Business / Economy

Friday, December 30, 2016

Crab Fishermen in West Coast Ports Pull Pots in Solidarity with Humboldt

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Felixnando Martinez, left, and Arturo Bertran band Dungeness crab at Wild Planet Foods’ processing shed near the new Fisherman’s Terminal. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • photo by Heidi Walters
  • Felixnando Martinez, left, and Arturo Bertran band Dungeness crab at Wild Planet Foods’ processing shed near the new Fisherman’s Terminal.
A week's worth of negotiations have failed to break the stalemate between Humboldt Dungeness crab fishermen and the Pacific Group, which locally owns Pacific Choice Seafood. Last week, Pacific Group announced it was lowering its buying price for crab from $3 per pound to $2.75.

Fishermen in District 7 — which stretches south from Humboldt Bay’s North Jetty to Point Arena in Mendocino —refused to accept the price and went on strike, delaying the start of the season. According to Ken Bates, vice president of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, fishermen in other ports from Westport, Washington, to Bodega Bay, California, have also tied up their vessels in solidarity. Boats in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, which are currently receiving the full price of $3 a pound, will also tie up at midnight tonight.

"Pacific Group took advantage of a situation," said Bates in a phone interview this afternoon. "Traditionally the prices don’t go down as the season progresses."

Bates added that last year's chaotic season, which was delayed due to a domoic acid scare, further complicates the picture.

In a press release, Bates said no movement was expected until after the New Year's holiday. A call to the Pacific Group's media contact was not returned.

Roger Rowland, a local crab fisherman, said the delay has been especially hard on smaller local vessels that don't fish out of other ports.

"Everybody who has not gone fishing deserves the same price," Rowland said. "It's not bad with us; the other guys who have not got to fish are struggling. Some guys don't get unemployment. It's not easy on the families, not easy to wait."

Rowland, whose vessel left to fish in ports that opened earlier this year, said they plan to stay tied up over the holiday. He added that while many of the crabs they have caught this year are large, the numbers have dropped dramatically since they first dropped their pots in November, from 3,000-4,000 pounds a load to 2,000.

Diminished hauls and a continued strike may mean another difficult year for commercial fishermen who were hoping to rebound after last year's poor season.

"Probably a lot of really tight Christmases," said Rowland. "A rough holiday this year."

From the Humboldt Fishermen's Marketing Association’s Board of Directors:

Dungeness crab fishermen continue to tie up in support of the $3.00/per pound price for Dungeness crabs in California, Oregon and Washington State. The $3.00 price had been being paid for all crab deliveries in California and Southern Oregon since November 15, 2016. On or about December 22, 2016, Pacific Group announced their intention to reduce the ex-vessel for crabs by .25 cents to $2.75 effective Monday December 26, 2016. District 7 fishermen refused the lower price drop and tied up their boats.

As of today, fishermen from Westport, WA to Bodega Bay, CA are on strike. In the ports of San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, those boats will tie up at mid-night tonight. They are presently fishing for $3.00/pound or more for their crabs.

No action or progress is expected over the New Year’s holiday. Small and medium sized fish companies are anxious to resume buying crabs at $3.00, but are unwilling to risk buying crabs if Pacific Group is successful in lowering the price.

For additional information, please see press release dated December 26, 2016. 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Huffman Demands Accountability for Treatment of Pipeline Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. - ROB WILSON
  • Rob wilson
  • Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman penned a letter to President Barack Obama today requesting an immediate meeting to “demand accountability for (the) alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.”

Huffman, who penned the letter with Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), also took the opportunity to denounce the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to close the Oceti Sakowin camp. Both Huffman and Grijalva led 21 members of Congress earlier this month in urging Obama to deescalate tension in the Standing Rock protests. It seems those urgings went unheeded, as circumstances have deteriorated since then with daily reports of violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

From the congressmen: “[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.”

See the full press release from Huffman’s office copied below, and their full letter can be seen by clicking here. And for more on the pipeline project and local efforts to combat it, see past Journal coverage here.

