ALFA Staff

FISHING COMMUNITIES COALITION APPLAUDS ENACTMENT OF FY22 APPROPRIATIONS OMNIBUS, INCLUDES FUNDING FOR YOUNG FISHERMEN'S DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

Press Release

For Immediate Release: March 17, 2022

Contact: Ben Martens, 207-619-1755; ben@mainecoastfishermen.org 

This week, the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) applauded President Biden for signing the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Appropriations Omnibus Package. The $1.5 trillion omnibus package included crucial language encouraging the National Sea Grant Program under NOAA to prioritize the Young Fishermen’s Development Program, authorized by the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (Public Law 116-289), enacted at the end of the 116th Congress, on January 5, 2021.

This is a watershed moment,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “For the first time, the U.S. will prioritize the education and training for America’s young fishermen and women at a national level. We thank our Congressional leaders— Senators Sullivan, Murkowski, and Markey and Representative Young—for continuing to champion and advance the Young Fishermen’s Development Program and salute President Biden for securing this bi-partisan success.”

“Commercial fishing has a rich history and vital place in our economy,” said Stephanie Sykes, Program and Outreach Coordinator for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “To continue this legacy, we must support the next generation through considerable barriers including complex regulations, high cost of entry, and fluctuating markets. We applaud Congress for funding the Young Fishermen’s Development Program, which will be instrumental to new and beginning fishermen navigating the industry.” 

Even before needing to navigate the changes and consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there were immense challenges for new commercial fishing entrants, including high cost of entry, financial risks, and limited entry-level opportunities. Since the onset COVID-19, those challenges have been amplified as the ongoing pandemic continues to disrupt America’s commercial fishermen and fishing communities and jeopardize our country’s food security and supply chains.

According to Marissa Wilson, Executive Director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, “There is a great need, highlighted in tumultuous times like these, to continue the tradition of weaving people and place together in reciprocity. Fishermen who harvest with deep knowledge and respect are an essential part of abundant coastal ecosystems. This funding is a needed investment in local food systems along thousands of miles of coastline; a true victory.”

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program is a workforce development grant program to educate, train, and mentor young and beginning commercial fishermen. The underlying law authorizes $2 million in funding for the program every year for the next six years. Eligible applicants for the grant program include state Sea Grant programs, state, local, and tribal organizations, community-based NGOs, fishermen’s cooperatives or associations, colleges, and universities.

According to Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, “The U.S. commercial fishing industry is a vital component of our food system. Fishermen on every U.S. coast from Maine to Alaska strive to provide sustainable, healthy food to our communities and the nation. We must invest in the next generation of harvesters who are facing unprecedented challenges as they try to build viable small businesses in coastal communities. Thank you to the entire Maine delegation, including appropriators Rep. Pingree and Sen. Collins, for ensuring the Young Fishermen's Development Act remains a priority and for being such strong supporters of Maine's working waterfront communities."

The Young Fishermen’s Development Act has been a top priority for the FCC since 2015. Over the years, more than fifty young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast have traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the Act. After enactment, the next step was for Congress to authorize funding through the appropriations process to implement the program. The FCC is thrilled this next, critical step has been completed.  

According to Eric Brazer, Deputy Director for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, “Commercial fishing has a long tradition and rich culture in this country, spanning all coastlines. As the landscape of this industry evolves, it’s vital to provide training and pathways for the next generation to be set up for success and continue providing fresh, sustainable seafood to dinner plates across the country. We thank Congress for prioritizing workforce development and training for the young fishermen who will be the face of this industry’s future.” 

The FCC is grateful that this program and the future of the commercial fishing industry has remained a priority for our bipartisan, bicameral congressional champions. We look forward to continuing working with them, NOAA Sea Grant, and our partners to ensure the Young Fishermen’s Development Program is started this year. This is a proud and important moment for U.S. fishing communities and future generations of commercial fishermen on every coast.

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Stories from Gulf of Alaska fishermen are headed to the Library of Congress

KTOO

February 3, 2022 by Kirsten Dobroth, KMXT - Kodiak

A fisherman from Seldovia is collecting stories from fellow Gulf of Alaska fishermen. The oral history audio project will eventually be sent to the Library of Congress.

It was in the mid 1990s when Josh Wisniewski landed in Kachemak Bay as an 18-year-old. Today, he’s a set netter and still fishes halibut out of Seldovia. That’s also where the inspiration for his current audio project was born.

