Articles Posted in Fishing Industry

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Fishermen_with_their_halibutThe 2018 Pacific halibut season is set to begin at noon on Saturday, March 24nd, but the U.S. and Canada have failed to reach consensus on limits for the first time since 1990. Both countries have endorsed a quota cut.

The IPHC (The International Pacific Halibut Commission) is an intergovernmental organization that was established between Canada and the U. S. in 1923 to monitor and maintain Pacific halibut stocks at sustainable levels. The organization is recommending limits slightly lower than those of 2017. While research indicates a slight decline in stocks, Pacific halibut continue to remain at healthy levels.

When an agreement can’t be reached, quotas from the previous year are used until new limits can be set. The U.S. and Canada did agree that catch limits should be lower than the 2017 numbers. Through a domestic Interim Final Rule established by NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. is implementing catch limits that are in line with those proposed at the IPHC board meetings.

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SkyTruth_Fleets-1024x521As the world’s demand for seafood continues to rise, new methods for tracking global commercial fishing activities are imperative. In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Science, some extraordinary data are showing how fishing vessels are covering the world’s oceans, and which countries are bringing in the biggest catches.

Much of the data in the study was gathered by Global Fishing Watch, a partnership between Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google. The organization uses high-tech satellite images and AIS (Automatic Identification Systems) to monitor, record, and track the movement of fishing vessels around the globe. In the past, this data was collected using logbooks, observers in fishing ports, and electronic vessel tracking. Despite its suggestive nature, this information was often out of date, incomplete, and inaccurate.

The accuracy of the newer methods is connected to the massive amounts of data collected between 2012 and 2016. Over 22 billion AIS messages were logged, identifying more than 70,000 vessels. Computers running sophisticated software programs searched for patterns in the large data sets. They were able to match vessels to fleet registries and track vessel movements. Computer algorithms were also used to determine when a vessel was fishing and what it was fishing for. For instance, the data collected in 2016 reveals that of the vessels tracked, over 40 million hours were spent at sea and the vessels traveled approximately 460 million kilometers.

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Atlantic_Salmon-1024x683The Washington State Senate has voted 31-16 to ban all new Atlantic salmon farming in the state and phase out net pen farming by 2025. The phasing out plan will happen gradually as existing aquatic leases expire. This is an update to a post dated August 29, 2017, when we reported that a net pen breach was discovered after Lummi fishers began catching rouge Atlantic salmon along with indigenous Chinook salmon. It was estimated that over 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Salish Sea.

Initially, Cooke Aquaculture, the owner of the pens, reported that the net pen breach was due to the solar eclipse and high tides. However, after a four-month investigation by three state agencies, it was found that the escape was due to poor maintenance and negligence. At the time of the breach, Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, had already terminated two leases with Cooke at Cypress Island and Port Angeles due to violations of their lease agreement.

“The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea,” said Senator Kevin Ranker. “We have invested far too much in the restoration of our Salish Sea. The economic, cultural, and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of this industry.”

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In what is being called an historic agreement, countries have joined forces and agreed to a moratorium on commercial fishing within the unregulated Arctic Ocean. Five countries with Arctic shorelines, the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (representing Greenland), have come to an agreement with Iceland, China, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union. All have signed on.

While commercial fishing in the icebound Arctic Ocean would not have been a possibility even a decade ago, the area is rapidly opening. Scientists agree that the polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate, and current studies show that about 42% of the central Arctic Ocean thaws during the summer months. If this trajectory continues, commercial fishing fleets will before long have access to these unregulated waters. The agreement prohibits trawling in the international zone of the Arctic Ocean for 16 years. This will allow scientists to better understand the region’s marine ecology and form a plan for sustainable fishing.

The agreement protects approximately 2.8 million square kilometers of international waters, and was reached following more than two years of discussions and negotiations, according to Science magazine. “It’s the first time an international agreement of this magnitude has been reached before any commercial fishing takes place on a region of the high seas,” said Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in a statement. “There is no other high seas area where we’ve decided to do the science first,” says Scott Highleyman, vice president of conservation policy and programs at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., who also served on the U.S. delegation to the negotiations. “It’s a great example of putting the precautionary principle into action.”

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AtlanticSalmon-e1504048126863A breach in a net pen was initially blamed on high tides and the eclipse.  However, in a revised press release, Cooke Aquaculture no longer listed the eclipse as a possible cause, but rather “Exceptionally high tides and currents caused damage to a salmon farm that has been in operation near Cypress Island for approximately 30 years.”

Whatever the cause of the Atlantic salmon spill on Cyprus Island, aquaculture operations have been put on hold in the Pacific Northwest after a moratorium was placed on new and pending permits for fish farming in Washington State. Governor Jay Inslee and Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, jointly imposed the freeze on permits after the Cooke Aquaculture Pacific net pen breech occurred on August 19th.

Cooke leases public bedlands from the Department of Natural Resources, and is now in violation of that lease agreement. In order for Canadian based Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to be “in compliance” with the terms of their lease, they must clean up and manage pen failures at the Cypress Island facility said Cori Simmons, head of communications for the Department of Natural Resources.

