AMCC in the News

Tanner Crab Fishery Reopens in Kodiak: Theresa Peterson

Date Posted: January 19, 2018       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Press Releases Uncategorized

Local Tanner crab vessels steamed out of Kodiak and Old Harbor on January 18th, with high hopes for a successful crab season.  We always leave that way, full of hope. Why else would we keep going out?

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Tanner crab boat, F/V Jamboree, heads out to the fishing grounds.

The winter Tanner crab fishery is somewhat unique in that it was designed with input from the community-based fleet. Fishermen wanted managers to factor in safety, equity, and conservation into how the fishery operates.

One way managers do this is by using the weather to dictate openings. If the daily weather update for the fishing grounds includes a gale warning, managers delay the fishery for 24 hours. Doing so provides for greater safety and equity in the fishery, as it is dangerous for smaller vessels to travel in rough weather with crab gear on their decks. While it may be an uncomfortable ride for an 80-foot vessel carrying 20 heavy crab pots out to the grounds, it is rarely life threatening. However, for a 42-foot shallow draft seiner, like our boat, it is life threatening and we would have to stay in town. Thus, without the weather stand down, the fishery could be harvested with by a handful of larger boats while the rest of the fleet is tied to the docks. Working together, the fishermen came up with a solution. This year, the season was delayed for three days due to gale winds clocked at up to 106 knots.

The fishery was also designed with input by fishermen to have a minimal impact on Tanner crab stocks. Crab pots can only be hauled from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, thereby reducing the mortality of discarded crab—those that are undersized or female. Minimizing the number of times a pot is hauled and therefore how often crab are handled reduces stress on the resource.  The daylight-only requirement limits the exposure of discarded crab to colder temperatures in the night. Vessels are also limited to 20 pots, depending on the total allowable catch of crab, which serves to both minimize the impact of the gear on the crab and level the playing field. When the allowable harvest goes up, so does the number of pots the fishermen can use. When the total allowable catch is under 2 million pounds, the limit is 20 pots; as that catch rises, the number of pots allowed stair-steps all the way to 60 pots (when the allowable catch is over 5 million pounds. This year the total allowable catch for the Kodiak Island district is 400,000 pounds, and after a four-year closure due to low crab abundance, fishermen are supportive of the limit and just happy to be fishing.

 

Tanner Crab Picking Pot

Crew members Jay Lund and Hunter Bigley, two young men raised in Kodiak, carefully sort a pot of Tanner crab on the F/V Patricia Sue.

In a town like Kodiak, which is sustained by fishing, there are few opportunities to make a living other than commercial fishing.  As community-based fishermen dependent on the health of the fisheries resource to make a living, many fishermen advocate in the fisheries policy arena in support of sustainable fisheries and opportunities for the next generation. We work hard to share both our experience and knowledge of the industry with management bodies like the Alaska Board of Fish and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Both of these bodies are set up to provide stakeholder input, and policy makers value the contribution of the fishermen to inform decisions. This process, coupled with the influence of strong science, has led to the world-class, sustainable fisheries that are found throughout Alaskan waters.  I’m proud to call this state and Kodiak Island my home, and will continue to advocate for policies that sustain the stocks and provide other families the opportunity to make a living from the sea.



A Tanner “Giant Snow” Crab Offering

Date Posted: January 18, 2018       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Uncategorized

CATCH 49 - Alaska's Seafood Hub

For the first time in four years, the commercial Tanner crab fishery has opened, and AMCC is once again offering delicious Kodiak Tanner crab harvested by small-boat, conservation-minded fishermen to residents of the Anchorage and the MatSu area. This will be a short offering, from January 9th to the 19th, with limited crab available for purchase, so order while you can!

 ORDER NOW

The Tanner crab fishery is extremely important to the diverse fishing portfolio of Kodiak’s small-boat fishermen. Your crab is harvested by local  conservation-minded fishermen in Kodiak, flash frozen, and shipped by air immediately to Anchorage. Available in 17 lb. shares of frozen leg clusters for $275. Orders must be placed by Friday, January 19th and picked up in Anchorage on January 29th from the AMCC office at 106 F St., between 10 am and 6 pm. (No shipping available.)


