Fishlines newsletter

Vol. 37, No. 7
July 2017

UAF student Maggie Chan awarded marine policy fellowship in DC

young woman's smiling faceMaggie Chan

Maggie Chan, graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will head to Washington, DC, next year as a Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. She is in a select group of 61 fellows nominated by Sea Grant programs nationwide who will start their fellowships in February 2018.

Chan is a PhD candidate in the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, studying the effects of regulations on subsistence and sport halibut fishing in Alaska. Her results provide much needed information on the adaptations fishermen make in response to environmental and regulatory changes. She plans to graduate in December 2017.

If given the option, Chan would choose to work in the legislative branch of government. “A legislative fellowship would help me synthesize our national perspective toward marine resources, and I hope to take that perspective to the international fisheries management stage,” she said.

Experience in coastal communities from Madagascar to Alaska has inspired her career aspiration to work in international marine policy.

Alaska Sea Grant currently has two Knauss Fellows in DC. Charlotte Regula-Whitefield is a legislative fellow in US Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office, and Kelly Cates works as an executive fellow in the NOAA Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The one-year Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship was established in 1979 to provide an educational opportunity for students interested in marine resources and national policy decisions. The experience has served as a springboard to related careers for over a thousand fellows.

Summer interns focus on seafood science in Kodiak

Young man in boat holds fishCamron Christoffersen

Camron Christoffersen, a Utah resident, is spending his summer in Alaska exploring how long and at what temperature fish need to be frozen to be parasite-free. At the same time, Phil Ganz is working on how best to communicate complicated science topics to the public.

Christoffersen and Ganz are interns at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Their paid internships are sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and Alaska Sea Grant. Michael Kohan, technical director at ASMI, is guiding the interns on their work this summer.

“I’m creating material for the fishing and seafood industries, and the general public, on seafood science–related issues. Right now I’m working on an infographic about ocean acidification,” said Ganz, who is scheduled to graduate in August with a master’s in fisheries from UAF.

Ganz’ academic work was on natural mortality in commercially harvested groundfish. “My master’s was focused on quantitative topics such as stock assessments. I was using models and doing that kind of analysis. I thought this internship would be a good change of pace and allow me to develop skills in communicating science to nonscientists,” Ganz said.

Besides creating the infographic, he is making videos and posters for seafood processors about safety issues, including how to avoid cross-contamination. Ganz previously worked as a federal fisheries observer for NOAA Fisheries and at a lodge on the Kenai Peninsula. He’s hoping to get hired by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after his internship.

Christoffersen graduated from Brigham Young University in April with a bachelor’s degree in biology. While at BYU, he spent time researching age versus growth trends for quillback rockfish and gained some experience in stable isotope characteristics and parasite comparisons on rockfish species.

He’s spending the summer investigating the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for making sure seafood is free of viable parasites before being sold to the public. “There are scientists and commercial fishermen who feel that these requirements may be excessive for certain species of fish,” Christoffersen said.

He has developed a study in which he will use pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down food and that is retrieved from pig stomachs. Pepsin will help him locate parasites and verify if they are dead after being frozen. 

But it’s not all work, all the time, for the interns.

“Chris Sannito took us gillnetting on his boat. It was sweet. We caught 63 sockeye,” Christoffersen said. Sannito is Alaska Sea Grant’s Kodiak-based seafood quality specialist.

He also got to do some bear viewing on the outing. “We saw a three-year-old sow last night at the Buskin River weir. She just came over the guard rail and followed the river,” Christoffersen said.

Alaska Sea Grant helps get new fish plant rolling

welcome to Hydaburg signCourtesy KRBD

A new fish plant opened last month in Hydaburg, a village in Southeast Alaska trying to revive its seafood industry.

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is located in a former cold storage that hasn’t operated in nearly three decades but is now bustling with activity as the commercial fishing season goes into full swing. Hydaburg is Alaska’s largest community of Haida tribal members. About 400 people live in the coastal Prince of Wales Island village, surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.

“As soon as the trollers come in, we’re ready,” said plant manager Jess Dilts in an interview with Alaska Sea Grant.

The plant is about 7,000 square feet, he said. The Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the City of Hydaburg, who own the plant, hope to eventually include a retail section and smokery.