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HandXRay-300x262Allan Tabingo was injured at sea due to defective machinery on his employer’s fishing vessel.  A hydraulic lever controlling a fish hatch had been defective for two years. When the hatch operator tried to activate the hydraulic lever to stop the hatch from closing, the handle on the lever popped out of the valve. The hatch could not be stopped.  The result was a traumatic hand injury and the loss of a father’s livelihood. The accident could have been prevented had American Seafoods simply repaired the handle when it was found to be defective two years earlier.

On January 17, 2017, lawyers in the case of Allan Tabingo vs. American Triumph LLC argued in the Washington State Supreme Court the question of whether an injured seaman may recover punitive damages when injured on an unseaworthy vessel?  You can view the arguments here. Originally denied at the trial court, this case was chosen for a fast track (“interlocutory”) appeal and sent to the Washington State Supreme Court due to the importance of this issue for injured fishermen and seamen.

The Jones Act and Maritime Law already provide for Compensatory Damages.  An injured seaman may recover a monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost due to his/her injury. Compensatory Damages usually cover:

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706062-300x206January 6 was a tough day for the F/V GUDNY and Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, both disabled 230 miles east-southeast of Kodiak, Alaska.  Fortunately, the four fishermen off the 87’ LADY GUDNY were airlifted by a Coast Guard helicopter crew and safely flown to Kodiak.

What happened? At 1:43 a.m. the Kodiak Coast Guard received a distress call from the F/V LADY GUDNY requesting fuel filters because the engine had failed and they were adrift. At 7:30 am, they called again to say they could not restart the engine. Weather was reported as 20-22 foot seas with 49 mph winds – see the photo above. The helicopter crew flew out and airlifted the fishermen off the boat, and the 225’ Coast Guard Cutter SPAR arrived to tow the LADY GUDNY to Kodiak. Unfortunately, the towline parted and tangled in the SPAR’s propeller, disabling the SPAR. Lines tangled in propellers are a nightmare for any vessel size. The commercial tugs ANNA-T and CHAHUNTA ended up towing the SPAR AND LADY GUDNY to Kodiak.

Here are two Coast Guard statements about the LADY GUDNY:

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Rscue-300x199Two weeks of Coast Guard hearings and testimonies this past month are slowly revealing the mystery behind the July 26th sinking of the Alaska JURIS that forced 46 crewmembers to abandon ship in the Bering Sea. Chief Engineer aboard the JURIS, Eddie Hernandez, was a key witness for Coast Guard attempts to reveal operations of the vessel’s owner, Fishing Company of Alaska. The company teams with a Japanese fish buyer, Anyo Fisheries, and continues to operate three factory trawlers whose crews process and freeze catch.

This is not the first time that Fishing Company of Alaska has been at the center of a major Coast Guard inquiry. In fact, many issues that surfaced during the Alaska JURIS hearings paralleled the 2008 sinking of FCA’s Alaska Ranger. In both instances, there were reported gaps in a Coast Guard inspection program, chronic vessel maintenance issues, and safety conflicts between a U.S. crew and Japanese workers.

Although the report on the Alaska JURIS is not expected for months, the hearings offered a look at conditions and operations aboard the vessel. Crewmember Carl Lee Jones revealed in testimony problems surrounding rusting pipes, run down crew quarters, and Japanese crew members who refused to participate in safety drills.

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Injury_at_seaIf you are a maritime worker or commercial fisherman, you already know that work at sea is dangerous. Jones Act or maritime law is in place to give rights to workers as well as an extra layer of protection. Know your rights, and if an accident does occur, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:

1. Report the Accident – It is imperative that you let your supervisor or captain know immediately that you have been injured. Jones Act or Maritime Law requires the injured party to report any work-related injury within seven (7) days, but don’t wait that long. The insurance company may assume that if you didn’t report the accident right away, it wasn’t very serious, so don’t wait. If you get hurt while working and you believe that your injuries need medical attention or have even the slightest chance of causing you to miss work, report it right away.

2. Seek Medical Attention – The law requires your employer to see that you receive medical treatment for your injuries. If you are at sea and your injuries are serious, the ship should have the Coast Guard medevac you to a hospital. If you are far out at sea or in international waters, a Coast Guard helicopter may be able to pick you up as soon as you are within range of the United States. The ship has the ability to consult with a physician by phone or radio if your condition is serious. And, if you are in a foreign country, your employer must get you proper medical treatment and get you back home at their expense. Your employer must pay for all medical attention that you need if you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel.

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On the morning of Wednesday, July 27th, crewmembers aboard OCEAN PEACE and SEAFISHER were focused on the harvest of Atka mackerel. Some 55 miles away, another trawler vessel, the ALASKA JURIS, was taking on water.

Upon receiving this distress call, the two vessels halted fishing and processing to begin the 6-hour journey to rescue the JURIS crew. All 46 crewmembers once aboard the JURIS were safely transported to the Aleutian Island port of Adak by Thursday evening.

“They said we got to go, and we’re on it,” said Todd Loomis, an official with Ocean Peace Inc., which operates the two factory trawlers.