Wisniewski visited Kodiak in January for the project and plans to return later this spring. (Photo courtesy of Marissa Wilson)

“When I was a kid and came across the bay here and started, you know, meeting and fishing for Alaskan Native elders who have been here forever – but as well as other people who had been fishing here since before statehood,” he said, “I was just amazed by peoples’ stories for one, but also the depth of peoples’ knowledge.”

The Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center hands out grants annually to document the oral histories of tradespeople across the country. They’re then sent to the Library’s archive. Wisniewski was one of six awarded the grant last year through the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

This year’s audio contributions include stories from mail carriers in Appalachia and healthcare workers in New York’s Hudson River Valley. Wisniewski’s recordings will be the first stories from Alaska.

“It’s just a really wide range of people that reflect the diversity of the United States,” he said.

He started recording stories last fall and plans to talk to 20 fishermen. He’s been to Homer, Seldovia, the southside of Kachemak Bay and Sitka. He was also in Kodiak last month and will visit again later this spring. He said many of the stories touch on the changes in commercial fishing’s technology over the years.

“I find a common theme of just an intrinsic value people have on the experience of it, whether it’s pivotal experiences on the ocean and opportunities to see yourself and test yourself as you push yourself physically and mentally and emotionally sometimes, in complex situations. And just an overall evaluation of the camaraderie among fishermen,” said Wisniewski.

Wisniewski plans to whittle down his recordings and submit them to the Library of Congress this summer. He said he’ll continue the project after that though, and hopes to release a podcast from the stories.

Halibut Catch Sharing Plan Update

The Council voted to analyze alternatives to reallocate up to 5% of the combined charter commercial catch limit to the charter sector in Areas 2C and 3A.  That translates to analyzing up to a 27% increase in the charter allocation in 2C and up to a 28% increase in the 3A charter allocation.  In terms of pounds, that is 223,000 pounds (worth $11 million in quota share assets) in Area 2C and 603,000 pounds (worth $29 million in QS assets) in Area 3A.

 

The final statement of the motion did get amended to identify compensated allocation via the RQE as the Council’s preferred approach to reallocation, and to identify that the Council will table or “refine” the uncompensated reallocation alternatives if the RQE funding mechanism is authorized by Congress AND established by the Council.  In other words, the commercial fleet is being held hostage to the RQE being implemented—and the Council STILL might vote to reallocate quota even with the RQE mechanisms in place—at least they have held open that option.


Council member Andy Mezirow, the charter operator on the Council, made the motion and led the charge.  Cora Campbell identified factually incorrect statements in the purpose and need statement and led an effort to withdraw Area 2C from the reallocation action. Council members John Jensen, Kenny Down and Steve Marx voted with Cora on the 2C amendment.  Of note, state representatives from Alaska, Washington and Oregon voted against Cora’s motion. After amendments, Cora, John and Kenny voted against the main motion and pointed out that further analysis of reallocation would destabilize the commercial sector and tear apart coastal communities.  Every other Council member voted to analyze the alternatives for uncompensated reallocation.


Thank you to all who sent comments or provided testimony during the meeting.  Every letter and every comment matters. 

For updates sign up for emails from halibutcoalition@gmail.com or join Facebook Halibut Coalition.

To review the timeline of this issue, click below:

 Development of the Council’s GHL and other halibut charter policies by year of Council action 

Halibut Catch Sharing Plan ACTION ALERT

The Halibut Catch Sharing Plan is under review by the Council in February 2022 and the charter fleet is asking for more commercial quota to be reallocated to the charter sector—this despite the fact that the CSP allows charter operators to lease commercial quota and the council has approved a Recreational Quota Entity program to allow the charter fleet to purchase commercial quota (once the funding mechanism is approved by Congress).  

The NPFMC is taking up a scheduled review of the Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) Feb 1-10.  Some charter organizations are working to take more uncompensated quota from the commercial sector, despite the CSP allowance for charter operators to lease commercial quota and the Recreational Quota Entity’s (RQE) proposal to allow a charter entity to purchase commercial quota for use by the charter sector.  The RQE authority to collect fees pends Congressional action; when/if passed, this will allow the RQE to purchase up to 10% of 2C QS and 12% of 3A QS. The Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) was implemented in 2014 to end the reallocation of halibut from the commercial to the charter fleet. 

NPFMC meeting info and analysis is at http://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/2753 Agenda Item D1.

Written comments must be received by COB 1/28/22; oral testimony at the SSC (1/31), AP (2/1) and NPFMC (2/8).

COMMENT PROCEDURES.

