Vol. 31, No. 10
The 27th Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, Fishing People of the North: Cultures, Economies, and Management Responding to Change, was held last month in Anchorage. It was the first Wakefield symposium to focus on the work of social scientists—anthropologists, sociologists, Native knowledge experts, and economists; and had the highest attendance of all Wakefield symposia—about 174 people, from ten U.S. states and seven nations.
The audience mix was particularly appreciated, according to survey responses. Academic researchers, subsistence and commercial fisheries employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and fishing people, many of whom are indigenous people from Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Russia, filled the conference room each day. “The symposium provided an opportunity for the managing scientific community to meet and interact with the local Native peoples who are most impacted by their decisions and actions,” said one participant.
Paula Cullenberg, Alaska Sea Grant associate director and Marine Advisory coastal community specialist, initiated the topic for the meeting a few years ago, and helped form the steering committee and organize the meeting. “What an excellent conference from my perspective!,” she commented.
The symposium steering committee gave awards to two Ph.D. students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, for their excellent presentations. Zac Hoyt won the oral competition for his talk, The Impact of Recolonization by Sea Otters, Enhydra lutris, on Communities in Southern Southeast Alaska, and Megan Peterson took the poster award for her presentation, An Interdisciplinary Investigation of the Changing Relationship between Longline Fishermen and Cetaceans in Alaska. Ten students from several nations competed for the $300 prizes. Travel to the symposium was paid for nine graduate students, and seven students earned their registration fees by working microphones, lights, and timing during the symposium sessions.
Many presenters generously provided their PowerPoint outlines and posters, now available on the symposium program website. A peer-reviewed proceedings book will be published by Alaska Sea Grant in 2012.
A few months ago Ph.D. student Jason R. Gasper successfully defended his thesis, Policy and Market Analysis of World Dogfish Fisheries and an Evaluation of the Feasibility of a Dogfish Fishery in Waters of Alaska, USA.
Spiny dogfish, a shark that grows to about four feet in length, is a valuable commodity on the global market and is captured worldwide. Currently there are no directed fisheries for this species in Alaska. Gasper suggests that a profitable Alaska fishery for spiny dogfish will require regulatory changes and improved stock assessment to allow a directed fishery, plus eco-labeling.
Gasper evaluated the spatial distribution of spiny dogfish in the Gulf of Alaska, summarized world markets and conditions that led to a decline in demand in Europe, and provided policy and market overview of dogfish fisheries in Alaska.
Gasper says media attention resulting from overfishing has reduced demand for dogfish products in Europe, the location of key markets for meat, and that regaining market share there will require eco-labeling to tell consumers about sustainable dogfish stocks. The need for eco-labeling in Asian countries is less clear due to unknown inter-Asian market channels for fins and meat and lack of information on consumer attitudes toward labels.
Gordon Kruse is Gasper’s major professor, and Alaska Sea Grant has funded some of Gasper’s student expenses. He is currently a natural resource management specialist in the NOAA Fisheries Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region.
The North Pacific Research Board announced the appointment of Gay Sheffield, Bering Strait agent for the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program in Nome, to its advisory panel for the Bering Sea region. Other new members are Ed Poulsen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, in Shoreline, Washington; and Phillip Zavadil, director of the Aleut community of St. Paul Island.
Energy costs are a significant part of seafood processing plant expenditures. With rural electrical rates often above 60 cents per kWh, analyzing electricity use and finding savings and efficiencies are essential. In response to requests for energy conservation assistance from processors, Chuck Crapo, seafood quality specialist, and Torie Baker, Cordova-based Marine Advisory agent for Prince William Sound, launched a project to help seafood processors evaluate energy use. The project is a partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Northern Engineering and is funded by the Alaska Energy Authority.
UAF engineers trained in energy audit methods, with help from Crapo and Baker, conducted energy audits at six large seafood plants during the early phase of the project. The team audited salmon processing plants in southcentral Alaska in 2010, cod and pollock plants in Kodiak in 2011, and salmon and pollock plants in western Alaska in 2011. Crapo and Baker also assembled energy-metering kits to lend to small seafood processors.
Two of the large plants have begun implementing operational and equipment changes that were pointed out in the audit reports, and each has requested follow-up assistance to show savings after the 2011 season. A website will highlight audit results, which will be useful for monitoring common industry practices, processes, and equipment.
Each year, Alaska fishermen catch more than 30 million pink salmon, the most abundant and least expensive Alaska salmon species. Most of the catch is packed into cans or made into frozen fillets. Finding new value-added uses for the salmon is a goal of both industry and Alaska Sea Grant.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Chuck Crapo, Marine Advisory seafood quality specialist; Alexandra Oliveira, University of Alaska Fairbanks associate professor of seafood chemistry; Duy Nguyen from the University of Nha Trang, Vietnam; and Peter Bechtel, USDA Subarctic Agricultural Research Unit, developed a process that cuts the freeze-drying time from 20 hours to about nine hours. The new process heat-treats the raw material to make the moisture in the salmon easier to remove. Researchers made freeze-dried pink salmon cubes, a tasty product that can be used in soups, salads, and other dishes.
Izetta Chambers, Marine Advisory agent in Dillingham, is a longtime fisherman and seafood business entrepreneur in Bristol Bay. She also holds a law degree. In addition to helping fishermen market their seafood and find new local uses for fish processing waste, she has helped people gain a voice in how their resources are managed. Chambers teamed up with faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus to offer for-credit classes on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as public workshops on how citizens can become active in the environmental decision-making process.
Chambers reports that 68 people have participated in workshops, and at least seven have offered testimony to agencies in response to proposed resource development or fisheries policy formulation. The next workshop for residents and fishermen, Introduction to the National Environmental Policy Act and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council Process, is scheduled for October 13 in Homer.
Alaska Sea Grant joined forces with Washington Sea Grant and the National Sea Grant Office to share an exhibit at the American Fisheries Society conference in Seattle last month. An Alaska Sea Grant “all-star” book signing brought a constant stream of people to the booth, to interact with authors Duane Stevenson (NOAA), Field Guide to Sharks, Skates, and Ratfish of Alaska; Elaina Jorgensen (NOAA), Field Guide to Squids and Octopods of the Eastern North Pacific and Bering Sea; Mandy Lindeberg (NOAA), Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska; and Anne Salomon (Simon Fraser University), Imam Cimiucia: Our Changing Sea. Ray Troll, who created art for the cover of Stevenson's field guide, also participated.
Marilyn Sigman, Alaska Sea Grant marine education specialist, presented a poster on COSEE at the meeting, and Kurt Byers, Education Services manager, gave a swing dance lesson at the opening night reception. About 3,800 people attended the conference.