Dilts flew to Kodiak in recent months to receive training and certification from Alaska Sea Grant in safe food handling practices and sanitation. The training was held at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

“It was very valuable,” Dilts said. “The last time I was in the seafood industry was in 1989, 1990. We didn’t have all these regulations that we have now.”

Chris Sannito, Alaska Sea Grant seafood quality specialist, helped Dilts through the process of gaining the required paperwork. One of the federal requirements was a HACCP plan, a management system to reduce safety hazards from handling raw food. (HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.)

“I was one of the lead consultants on the project. They reached out to Sea Grant for help in writing the HACCP and sanitation plans and kind of figuring out the process and flow of opening a fish plant,” said Sannito.

Sannito visited Hydaburg on two occasions to help install sanitation equipment and offer his expertise.

“They’re going to be doing mainly troll-caught salmon. It’s a very nice plant,” said Sannito.

Depending on the volume of salmon that trollers offload at the plant, fish will either be flown to Seattle from an airport in the neighboring community of Klawock, or it’ll go on a freezer container by ferry to Ketchikan and from there to Seattle.

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is working with a broker in Seattle who will take it from there. “He has markets in Boston, Denver, Oregon, and some other places,” Dilts said. “We’re ready to go.”

Read KRBD’s recent story “New fish plant to bring traffic, jobs to Hydaburg.”

Alaska teachers strengthen science education with help from Alaska Sea Grant

People look at sample collected from tidepool

Alaska Sea Grant helped sponsor a workshop for teachers in the Alaska capital in June as part of its mission to promote marine literacy.

Ten teachers from Juneau and Cordova gathered at Lena Point where the University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries facility is located. They were there for a curriculum-writing workshop led by Marilyn Sigman and Peggy Cowan. An associate professor at UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Sigman also serves as Alaska Sea Grant’s marine education specialist. Cowan is a former director of Alaska Sea Grant’s “Sea Week” program and former superintendent of the Juneau School District.

The workshop goal was to write lesson plans for Alaska Sea Grant’s Alaska Seas and Watersheds curriculum. The K–8 curriculum was developed by Alaska teachers to provide teaching resources with high-quality content focused on marine science topics.

“This curriculum was last revised by teachers in 2009 to be aligned with Alaska’s state science standards and to be available online. The task this time was to align with new national standards for science that include technology and engineering, and new state standards for math, English and language arts. In addition, we asked teachers to emphasize place-based content, including connections to local Alaska Native cultures,” Sigman said.

The lesson plans developed at the workshop are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a national effort to improve content and the way science is taught in K–12 classrooms. In addition to learning about current marine research and writing lesson plans, the teachers piloted field-trip teaching activities at low tide on a Juneau beach on the last day of the workshop.

The field trip lessons will be used in Juneau and Cordova during Sea Week, the popular marine literacy program for K-8 students that originated in Juneau more than 40 years ago and evolved into the statewide Alaska Seas and Watersheds program. Beginning in the 1980s, Alaska Sea Grant expanded Juneau’s tradition statewide, continuing to emphasize field trips along with the use and celebration of the local environment and community partnerships to teach science and other subjects.

Four of seven Juneau School District teachers who participated in the June workshop were “second-generation” Sea Week-ers, having grown up doing Sea Week field trips every year during elementary school in Juneau, Hoonah, or Angoon. Three of the four teachers were Alaska Natives, members of the Tlingit tribe.

Hans Chester, who works as an Indian studies specialist, was among them. Chester emphasized the importance of integrating culture into education.

“Designing lesson plans that incorporate the cultural backgrounds of Alaska students is a powerful way to engage and teach them. Culture is everything we have, think and do as members of a society,” Chester said.

Other workshop participants included educators from community partners—a Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery in Juneau and the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova—who sponsor and provide Sea Week field trips.

The final lesson plans will be integrated into curricula in Juneau and Cordova school districts. The lessons will also be made available to teachers statewide through the Alaska Seas and Watersheds website and through professional development workshops that Alaska Sea Grant holds throughout the state.

UAF PhD candidate hired by Falkland Islands Fisheries Department

three men hold large fishToothfish research team, Falkland Islands

Thomas Farrugia is completing his PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He has been funded in part by Alaska Sea Grant. In 2015 Farrugia served as a Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in Washington, DC, nominated by Alaska Sea Grant.

He was recently hired by the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department. Following is an interview with Farrugia.

Thomas Farrugia: Thanks for your interest in my post-UAF life. I’m happy to provide whatever info you need for your blog entry!

