Murkowski tells Trump administration that trade assistance is no substitute for trade itself.

IntraFish - September 2018


“First of all, you’re right. It’s not just Alaska” - Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer

Concern over the simmering trade war between the United States and China is growing in Alaska.

During the July Commerce Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) questioned Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer on the administration’s plans to ensure US trade policy allows seafood producers to thrive, citing China’s recently announced 25 percent tariff on American seafood imports.                                   

“It has clearly rattled my state, “Murkowski said of the tariff.

“Our seafood industry is the number one private industry in terms of the jobs and the economic opportunity it brings.”

Murkowski said that in 2017, about 40 percent of Alaska’s salmon exports went to China, and over the last five years, about a half of Alaska’s salmon has been exported to China.

Additionally, 54 percent of the state’s cod exports last year went to China.

“So, this is very, very significant to us,” said Murkowski. “We’re still trying to figure out what exactly this means not only to our fishermen, but to the processors, the logistics industry – all aspects of the seafood supply chain. And then the 10 percent retaliatory tariffs that were announced just last month put even more pressure on our seafood processors because many of our fish and shellfish that are harvested in the state are then processed in China before reimporting back to the US for domestic distribution. So, in many ways were looking at this and it is in effect, imposing a 10 percent tax on our own seafood. Which is just a tough one to reconcile.”

The senator questioned Ambassador Lighthizer about the administration’s plans to ensure US trade policy allows seafood procedures to thrive, specifically asking how can the administration can give that assurance to the seafood industry that is not only critical to Alaska, but to many of our coastal states.

“First of all, you’re right. It’s not just Alaska,” said Ambassador Lighthizer.

Two Seattle Fixed Gear Fishing Companies Looking For Buyers During Uncertain Times

Two largest US Pacific cod catchers eye package sale

Tom Seaman - Undercurrent News

 The Newly Christened F/V Blue North Departing Home Port - Seattle

The Newly Christened F/V Blue North Departing Home Port - Seattle

The two largest US Pacific cod longline fishing companies are exploring a sale as a package, amid tough times in the Alaskan sector with lower quotas, according to Undercurrent News sources.

Clipper Seafoods and Blue North Fisheries, which have 20% and 17.5% of the longline portion of the dramatically reduced Pacific cod total allowable catch (TAC) respectively, have engaged an investment bank to advise on a possible sale, sources said.

Small-scale Alaska fisheries in rural communities struggle for access

University of Alaska study - INDIGENOUS access challenges

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“Indigenous villages that have long depended on halibut as a supplemental fishery feel they have been ‘rationalized out’ entirely,” Courtney Carothers UAF

Individual transferable quota systems for fisheries around the world may be ideal for some fisheries, but they can exclude rural, indigenous, low-income and next-generation fishermen from the industry, according to a new paper co-authored by a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor.

“ITQs are being advocated across the board without much reflection on what individual fisheries need,” said College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor Courtney Carothers. “ITQs might work well for some big industrial fisheries, but, for small-scale fisheries, they’ve had lots of negative consequences.”

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the paper was the result of a workshop that gathered international social scientists to discuss the ITQ panacea—a simple policy solution aimed to uniformly solve complex problems. Researchers in the workshop argued that the worldwide advocacy of ITQs has overlooked their shortcomings in many regional fisheries and discouraged development of equitable alternatives.

ITQ systems regulate fisheries access by dividing up total catch limits among individual quota owners. ITQs are largely an economic tool meant to encourage consolidation and efficiency. By limiting the number of quota holders and making quotas a tradable commodity, the value of the quota share has increased greatly, which can make it harder for certain people to opt in.

“Social scientists have been frustrated by the assumption that ITQs are a simple solution for fisheries management across the world,” said Carothers. “We were excited to come together and evaluate some examples of where ITQs work, why sometimes they don’t work, and who is being impacted when an ITQ isn’t the right option for a fishery.”

One example, Carothers explained, was the privatization of access to the halibut fishery in Alaska. Economists and managers tend to call this “rationalization”.  ITQs often increase economic efficiencies. Those who can better profit from fisheries buy out those who profit less. But in the process, many have become excluded from the industry.

“Indigenous villages that have long depended on halibut as a supplemental fishery feel they have been ‘rationalized out’ entirely,” Carothers said. “It can be as much as $70 per pound to purchase quota for the halibut fishery, which most people cannot afford. It has been over 20 years since the ITQ fishery was established, and people are still talking about the social disruption.”

By now, after so much research on this topic, the economic consequences of ITQ systems are predictable, Carothers said. Also, she said, the perception of ITQs as a panacea has become entrenched, making it hard for people to think about alternative solutions.

“We hope this paper will get people to start questioning ITQs as a blanket solution for fisheries managers,” she said.

The workshop was hosted by the Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth University and the Stefansson Arctic Institute. Funding for the workshop came from the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Endowment.