Reps. Huffman, Grijalva Demand Accountability for Brutal Law Enforcement Tactics at DAPL

Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today requested an immediate meeting with White House and Department of Justice officials to demand accountability for alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and to denounce the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp. The lawmakers, who jointly led 21 Members of Congress in urging President Obama to deescalate the tension at Standing Rock in a November 14 letter, noted today that circumstances since then have only deteriorated:

“[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.  Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers letter announcing the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp to demonstrators represents a concerning and disappointing course of action by the federal government.

“We question the plan and reasoning given by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Oceti Sakowin camp to the Water Protectors. The members of the Standing Rock Sioux and the hundreds of Americans who join them in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline are constitutionally protected in their right to peaceably assemble.”

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Crab: No Guts, No Worries

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 1:37 PM

From the CDFW website. - C. JUHASZ
  • C. Juhasz
  • From the CDFW website.
You can start planning Christmas dinner — the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is opening recreational Dungeness crabbing all over California starting Saturday, Nov. 5. Mind you, the California Department of Health warns seafood lovers in Humboldt and other areas north of Marin County not to consume the guts "due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs." You remember domoic acid, that nasty toxin that more or less destroyed our last commercial crab season, which didn't open until May, and threatens consumers with nausea, vomiting and even death. So just melted butter, no "crab butter" for us. If you can't wait for commercial season to open but don't have your own boat, you might try dropping pots from the dock or by kayak.

Read the full CDFW press release below.
Recreational Dungeness Crab Season to Open Statewide Nov. 5
The recreational Dungeness crab season is scheduled to open statewide on Saturday, Nov. 5 — with a health warning in place for crabs caught north of Point Reyes (Marin County).

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters north of Point Reyes due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the northern California coast.

The health warning is effective for recreationally caught Dungeness crabs taken from state waters north of Latitude 38° 00' N. (near Point Reyes). CDPH believes that Dungeness crab meat is safe to consume, however, as a precaution, consumers are advised not to eat the viscera (also known as "butter" or "guts") of crabs. CDPH further recommends recreational anglers follow best preparation practices to ensure that they avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in some crab's viscera.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin related to a "bloom" of certain single-celled algae. Fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid in their tissue, which can sicken people who eat them. Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the West Coast interrupted Dungeness and rock crab fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line. This year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will continue to work with CDPH and the fishing community to collect crab samples from the northern California coast until the domoic acid levels have dissipated.

Consult the CDPH biotoxin information line at (800) 553-4133 or CDPH's Domoic Acid Health Information webpage for more information.

CDFW reminds crabbers of new regulations that became effective on Aug. 1, 2016. For a complete description of the regulations, please go to www.wildlife.ca.gov and click on "New Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Regulations" in the Announcements box.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

From Pulp Mill Ashes, Redwood Marine Terminal II Rises

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II.
The buildings stand mostly empty and the work is far from done, but mood inside the Redwood Marine Terminal II last Friday was jubilant nonetheless. At long last, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District threw a grand opening party for the out-of-service pulp mill it bought for $1 back in August of 2013. After successfully saving Humboldt Bay from potentially disastrous toxic sludge, the district has continued to rehabilitate the site into what is now officially the National Marine Research and Innovation Park, a multi-use facility designed to house both research and commercial opportunities in aquaculture, biomass conversion and renewable energy.

State Assemblyman Jim Wood, on hand for the festivities, called the achievement “remarkable” and praised the efforts of both the pulp mill and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State Sen. Mike McGuire admired the hard work of all involved. Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass recalled her childhood, during which the mill’s stink was known as “the smell of money.”

Virginia Bass. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Virginia Bass.
As an adult, Bass was employed to do public relations at the mill during its years under Evergreen Pulp, a task she confessed to being “ill-suited” for, in part, she joked, because she had to work with fellow Supervisor Rex Bohn, a man “hard to put a lid on.” Despite that, the “little space of earth” continued to be a prominent part of her life — she even recounted driving out to sit in the abandoned parking lot years later, sad to see such a “vibrant part” of the bay lying fallow. “How can we help?” she asked herself.

