Brokering Lane Agreements Between Crabbers and Towboat Operators

Kevin Decker, Coastal Economist, and Sarah Fisken, Marine Operations Specialist

In the late 1970s, conflicts between oceangoing tugs and commercial crabbers became a major problem in Washington, Oregon and California. Crab pots fouled tugs as they moved between coastal ports, and the loss of gear created severe hardships for commercial crabbers. Sea Grant programs on the West Coast helped broker an agreement that provided navigable towboat and barge lanes through the crabbing grounds between Cape Flattery, Washington, and San Francisco.

Since the late 1990s, WSG has led this process, maintaining the industries’ cooperation and saving them more than $1 million annually. WSG will continue to hold several negotiations each year, improve electronic towlane charts and evaluate the project’s economic impacts.

Towards that, in summer 2016 a new set of visually enhanced charts (“chartlets”) was published, and a Google map webpage that will reflect the same detail as the chartlets is currently under development. In addition, WSG is facilitating discussions between industry and the National Weather Service and U.S. Coast Guard to improve marine weather forecasting and coastal bar-closure policies, and will highlight discussion outcomes.


Marine Safety and First Aid Training

Sarah Fisken, Marine Operations Specialist

WSG helps Washington fishermen reduce risks with port-based, U.S. Coast Guard-certified training in emergency preparedness, fire response, cold-water rescue, first aid and other safety measures, using the latest equipment and procedures. Staff specialists also train recreational boaters in first aid and at-sea safety and survival. Since the mid-1990s, WSG safety training classes on Puget Sound, Washington’s outer coast and the Columbia River have markedly reduced fatalities in several fisheries.

Topics covered in First Aid at Sea courses include patient assessment, hypothermia, cold water, near-drowning, shock, trauma, burns, fractures, choking, immobilization and important contents for first aid kits.

WSG experts also train commercial fishermen and charter boat operators in how to conduct safety drills at sea. These courses meet the training requirements of the Commercial Fishing Safety Act. The course work combines lectures and hands-on experience with the safety and survival equipment required on commercial fishing vessels. Fishermen and boaters learn about emergency procedures and develop appropriate drills for their own vessels.


Marine Technology Training

Sarah Fisken, Marine Operations Specialist

Vessel operational systems and technology change constantly. Many commercial and recreational boaters rely on education programs to keep up with the changes in technology and equipment on their vessels. WSG offers classes and workshops on vessel safety, maintenance and operations, covering marine refrigeration, corrosion protection, diesel engine troubleshooting, computers, navigation and other topics of concern to Washington vessel owners and operators.

Workshops are geared to commercial fishermen, but recreational boaters and others with close ties to the marine environment are invited to participate.


NOAA National Sea Grant Awards Washington Sea Grant Over 1 Million in Aquaculture Grants

September 19, 2019


NOAA National Sea Grant office announced today a suite of federal funding awards in aquaculture, with three of them going to Washington Sea Grant. The four awards, totaling $1,980,133, will support aquaculture research projects and collaborative programs aimed at advancing sustainable aquaculture in the U.S. The awards begin this fall and extend over three years.

Washington Sea Grant will lead the three projects, with key staff coordinating the research and collaborating on outreach with a broad range of partners.

West Coast Aquaculture Collaborative: 

Partner(s): Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association; Western Regional Aquaculture Center; Willapa Bay Oyster Growers Association; Agricultural Research Service; Pacific Shellfish Institute

Federal Funding: $1,193,009

Washington Sea Grant, Oregon Sea Grant, and California Sea Grant propose to form a collaborative unit to engage science and education partners, industry and resource management agencies in tackling complex, region-scale barriers to sustainable aquaculture on the West Coast. The operational approach is to launch the collaborative by participating in a pilot project that addresses an urgent need in shellfish aquaculture and builds on the collective strengths of the programs and partners. Outcomes of the three-year effort will include an effective collaborative structure, enhanced program capacity in two states, the completed pilot project, and scoping information and lessons learned to apply to future projects, as well as advanced oyster and clam aquaculture practices developed to address interactions specifically around eelgrass and burrowing shrimp challenges. If the pilot project is successful, it will represent progress toward a novel, replicable approach to other complex issues.

