Articles Posted in Fishing Industry

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FishA new bill called the Human Trafficking and IUU Fishing Act (H.R.6834) has been introduced in response to two issues that are plaguing our globe: the growing prevalence of human trafficking and forcing those persons to fish illegally thus abusing the worldwide seafood supply chain.

U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) states, “The United States must combat human rights abuses across the global seafood industry and ensure that American fishermen are never expected to compete against foreign imports produced with slave labor. Increasingly, we are seeing foreign fishing fleets forcing vulnerable people who are trafficked, drugged and coerced to fish around the clock out of fear for their lives. I am pleased to have the support of my Congressional colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to increase federal action against the global crimes of human trafficking and IUU fishing.”

Since 2016, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has seized approximately 15 shipments of seafood known to have been processed illegally on mainland China by North Korean workers under forced labor. And, in a 2018 report published by the U.S. State Department, over 40 countries were identified as having “substantial human trafficking and forced labor issues across their seafood industries and supply chains”. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is especially prevalent in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

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Photo by Marc Piché courtesy of Shipspotter.com

One crewmember is dead, a second wounded, and a third has been arrested after a brutal attack aboard the F/V CAPT BILLY HAVER, an 82-foot fishing trawler based in Virginia.

27-year-old Franklin Freddy Meave Vazquez was arrested and charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder on Monday, September 24th. He will appear in federal court in Boston at a time to be determined.

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Smartphone-at-Sea-1024x683Communication while aboard vessels has been an issue for seafarers for as long as humans have been going to sea. We have gone from bells and foghorns to the first radio telegraph in 1895, to the innovative satellite communication products of today. Communicating with other vessels, with emergency crew, with friends and family on land, or with bounty hunters who retrieve and return lost gear (yes, that really is a thing; keep reading to learn more) has become paramount. We share information with other fishing boats and try to stay ahead of the weather. Technology has come a long way, and our phones are making things even safer for people who work at sea.

The Pew Research Center for Internet and Technology has been tracking U.S. mobile phone statistics since before 2004. What was once a gadget used only by contractors and millionaires, the cellphone is now in the hands of nearly 94% of all U.S. adults, and a smartphone is owned by more than 76% of adults.

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Smartphones are virtually small computers that fit in your pocket. With cutting edge software and accessories, smartphones are empowering fishermen and solving what were once big problems. Even sales and marketing can be done at sea with a smartphone fitted with satellite capabilities.

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Pink-SalmonSalmon season is always an anxious time for fisherman, as everyone waits to see how accurate catch predictions will be. But this year has proven to be quite disappointing as Alaska’s statewide salmon catch is expected to fall 31 percent below pre-season predictions. All species of salmon catches are down except for sockeye.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the total shortfall can be blamed on the poor returns of one specific species, pink salmon, to the Gulf of Alaska. Initial forecasting predicted a pink salmon catch of approximately 70 million, but current numbers are at 38 million. This small salmon species, also known as “Humpback Salmon” for the distinctive large hump that males develop on their backs during spawning season, usually weigh just 2 to 6 pounds as adults. Since the fish are flakey and low in oil content, they are generally processed and sold as value-added products such as salmon patties or frozen marinated steaks. Most pink salmon is canned, which yields a final product with a long shelf life that can be easily transported.

It was expected that the pink salmon run would be low this year, as the fish returning are the offspring of those that spawned in 2016, a devastatingly low year for pink salmon. Alaska issued a federal disaster declaration in several regions due to the low 2016 harvest and was subsequently issued $56 million in aid. However, these 2018 yields are far lower than anyone predicted.

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Bristol-Bay-300x199It is with great sadness that we report that the search for missing crewmember John Phillips, 59, of Juneau, Alaska, has been suspended. Phillips was reported missing after the F/V PACIFIC KNIGHT capsized and sank near Clark’s Point in Bristol Bay on Wednesday, July 25th.

Two other crewmembers were rescued from the water by good Samaritan vessel Amanda C, then transferred to Alaska State Troopers. Authorities continue to search for the missing crewmember and investigate the cause of the accident. It is unknown if Phillips was wearing a PFD.

“Ending a search is never easy, especially when working alongside so many people dedicated to finding the missing person,” said Coast Guard Lt. Stephan Nolan, the District 17 command duty officer, in a press release. “Our condolences go out to this man’s family and friends during this time of hardship.”

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Alex-HaleyThe fishing vessel Run Da was detained by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley on June 23rd after the vessel was suspected of illegal fishing activity in international waters 860 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan. A total of 80 tons of chum salmon and one ton of squid were found onboard.

The Alex Haley crew and People’s Republic of China Coast Guard officials conducted a joint international boarding of the Run Da after a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 aircraft spotted the fishing vessel, which was suspected of violating the worldwide driftnet moratorium issued by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution.

After initial arrival on the scene, the U.S. Cost Guard and People’s Republic of China Coast Guard officials participated in a pre-boarding question and answer interview via VHF-FM radio. The results of this conversation confirmed fishing activity and the nationality of the vessel. The captain of the F/V Run Da admitted to fishing with driftnets up to 5.6 miles in length.

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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.”