Executive Director Search Re-Opened

Date Posted: January 17, 2018       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Uncategorized

AMCC has re-opened the search process for an Executive Director after an initial first round of trying to identify our next leader. Outgoing Executive Director, Kelly Harrell, departed the organization after nearly 7 years at the helm

AMCC is offering a rare opportunity to lead a thriving nonprofit organization supporting sustainable fisheries, marine conservation, and strong communities. For more than two decades, AMCC has been a respected force in advancing major policies and advocating for marine conservation. The successful candidate for Executive Director (ED) will demonstrate a strong commitment to this vision and have a proven track record as a highly effective and collaborative team leader with demonstrated fundraising skills. Under the direction of a dedicated Board of Directors and working with a highly accomplished staff, the ED will lead the organization into the next chapter of a successful history.

The ED will work with a dynamic board and staff to sustain and increase the capacity of the organization through strategic and annual planning to achieve the organization’s goals. The ED is responsible for all aspects of fundraising, fiscal and operations management, staff development, and program innovation and evaluation. The ED manages an organizational budget of approximately $1 million. The position is based in AMCC’s main office in Anchorage, Alaska. The salary range is $70-80,000, depending on experience.

Applications are being accepted now, and will be considered until the position is filled. Please see http://www.akmarine.org/who-we-are/our-team/jobs-and-internships/ for directions on how to apply and a more detailed description.

The updated Executive Director job posting can be found here. Please share!

An Interim Director has been appointed while our search for a permanent E.D. continues. Our dedicated Board is committed to a  successful transition and is working with staff to ensure the organization continues to fire on all cylinders.



Announcing Call for 2018-2019 Host Organizations for AMCC Fishing Fellows Program!

Date Posted: December 13, 2017       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Uncategorized       Tags: Fisheries Access, Fishing Fellows, Working Waterfronts, Young Fishermen's Network

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AMCC is excited to announce that the application period for Alaska organizations interested in hosting a fishing fellow in 2018 is now open!

Our current cohort of fellows continue to impress us on and off the water. You can read more about what they are up to here and here.  

If you are an organization working on marine and fisheries related issues please consider hosting a fishing fellow. The deadline for this application period is January 16, 2018. You can submit your application and short fellowship project description at: akyoungfishermen.org

In early 2018, we will select 3-5 organizations to host fellows in the upcoming year. Once we’ve selected host organizations and projects we will put out the call for applicants interested in serving as fishing fellows. AMCC provides each fellow with a stipend. Host organizations provide mentorship, guidance and hands-on learning and leadership opportunities.

You can find more information on AMCC’s Fishing Fellows Program and answers to FAQs here.

Click here to apply to host a fellow in 2018-2019. 
P.S. For inspiration and ideas, you can read about 2017-2018 fellowship projects here.



Young Fishermen’s Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Date Posted: June 12, 2017       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Press Releases       Tags: Federal Fisheries Policy, Fisheries Access, Young Fishermen's Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2017

Young Fishermen’s Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

Initiative Gains Momentum as Senators Sullivan (AK), Murkowski (AK), Markey (MA) & Cantwell (WA) Champion Effort to Assist Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen

Washington, DC – The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) today applauded Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for cosponsoring the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (S.1323). The bipartisan and bicoastal bill, a top FCC priority, would give fishing communities a needed boost by addressing steep and growing obstacles – including high cost of entry and limited entry-level opportunities – facing the next generation of America’s commercial fishermen.

“The growing bipartisan momentum behind this bill is very encouraging and shows that leaders in both parties understand that fishermen in today’s world need to know a lot more than simply how to fish,” says John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We appreciate Senator Markey’s leadership in getting this program off the ground because it will give the next generation of fishermen training in fisheries management, business planning and market development tools they’ll need to make a good living bringing sustainable seafood to Americans.”

The Senate legislation, which aligns closely with a House version introduced in April by U.S.Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), would launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen, providing grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program.

“As one of those dependent on the long-term success of our working waterfronts, I’m very grateful to Senators Sullivan and Murkowski for supporting legislation that recognizes the challenges today’s fishermen face,” said Hannah Heimbuch, an Alaska commercial fisherman who also works for Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “By supporting independent fishermen with this action, we have an opportunity to bolster American food security and the health of coastal communities.”

The bill is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture. Young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast recently traveled to Washington, DC to urge legislators to support the initiative.

“Fishing employs more Alaskans than any other industry in the state, but high barriers and costs remain for newer generations attempting to fill the ranks of this vital sector of our economy,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK). “This legislation will coalesce regional efforts to lower these barriers through new grants, training opportunities and an apprenticeship program that will help harness the experience of seasoned fishermen. Replenishing the stocks of qualified stewards of our fisheries will help ensure Alaska remains the superpower of seafood.”

