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October 2015 Fishlines Newsletter

Vol. 35, No. 10


October 2015

Coming up

Food and Seafood Training

student activity Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute

This fall Alaska Sea Grant is supporting economic development in the state by offering a number of food and seafood processing classes.

Back by popular demand, Marine Advisory seafood marketing specialist Quentin Fong is teaming up in October with Cooperative Extension’s Kate Idzorek to teach the remote interactive class Starting and Operating a Specialty Food Business in Alaska to 18 students.

Several classes will be taught at the UAF Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center. This month seafood specialists Chris Sannito and Brian Himelbloom are teaching the highly popular Smoked Seafood School to 18 people, 9 from out of state. On the agenda for November is a HACCP class, where Sannito will train seafood processors in the required protocol to prevent foodborne illness.

Twenty-four up and coming leaders in the seafood industry, an all-time high, are signed up to take the 5th Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute—80 hours of professional development. In November they will begin ASPLI with technical training at the Kodiak Center, during winter they will be mentored on an in-plant project, and in spring they’ll take leadership and business classes and attend Seafood Expo North America in Boston.

February will be a big month for training seafood employees as well. Better Process Control School and HACCP will be offered in Anchorage, taught by Sannito.

Kodiak Center Granted Processing Authority

Chris Sannito preparing fish filets Chris Sannito

Food businesses in Alaska have two food processing authorities with “expert knowledge of thermal processing requirements for low-acid foods packaged in hermetically sealed containers, or has expert knowledge in the acidification and processing of acidified foods to approve their processes.” The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently noted that Alaska Sea Grant MAP seafood specialists Chris Sannito and Brian Himelbloom, both based in Kodiak, have the expertise to evaluate processing protocols used by food companies, and are approved to provide a letter to a company stating their process is effective. Companies need the document to satisfy ADEC and US Food and Drug Administration requirements.

US food processors have to meet stringent thermal processing requirements for low-acid foods to ensure processing satisfies safety concerns. While larger seafood processors in Alaska usually get their protocols approved through trade organization experts, smaller companies benefit from local processing authorities.

If an Alaska start-up company wants to can specialty salmon, for example, they would give their ingredients, cooker volume, batch temperatures, packaging, and other parameters to Sannito and Himelbloom. “We could approve the methods based on the specific descriptions. If we are unsure we will take data loggers and thermocouples to the company’s kitchen and test the times and temperatures,” said Sannito.  

The letter from Alaska DEC also recommends that “the UAF Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center be similarly recognized as a valuable resource to the Alaskan food processing industry and the many consumers that are kept safe by the training in safe food processes that it facilitates.”

New Book on Sea Stars of the Aleutians

book cover

Alaska Sea Grant announces the new Field Guide to Sea Stars of the Aleutian Islands, featuring 63 species in the nearshore subtidal community of the Aleutians. The book showcases the diverse sea stars encountered during dives by authors Stephen C. Jewett, Roger N. Clark, Hèloïse Chenelot, Shawn Harper, and Max K. Hoberg. Nineteen of the sea star species are new to science. Although the authors have made a dent in sea star discoveries, the region remains understudied because of its remoteness, adverse weather, and rocky bottoms that inhibit collecting. Biologists, divers, and naturalists are among those who will find the book useful.

Saving Money with Fishing Vessel Energy Audits

marine fuel pump

Fishing vessel energy audits yielded useful hints to reduce operation costs, now published in Alaska Sea Grant’s new bulletin Saving Money with Fishing Vessel Energy Audits. Authors Terry Johnson and Mike Gaffney share outcomes of a project showing vessel owners how much energy each system consumes—propulsion, electrical, hydraulics, and refrigeration. Based on audits, engineers recommend slowing down, “right sizing” generators, turning off electrical devices when not needed, declutching hydraulics when not in use, and purchasing premium efficiency compressors. Vessel owners are invited to participate in audits by using energy calculation software tools. The project is in partnership with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and funded in part by the State of Alaska.

GAP Project Fills Information Gaps

Kate Wynne Kate Wynne

In 1999 NOAA in partnership with Marine Advisory marine mammal specialist Kate Wynne initiated the Gulf Apex Predator-prey project (GAP) in Kodiak, to conduct research on the dramatic decline of the western population of Steller sea lions in Alaska. This multiyear project is coming to a close.

With long-term and interrelated studies over 15 years, GAP researchers have collected environmental, predator, and prey data on diet variability and overlap among predators in the Gulf of Alaska. Studies on mammals, birds, fish, and zooplankton have shown how Kodiak’s apex predators respond to highly variable marine resources.

whale fluke

Bree Witteveen joined GAP in 2000 as a master's student and continued as a research technician, postdoc, and finally faculty member. “It would be hard for me to put an exact count on the number of surveys I participated in over the course of GAP, but I can assure you it accounted for a lot of hours over the years,” Witteveen said.

Baleen whales, such as humpbacks, have been a major part of GAP. They are apex predators that remove a significant amount of prey. Many of their targeted prey can be linked to other marine consumers, including Steller sea lions and commercial fisheries. Most large whales have undergone significant population fluctuations as the result of commercial harvest and subsequent protection and recovery. These fluctuations have far-reaching ecosystem impacts, and much of the population growth is happening during unprecedented environmental change.

Bree Witteveen Bree Witteveen

Over the years Wynne and Witteveen have given many GAP presentations to the public, especially in Kodiak. “The reaction from the public has always been one of fascination. The stories that people share with me during or after presentations are very interesting and insightful. The people of Kodiak have always been engaged in what is going on in their backyard,” said Witteveen.

One research angle was to analyze a huge batch of whale sighting data from aerial surveys around the Kodiak archipelago between 1997 and 2014. Preliminary results show fin whales, humpbacks, and gray whales feed far away from the other species and feed at different times, and prefer different habitats. Using these results, biologists can predict preferred habitat for the whales and better understand why whales may choose to hang out in certain regions and not others.

Witteveen has mixed feelings about GAP coming to a close. “It's been an immensely rewarding experience and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it for so long. While I wish the project could continue, having a definite end seems fitting as well. It's going to feel very satisfying to synthesize all of our data and share it among our professional and local communities,” she said.

More information can be found on the GAP project website.

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