Sue Keller: What are your responsibilities at the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department?

TF: I am currently the stock assessment scientist for Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) for the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department. Toothfish is also known as Chilean sea bass in North American restaurants and is the most valuable fishery in the Falklands, so the sustainability of the stock and persistence of the fishery is of primary concern.

My responsibilities include identifying and coordinating research needs on toothfish, developing stock assessment models, and providing input to managers on harvest control rules, quotas and other regulations. In addition, I am leading the department’s effort to have the Falkland Islands toothfish fishery recertified under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label.

SK: It is a pretty small country—how many professional fisheries managers do they have?

TF: The Falkland Islands Fisheries Department has 17 full time employees, including two stock assessment scientists, fisheries researchers, data managers, and fisheries enforcement. It’s a surprisingly small department in charge of the most profitable industry in the Falkland Islands: fisheries represent between 30 and 40 percent of this British Offshore Territory’s GDP, mostly through license fees and taxes.

SK: What aspects of the job appeal to you?

TF: This position is providing me with an opportunity to put my training as a fisheries scientist to use, while getting experience managing an important resource. I contribute to data collection, such as the three-week research cruise I just spent tagging toothfish and running hook trials on the fleet longliner, as well as using the research on toothfish to inform stock assessment models and harvest recommendations. In addition, the effort to recertify Falkland Islands toothfish through MSC is allowing me to delve into some international policy and management issues.

SK: What parts of your experience as a Knauss Fellow, and a graduate student, have provided you with the skills and abilities to do the job there?

TF: Both my graduate work and the Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy fellowship have provided crucial skills that I will be putting to use as a stock assessment scientist. My dissertation explored aspects of population dynamics models and bioeconomics that are going to be central to the work I will accomplish in this new position. Although the specific tools I will be using differ from those I have used in the past, the knowledge and language I’ve acquired in the academic setting have allowed me to immediately start contributing to the fisheries work here.

The experience of being a Knauss fellow gave me an understanding of how policies are developed, which will be important in a setting such as the Falkland Islands where a short hierarchy allows scientists and managers many opportunities to interact. I also acquired some international fisheries policy experience during the fellowship that will be helpful in navigating the issues presented by a species that is harvested around the world, crosses international boundaries and is sold to the global market.

SK: What other comments do you have?

TF: One of the most appealing aspects of this position is that it presents an interesting combination of being a small department with many opportunities to get involved in some very large issues. We are also encouraged to develop our own research program as many of the fishery species and stocks around the Falkland Islands are very data limited. So there is lots of room to grow!

Petersburg kids get close-up look at sea creatures

kids and teachers on dock

Kids in Petersburg, Alaska, had a sea animal touch tank come right to their doorstep in June. The dockside activity was part of a summertime science lesson offered by Alaska Sea Grant’s Sunny Rice, in partnership with the Petersburg Public Library and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A few days before the event, Fish and Game divers collected anemones, sea stars, hermit crabs, and other animals while they were out on a trip and kept them alive on their research vessel. They brought the animals to the dock and put them in totes for the kids to look at.

After the 10 elementary-age children studied the animals, the divers dove in the harbor and found more animals to view, adding a few species of crabs, sea urchins and sea cucumbers to the totes. The kids decided which tank each new species belonged in.

The divers found some trash too—an opportunity to talk about what doesn’t belong in the ocean.

“We usually have an event called ‘Diving for Science’ as part of the Rainforest Festival, but our divers will not be available in September, so we did it in conjunction with the public library summer reading program this time around,” said Rice, a Marine Advisory agent based in Petersburg.

“It was nice because we limited the number of participants to 10, which made it a bit more structured. Two of the kids were brand new to Alaska and had never been on the dock before!” Rice said.

The totes served as temporary touch tanks for kids who don’t usually have access to a museum or aquarium. They learned how to observe quietly, and all about where the animals live and how they move, eat and protect themselves.

The divers gave the kids an overview of their gear and safety practices, and talked about the sea bottom sampling system they follow while counting geoducks and sea cucumbers in Frederick Sound.

After the two-hour children’s program, they invited the public to come down to check out the animals.

“I’m glad to be part of the broader marine literacy effort by Alaska Sea Grant around the state. It’s always great to expose the public to the world under the sea they don’t get to see very often,” Rice said.

Coming up