“For centuries, fishing has been at the heart of coastal communities in Massachusetts, but it is an increasingly challenging one for new fishermen to join,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “This legislation will help make sure that our fishing industry continues to attract future generations of fishermen. These training programs will help young men and women be able to push off the dock into new careers and make vital economic contributions to their communities.”

About the Young Fishermen’s Development Act

Founded in 1994, Alaska Marine Conservation Council is a community-based, nonprofit organization committed to protecting the long-term health of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and sustaining the working waterfronts of our state’s coastal communities. Our members include fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, business owners, conservationists, families, and others who care deeply about Alaska’s oceans.

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Bill to Establish National Young Fishermen’s Program Introduced

Date Posted: April 13, 2017       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News Press Releases       Tags: Federal Fisheries Policy, Fisheries Access, Young Fishermen's Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 13, 2017

Bill to Establish National Young Fishermen’s Program Introduced

Initiative Gains Momentum as Reps. Young and Moulton Sponsor Legislation to Empower Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen

Washington, DC – Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) have introduced the Young Fishermen’s Development Act of 2017 (H.R. 2079), a bill that would establish the first national program to support young men and women entering the commercial fishing industry. The bipartisan, bicoastal legislation, was introduced on April 6 and would provide grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program. H.R. 2079 marks a big step forward in the Fishing Communities Coalition’s (FCC) push to launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen. Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC), a member organization of the FCC, has played an integral role in shaping this important legislation and generating diverse support from fishing communities and leaders.

“Alaskans understand that coastal communities rely on strong fisheries and fishermen to thrive,” said Alaska fisherman Hannah Heimbuch, AMCC staff and coordinator of the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network. “This is an excellent opportunity to work with our nation’s leaders to nurture future generations of commercial fishermen, empowering them to be capable business owners, strong community leaders, and providers of sustainably harvested American seafood.”

Despite daunting challenges that have made it harder than ever for young men and women to start a career in commercial fishing—including the high cost of entry, financial risks and limited entry-level opportunities—there is not a single federal program dedicated to training, educating and assisting young people starting their careers in commercial fishing. AMCC recognizes that this is a vital part of supporting the healthy future of coastal communities, families, and the food and opportunity they provide. The legislation introduced this week is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture.

“Congressman Young has long been a champion of Alaska’s fishermen, and we thank him for his strong leadership on this vital issue,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of young fishermen is essential to economic opportunity, food security and our entire way of life.”

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed initial support for the legislation, as dozens of FCC members, including commercial fishermen from New England, Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast have met with them to promote this and other priorities of small-boat community-based commercial fishermen.

“This innovative new program is only one effort to preserve fishing heritage and encourage new participation in the industry,” said Young. “Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before – new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities and a lack of support. This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods of fishing communities in Alaska and across the nation. I’m proud to stand with our young fishermen by introducing this important piece of legislation.”

“The fishing industry is vital to the Sixth District and to our entire region, but we’re at a crossroads,” said Moulton. “This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy. I’m grateful to Congressman Young for his collaboration on this bill and broader efforts to support our young fishermen.”

In addition to building congressional support, the Fishing Communities Coalition and its member organizations intend to meet with representatives from the Trump administration to seek support for the program.

Founded in 1994, Alaska Marine Conservation Council is a community-based, nonprofit organization committed to protecting the long-term health of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and sustaining the working waterfronts of our state’s coastal communities. Our members include fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, business owners, conservationists, families, and others who care deeply about Alaska’s oceans.

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Seafood Pick-Ups & Pop-Up Shop!

Date Posted: November 3, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog AMCC in the News

Stock Up on Local Seafood this Thursday–Saturday!

jakolof-oystersMissed your chance to order seafood through Catch of the Season? You can still take home Kodiak Jig Seafoods jig-caught rockfish and cod, and Taku River Reds coho salmon! Visit AMCC at our office in downtown Anchorage (106 F Street) on Thursday and Friday from 12–7 pm. We’ll also be in Fairbanks on Saturday at Beaver Sports.

 *Special Treat: Jakolof Bay Oyster Co. will be joining us to sell their fresh local oysters. Thursday only in Anchorage!*

Pricing is $7/lb. for cod, $13/lb for rockfish, and $1o/lb for coho ($1 more per lb in Fairbanks). Oysters vary between $14 and $17 per dozen.

Anchorage Pick-up/Pop-Up Shop:

AMCC’s downtown office: 106 F Street, Anchorage, AK 99501img_8932

  • Thursday, November 3, 12–7 pm
  • Friday, November 4, 12–7 pm

We’re the last blue house at the end of F St. Look for parking signs!