Seaweed lines of change: Laying the groundwork to advance the practice of sustainable seaweed farming in the Pacific Northwest

Partner(s): Puget Sound Restoration Fund; Hood Canal Mariculture

Federal Funding: $99,997

Washington Sea Grant, working with Hood Canal Mariculture and Puget Sound Restoration Fund, is proposing to develop and deliver a tiered training program for potential seaweed farmers in Washington State. This program consolidates the team’s practical seaweed farming knowledge gained through a collaboration with NOAA and the University of Washington, to assess the ability of cultivated sugar kelp to mitigate local ocean acidification. The program includes an online introductory half-day workshop and a multi-day intensive training; guidance documents and recorded instruction to be archived on a free online resource library. Research and stakeholder information needs identified during trainings and follow-on technical assistance are to be shared with Sea Grant programs to help inform the development of seaweed aquaculture program priorities in Washington and beyond.

Catalyzing a Cross-Pacific Regional Collaborative Hub to Advance Indigenous Aquaculture Practices and Enhance Marine Food Production for Cultural-Ecological Benefits

Partner(s): Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; Alaska Sea Grant; Hawaii Sea Grant; Kua‘aina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA); Puget Sound Restoration Fund; Northwest Indian College; Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska; Sitka Tribe of Alaska; Simon Fraser University; Western Washington University

Federal Funding: $587,127

Washington Sea Grant, Hawaii Sea Grant and Alaska Sea Grant aim to catalyze a cross-Pacific regional collaborative hub integrating research, outreach and education to advance sustainable Indigenous Aquaculture practices and enhance seafood production in the broader Pacific region. Indigenous Aquaculture management practices–including cultural modifications to nearshore environments such as Native Hawaiian fishponds and Northwest coastal indigenous clam gardens–have the potential to strengthen community access to traditional and customary foods, increase local seafood production, and deepen collaborative engagement between Sea Grant and local tribal communities for aquaculture advancement, climate adaptation, and coastal restoration. Integral to the success of the project is developing a community of practice that involves diverse partnerships and stakeholders, comprised of Sea Grant staff, Northwest tribes, Native Hawaiian communities, universities, minority-serving colleges, and local non-profit organizations. Activities include: convening two cross-regional summits to learn about local and regional examples of traditional Indigenous Aquaculture systems; conducting a comprehensive assessment of cross-Pacific Indigenous Aquaculture; advancing existing restoration sites and collecting ecological baseline data on the effects of intertidal modifications on the nearshore ecosystem; and strategic planning for future Sea Grant engagements and investments in Indigenous Aquaculture. Additionally, the collaborative will support inclusive workforce and leadership development through fellowships and internships for students from historically underrepresented or underserved colleges.

Nurturing the Successful Growth and Maturation of a Domestic Seaweed Aquaculture Industry: Identifying and Removing Barriers and Promoting Opportunities

Lead: Connecticut Sea Grant
Partners: Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture; Cape Cod Cooperative Extension; Washington Department of Agriculture; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Washington Department of Natural Resources; Hood Canal Mariculture, Inc.; Puget Sound Restoration Fund; The Suquamish Tribe; The Sustainable Collective; Alaska Sea Grant; Maine Sea Grant; New Hampshire Sea Grant; National Sea Grant Law Center; New York Sea Grant; Oregon Sea Grant; ; Rhode Island Sea Grant; WHOI Sea Grant; Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program

Federal Funding: $1,085,131

Connecticut Sea Grant, in partnership with Washington Sea Grant and the other above state programs, is proposing to establish a National Sea Grant Seaweed Hub. The topic-based Hub would serve as a central clearinghouse for available science-based, non-proprietary, practical resources related to previous and current seaweed aquaculture research and extension efforts. The Seaweed Hub would enable Sea Grant programs as well as federal and state agencies to access current information to guide their own planning and outreach efforts. The establishment of the Seaweed Hub will also provide seaweed aquaculture stakeholders with the information they need to make better informed decisions.