Last updated: Aug 23, 2018

Our Records Find A Home

Our Union's historical records find a home with the University of Washington's Harry Bridges Chair for Labor Studies Archives


Capt. Larson (Center) with his crew during a recent safety drill

The Deep Sea Fishermen's Union has been busy with the project of cataloging and archiving its historically significant documents under the oversight of Seattle fishing vessel Captain Dave Larson. Capt. Larson concluded his initial work with the Labor Archives of Washington (LAW)  in April of this year prior to his five month-long series of tuna fishing trips in the South Pacific. Capt. Larson is now back in Home Port Seattle and after some much earned time with his family, he will resume leading the Deep Sea Fishermen's Union archiving project. We could certainly use more hands on this project so please let us know if you can help out.

The Labor Archives was founded in 2010 to preserve the records of working people and their unions and to serve as a center for historical research, ensuring that new generations have access to the rich labor history of the region. The Labor Archives contains more than 300 separate collections of labor and labor-related materials from individuals and organizations documenting the local, national, and international dimensions of the labor movement in the Pacific Northwest.

Collections document the intersection between labor unions and social justice, civil rights, and political organizations that feature a labor relations or labor rights dimension as part of their focus. A unit of the Special Collections of the University of Washington Libraries, the Labor Archives is a collaborative project of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and the University of Washington Libraries.

30th Annual Fishermen's Fall Festival

Experience Fishermen's Terminal

DATE: Saturday, September 15, 2018

LOCATION: Seattle’s Fishermen's Terminal 1900 W Nickerson St. Seattle, WA 98119

TIME: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Fishermen's Fall Fest_9-99_4_0.jpg

The Fishermen's Fall Festival is a free all-volunteer run and donation funded event which serves to educate the public about Fishermen’s Terminal and the North Pacific Fishing Fleet.

The festival is free to attend providing the greater Seattle area community an opportunity to celebrate the commercial seafood industry through a variety of events  while at the same time experiencing the unique character of historic Fishermen’s Terminal.  

In addition to providing this unique, fun and educational community event, the festival also raises money for the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial providing essential services to the fishermen as well as honoring lives lost at sea.

The Union and Fishing Vessel Owners thank the NPFMC for incremental progress made on Bycatch reduction

Progress is being made with the Council as they are now looking at pelagic and non-pelagic trawl separately - but corrective action regarding the tendering observer exemption and the expansion and refinement of a robust observer program for the partial coverage fleets is essential to the sustainability of the fishery...

Please see the copy below of a recent letter to Council calling for action!

June 20, 2018

Mr. Dan Hull, Chairman
North Pacific Fishery Management Council
605 W. 4th Ave., Ste 306
Anchorage, AK 99501-2252

RE: Future Partial Observer Coverage Changes

Dear Chairman Hull:

    We want to thank the Council for the opportunity provided Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association to comment in Kodiak on the partial- coverage observer program under Agenda Item C-1. The Council action to “include an evaluation of observer effects at finer resolution than gear-level strata, so that observer effects in pelagic and non-pelagic trawl can be investigated,” is an appreciated step forward. This resolution should help focus future observer coverage and a better use of limited funds. However, we want to express our disappointment with the Council not following through with the proposed Council correction to the “tendering exemption” and not asking the staff to look at cost associated with getting coverage levels increased to the 30% for the partial- coverage fleets.     

The abuse of the tendering observer exemption, as described on page 105 of the May 2017 Annual Observer Report, describes the outright subversion of the observer program by certain shore-based entities in their efforts to avoid the needed counting of salmon bycatch. We believe vessel operation incentives to avoid coverage are still present for vessels tendering Pacific cod.  We would also inform the Council that the fact the shore-based processors only receive a warning for their manipulation of bycatch accounting has not gone unnoticed by the harvesters.     

The Council’s failure to look seriously at longer-term solutions for increasing observer coverage was disappointing. We believe the following action would provide beneficial information to the Council relative to costs in expanding coverage to partial-coverage vessels. We continue to support a Council discussion paper that would examine a separate program with a “pay as you go” system for pelagic and non-pelagic trawlers while keeping fixed gear operations within the current ADP observer program. We believe random selection can be a design of both formats. One form of the analysis would be the fee necessary to get fixed gear up to 30% of catch or trips and the cost of the trawl fleet to obtain similar coverage of their tows and/or catch.     

In summary, we want to thank the Council for taking a positive step in looking at pelagic and non-pelagic trawl separately. We request that the Council complete its own proposed correction action to the tendering observer exemption, which, as yet, has not been tasked to staff for completion. Lastly, we request the Council examine our request for expanding and developing a more robust observer program for the partial coverage fleets.


         Robert D. Alverson                                                      James Johnson         Manager                                                                       Executive Director         Fishing Vessel Owners' Association                          Deep Sea Fishermen's Union

        Robert D. Alverson                                                      James Johnson
        Manager                                                                       Executive Director
        Fishing Vessel Owners' Association                          Deep Sea Fishermen's Union