Fairbanks Pick-up:

Beaver Sports parking lot: 3480 College Rd., Fairbanks, AK 99709

  • Saturday, November 5, 12–7 pm

We will have bags on hand to help you transport your seafood. We recommend bringing a cooler, box, or bag to ensure your fish remains frozen.

Questions? Contact David Fleming at 907.277.5357 or seafood@akmarine.org.



Connecting the coast; bycatch in the Bering Sea

By Marissa Wilson, AMCC Board Member
Originally published in the Homer Tribune

marissa-wilsonA small but formative fraction of my life has been spent gazing out salt-sprayed windows at rugged terrain and open ocean.  My father’s silhouette was always incorporated in the scenery, reflected on the glass that shielded our fragile flesh from the elements. As he sat in the helm seat, occasionally leaning forward to alter our course or to study charts that he had known longer than he knew me, I looked out the window and absorbed what it meant to be a fisherman.

Thousands of miles of coastline, spanning from Attu to Port Townsend, have passed like this. The ocean below our vessel once seemed a vast unknown, prodded only by our longline gear in highly specific areas — little lines draped along ridges at particular depths within abstract boundaries. Throughout my adolescence, I became increasingly aware of certain truths surfacing from those depths. Halibut have become smaller, harder to find, and the amount we’ve been allowed to catch has declined significantly. Privately, I became concerned about the fate of our ocean-dependent lifestyle. My father has fished commercially for forty years. With the trend I witnessed, I couldn’t see how I would manage to do the same.

Adulthood brought the sobering realization that problems rarely fix themselves. With my mind set on a serious long-term relationship with halibut, I recognized the importance of understanding my partner and the issues it faced. I diversified my connection by working on a charter boat. Harvesting halibut for my own freezer strengthened the bond. The deeper I got into the world of fish, the more complex but interconnected it revealed itself to be.

Research from the International Pacific Halibut Commission, conducted since the 1920s, has revealed significant information about the lifestyle of the flatfish.

Halibut move offshore to breed in the deeper waters off the continental shelf. Eggs and larvae get carried with the currents in a counter-clockwise direction, turning an area northwest of the Gulf of Alaska into the landing ground — the nursery — for halibut stock. This is where the Bering Sea becomes a focal point in the lifecycle. As they mature, juvenile halibut begin a southern and eastern migration to counter the initial drift. As such, the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, or BSAI, is critical to the abundance of the resource throughout its population distribution.

The groundfish fleet that fishes in the Bering Sea consists of a handful of vessels owned by Seattle-based companies. This small fleet of huge ships drags large nets through the water, targeting groundfish — often shipped overseas for processing and consumption. In the last ten years — since I first started baiting longline hooks — 62.6 million pounds of halibut have been caught and killed in the BSAI as bycatch in those groundfish fisheries, 79 percent of that from one area, the Central Bering Sea.

Most of the halibut scooped up in trawl gear as bycatch are juveniles. Last year in the BSAI, one million halibut were caught in trawls. The average size of those fish: just 4.8 pounds. Beyond the immediate loss of these fish, the depletion of juvenile halibut stock prevents a robust population from maturing and taking hold along the entire coast. Of the juvenile halibut caught in trawl gear, 70 to 90 percent were destined to migrate to the Gulf of Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California.

The potential exponential growth of those wasted fish is incalculable, and their documented range makes this a coast-wide issue.

In publications issued by the trawl fleet, the current amount of bycatch is described as inconsequential. Their case is, notably, made in light of the profitability of trawling. Commercial, charter, and subsistence fishers along thousands of miles of coastline would likely disagree about the impact of the loss. Direct users of halibut absorb the negative consequences of a wasteful industry with deep pocketbooks and broad regulatory influence.

I think back to those precious moments of stillness between sets or ports, my tired head resting against a cold salt-sprayed window; reflecting. Will future generations have a robust resource to ponder over?

The coastline I’ve traced is linked by more than the wake of my memories — it’s connected by the processes of life and the power of continuity. Lifestyle preservation is, admittedly, an easy cause to fight for. Culture is the breath of human experience. But protecting personal interests over the health of the environment that sustains us is a plague that has led to the collapse of fisheries all around the world.

To the 2,714 halibut IFQ holders aboard the 1,157 vessels that fish it; the 77 registered buyers of halibut in the 32 communities where those fish land; the thousands of charter captains, deckhands, subsistence fishers, processors, and consumers of halibut: keep the Bering Sea on your radar.

This impacts you.