Pollock Stock Assessment Preview

Edward F. Melvin, Marine Fisheries Scientist

Pollock and salmon are among the most important fishery resources in Alaska. The pollock fishery in the Eastern Bering Sea is based in Seattle and is one of the largest fisheries in the world. It is also closely monitored for its incidental catch of salmon, which can close the fishery if bycatch limits are exceeded. For these reasons, the status of the pollock stock and the level of salmon bycatch are of keen interest to many who live in Seattle.

Each year Washington Sea Grant co-hosts a forum at which scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of NOAA fisheries preview the most recent assessment of the Eastern Bering Sea pollock population, which is the basis for setting the catch levels for this fishery.

The forum, presented in partnership with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and the College of the Environment, is held prior to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process that sets catch limits for the coming year. It provides fishermen, local marine businesses, environmental groups, students and faculty an opportunity to learn about the science underpinning the stock assessment and discuss trends in data.

In 2014 the scope of the meeting expanded to include industry presentations on new developments in gear modifications that exclude salmon from pollock trawls. These new trawl nets have the potential to forestall closures of the fishery and conserve the salmon resource for native Alaskan coastal communities.

In 2015, the program included a presentation on the newly announced Bering Sea Climate Change Study — a collaboration of NOAA and UW scientists to assess the possible biological and ecological consequences of climate change on Bering Sea fish and fisheries. The 3-year study will focus on five key species including pollock.

For 2016, the program presented a new, multispecies trophic interaction model that links three key Bering Sea species — walleye pollock, Pacific cod and arrowtooth flounder.


Public Comment Sought for Washington Sea Grant Site Review

September 20, 2019

Washington Sea Grant will be reviewed on November 5 -7, 2019 by a team convened by the National Sea Grant Program.

The review will be conducted at the University of Washington campus and will consider all aspects of the WSG program including management and organization, performance, stakeholder engagement and collaborative activities, including those with various offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This notice invites you to participate in our review. Please submit written comments by Monday, October 21, 2019 to the National Sea Grant Office at

Thank you!

Seabird Bycatch Prevention in Fisheries

Edward F. Melvin, Marine Fisheries Scientist

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including protected albatrosses and petrels, are trapped and drowned in longline and trawl fisheries worldwide each year. Seabird avoidance measures developed and promoted by WSG have dramatically reduced the number of birds, particularly the endangered short-tailed albatross, caught in the fishing lines off Alaska and the West Coast, and also have reduced bait loss and improved fishing efficiency.

These measures, which use strategically deployed bird-repelling streamer lines, have been adopted by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and are used by tuna fisheries worldwide. WSG and its Oregon and California partners have tested and refined prevention measures in the West Coast sablefish fishery, the regional fishery with the greatest potential for reducing or eliminating losses of the endangered albatrosses.

WSG scientist Ed Melvin and his collaborators won the 2015 Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award for their work implementing the Seabird Bycatch program along the West Coast and for their outstanding achievements in bird conservation.

WSG shares the 2015 Presidential Award with NOAA’s West Coast Region and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Oregon State University, California Sea Grant, Oregon Sea Grant, the Makah, Quinault, and Quileute tribes, and other agencies and industry groups.


West Coast Fisheries Participation Study

Melissa Poe, Social Scientist

The livelihoods of fishermen and women who work along the West Coast are heavily influenced by the inherent variations in the ocean, intrinsic economic uncertainty, and the effects of management. In collaboration with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, investigators are conducting a survey of the West Coast fleets and interviewing fisheries participants to improve understanding of how they respond to these changes. Community and individual responses may vary significantly, depending on diverse social and economic factors.

Washington Sea Grant is leading a study of West Coast fisheries to better understand the various social factors that explain the motivations and benefits of commercial fishing and changes in fishing-based livelihoods.