1.        Written comments must be submitted electronically by 5PM AST January 28.

a.       Go to http://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/2753 and scroll down to item D1. 

b.       Click on “comment now”.  Recommend typing up comments ahead of time so you can copy/past or attach.  Written comments will not be made public until after comment period closes

2.       Oral comments will be @Feb 1 at the Advisory Panel and @ February 8 at the NPFMC.  The links for signup will be activated later.  And you will need to call in by phone; instructions will be provided on the meeting website.

For updates sign up for emails from halibutcoalition@gmail.com or join Facebook Halibut Coalition.

To review the timeline of this issue, click below:

 Development of the Council’s GHL and other halibut charter policies by year of Council action 


We’re all richer thanks to nature’s dividend

Thursday, December 16, 2021 6:26pm - Juneau Empire

By Sam Skaggs

If you live in Southeast Alaska, you know that Southeast is a rich place abundant with natural, renewable capital. That natural capital provides us with wild fish and game that we harvest and process for the winter months, good paying jobs in industries such as commercial fishing, guiding and tourism, stores 44% of the carbon stored in all natural forests, and directly creates millions of dollars in regional wealth. What is Southeast Alaska’s natural capital worth? And how do we ensure that the region’s ecosystems continue to produce these same services and value for generations to come? These are questions that we must be asking ourselves as we weigh resource management and policy decisions, including reinstating the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest.

Much like a bank, Southeast Alaska’s natural capital provides “dividends” year after year. Our region’s network of coastal-temperate rainforests, rich estuaries, freshwater aquatic ecosystems, and the near-shore and off-shore marine waters each provide critical ecosystem services that benefit our local communities, national economy, and even global trade. Several years ago, a few of us started to refer to Southeast Alaska as a “SeaBank” in acknowledgement that the region’s forests, marine environment and freshwater aquatic ecosystems produce tremendous economic output that benefits a wide range of shareholders, including those of us who live here. In 2017, the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust created the SeaBank Program to help quantify the total value of SeaBank’s ecosystem services, especially the services that are less visible but are essential to the economic stability and resiliency of our region.

The SeaBank Program just recently released its annual report, which concluded that the estimated global ecosystem service values for all SeaBank biomes are between $125 and $145 trillion per year! SeaBank’s largest natural capital asset is the coastal rainforest biome, which provides asset values for multiple ecosystem services valued at $3,000 per hectare. If you multiply that number times the 11 million acres of Southeast’s forested natural capital, then you’re looking at more than $13 billion annually generated by provisioning ecosystem services for wildlife, carbon sequestration, fish habitat and outdoor recreation. That’s a huge dividend by any measure.

While these massive numbers can feel abstract, we can see the value of SeaBank more directly when we look at Southeast Alaska’s largest private sector industries: commercial fishing and seafood processing, and tourism which combined supported more than 12,000 jobs (three quarters of which were held by local residents) and generated more than half a billion dollars in earnings in 2019. If SeaBank’s ecosystems were to stop functioning and disappear, so too would those jobs and industries.

While SeaBank gives us a lot to celebrate and be thankful for, it’s clear based on the latest research that climate change is already starting to have impacts on our coastal ecosystems and their productivity. We’re seeing some of these impacts in recent extreme weather events such as droughts and atmospheric rivers and will likely see an increase in these extreme weather events. These weather events and changing ocean conditions threaten SeaBank’s estuaries, rivers, and forests. That in turn threatens the value and benefits that we receive and rely on. One of the best ways we can protect the $125 trillion that SeaBank provides in annual ecosystem services is by protecting SeaBank’s natural capital and making sure the forests and rivers continue to function and provide the services that they have for millennia. We must adopt climate mitigation policies that prioritize protection of SeaBank’s coastal ecosystems from destructive activities like industrial scale logging, which drain resources and economic value from our region. Reinstating the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest is a perfect next step in doing just that.

At the end of the day, SeaBank’s numbers speak for themselves and paint a very clear picture of what’s needed to keep our region’s ecosystems productive and our communities stable and resilient. We can’t improve on what nature has created, but we can sure as heck muck it up. As we are all shareholders of SeaBank, we must take this information to heart and use it to guide us in how we manage our natural capital. I hope that we can be smart investors and protect our greatest assets so that we can all continue to live in this exceptional place and enjoy the rich quality of life that Southeast Alaska offers.

• Sam Skaggs, recently retired, was a registered investment adviser with over 30 years’ experience managing portfolios and giving financial advice to individuals and organizations in Alaska. Now living in Sitka, Skaggs was also President of the Skaggs Foundation, a family foundation that funded conservation projects and helped build community in Alaska beginning in 1988.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.