In June, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will decide whether or not to reduce the cap on Bering Sea halibut bycatch for the first time in decades. It is imperative that they make a meaningful cut, and reduce halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands by 50 percent. Please speak up on this issue, and send your comments to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov.

For more on the issue visit: halibut bycatch.



Catch shares – a cost to coastal communities

As Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management/catch shares are coming up at this week’s North Pacific Fishery Management Meeting in Anchorage (Oct. 6-14), we wanted to feature AMCC supporter and Gulf of Alaska fisherman, Alexus Kwachka’s views on the issue. The op-ed below can also be found in the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Catch shares come at a cost to coastal communities

“We are a fishing community. That’s one aspect of commercial fishing that everyone in Kodiak agrees on. We have an active waterfront and an infrastructure built to sustain our fishing town into the future. We have invested a tremendous amount of money to supply the volume of water and electricity needed to process fish. We’ve invested in a boat yard to maintain our vessels and many support businesses rely on the fleet to make ends meet. We are built on fish.

I have spent the last three decades fishing here and have seen a lot of changes. The change that concerns me the most is a relatively new federal fish policy called catch shares that gives away fishing rights to those fortunate few who are in the right place at the right time. If these fishing rights leave Kodiak – how do we get them back? How does the next generation find and afford these rights?

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is in the midst of developing a new management program for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet. A goal of the new program is to provide the tools to the trawl fleet to reduce bycatch of prohibited species like halibut, Chinook salmon and crab. These valuable species are caught as bycatch in trawl fisheries and are vital to coastal communities for our livelihoods and subsistence. The change is good and management should continually strive to reduce bycatch. However, as I read through the recently released discussion paper outlining the new management program I am struck with a depressing case of Déjà Vu — – are we really going to do this again? Is the State of Alaska really going to support a catch share program, which gives away the fishing rights of valuable groundfish species in the Gulf of Alaska to trawlers who are currently active in the fishery? Why would Alaska and Kodiak residents want to do this again? I understand the need to provide tools for the trawl fleet to reduce bycatch – in fact the trawl fleet has been operating under voluntary cooperative management agreements for years in the Pollock seasons. It appears to be working.

Despite the success of the voluntary coop, the discussion at the NPFMC continues to explore a more permanent solution through a catch share system, which would allocate quota based on a suite of qualifying years. It is all very complicated but at the end of the day it’s the same old thing we know all too well —– give away the rights to a public resource.

Catch shares come at a cost to coastal communities and these costs are well documented. They include loss of access for the next generation, lower crew pay, consolidation and flight of capital to name a few. We know this will happen; it is time to do something different. Community Fishing Associations are authorized in the Magnuson Stevens Act, the law governing our federal fisheries. They serve as a tool to anchor quota into historically dependent coastal communities. A Community Fishing Association can hold quota through an initial allocation and be structured to allow community values such as bycatch reduction, crew shares and community stability to be addressed effectively.

It is time to be proactive and innovative in designing this program. This community must be engaged and as community members we need to speak up.

The trawl industry is at the table, so should the rest of us.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is spending a lot of time talking about this at their meeting in October. Send a letter and share your concerns and hopes for the future of Kodiak as a fishing community. Letters addressing C-7 GOA Trawl Bycatch can be emailed to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov and must be received by September 30th to be included in Council members’ packets.

We need to be at the table, let’s work together to find management programs that work to better this community as a whole.

Sincerely,

Alexus Kwachka

Longtime Kodiak fisherman, member of the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council”



AMCC Member Weighs in on Bycatch

“The summer of 2014 represented a different kind of summer for Alaska fishermen. While commercial halibut fishermen have had their catch limits reduced for a number of years, this year the reductions hit charter fishermen in Southcentral Alaska as well. Anyone who went out on a charter boat out of Homer, Whittier, Seward, or Kodiak knows that this year, fishermen could only keep one halibut of any size, and the second halibut had to be smaller than 29 inches. Fishermen throughout the Gulf of Alaska faced restrictions on fishing for king salmon as well. While the restrictions hurt, we’re all willing to do our part to help give the struggling king salmon and halibut populations a chance to recover. However, as we all make sacrifices in commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries to support these iconic Alaskan fish species, our attention turns to another group of harvesters that has not been restricted nearly to the same degree — the Gulf trawl fisheries…”

Read the full op-ed by longtime AMCC member, former board member, and business member Captain Pete Wedin in the Alaska Dispatch News.

For more on what AMCC is doing to reduce bycatch, click here.



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