Opportunity arrived through the district’s purchasing of the site, which brought federal, state and local agencies, community partners, nonprofit organizations, the county and the city of Eureka into the “monumental” project, she said. And now, Bass finished, she’s confident “the Harbor District is up for the challenge.”

One of the most moving speeches came from Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks, who spent 30 years working at the pulp mill, “almost [all] in this building,” he said. He referenced the “ghosts of workers past” and noted that despite his longtime pride in the workers, “I was never proud of our bad environmental record.” Marks relayed an anecdote about bringing in a copy of the Northcoast Environmental Center’s EcoNews, telling fellow employees that they needed to do things right. This “new day forward” pleased him, he said, with the promise of “new jobs, clean jobs.”

Continuing the speechifying was Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (who takes a seat as a Humboldt County supervisor in January. “I don’t like the term ‘revitalization’,” he said, preferring to call the new chapter “vitalization.” He urged the district — and the community — to be “future-focused … Moving backward is so much more difficult.” To that beginning, Wilson noted, success of the NMRIP depends on an interim zoning change and update to Humboldt’s Local Coastal Plan.

Harbor District CEO Jack Crider wrapped up the event with a story of visiting the pulp mill site four years prior. “I did this crazy thing,” he said, “crawled around on top of all the tanks and buildings. I should have died that day.” Instead he took 500 or so photos to the Harbor Commission and showed them the disrepair — and danger — of the sludge tanks.

Afterward, Crider said, “Commissioner [Greg] Dale said, ‘Thanks a lot, Jack. Now we have to do something.’” That something turned out to solve a lot of issues, Crider continued, from removing the toxic sludge from failing tanks to providing dock access and future opportunities. This is his third experience converting a contaminated site, he said, and each time has meant putting his staff through significant challenges. This one, Crider finished, “was the biggest hurdle I’ve ever put anyone through.”

Byron Duty of Pacific Flake. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Byron Duty of Pacific Flake.
Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd.
North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins.
John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Early Prospects for Crab Season Look Good

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 2:52 PM

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing.

So far, so good. That's the early word in today's extensively titled forum, "Crab Season Outlook for 2016-17 and Modern Aquaculture in California by the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture" taking place right now at the University of California Davis Marine Lab in Bodega Bay. Convened by the North Coast's own state Sen. Mike McGuire, who chairs the committee, and attended by our U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, the hearing offers scientists and fishery experts a chance to give their take on the upcoming California crab season. 

After last year's disastrous crab season was delayed due to high levels of the toxin domoic acid, attendees were visibly relieved to hear relative good news from University of California Santa Cruz's Dr. Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean health, that while 2016 was "warm and toxic," the probability of a domoic acid bloom impacting North Coast crabs has decreased over the last month. This is "really good for crab and fisheries," Kudela said. Ultimately what things look like next year is highly dependent on winter storm conditions, he said, but right now, "good news!" 

Additionally, this marks the first time that the Joint Committee has focused primarily on aquaculture (aka “farming in water"). The farmed fish, oysters and seaweed industry continues to expand and so today's panelists will explore finfish, shellfish, inland production and perspectives from state agencies.  

Huffman noted his pride in the Second District's oyster farmers, noting the industry is not only "innovative" and "sustainable," but also "delicious." Representing that valued part of Humboldt's economy at the forum were Coast Seafood Company's Southwest Operations Manager (and Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner) Greg Dale and Hog Island Oyster Company co-founder and CEO John Finger.

The hearing will be live-streamed until 4 p.m. and then archived for future viewing. 

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Into and Out of the Theater Business

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 12:07 PM

FROM THE MING TREE WEBSITE
  • From the Ming Tree website

Looking to manage a marquee? Here's your chance. The Arcata Theatre Lounge is on the market for a cool $1.85 million via Ming Tree Realtors. The revamped Art Deco venue has been listed for a week and includes shops rented by Bluegrass Barber and Smug's pizza. 

Over the phone last week, Lara Cox, who owns the theater with her husband Brian, said, "We've done this, we've devoted 11 years of our lives to the theater and it's been awesome … but we're just ready to do something different at this point." That something else may be a project in Humboldt but Cox is tight-lipped about what. There's "nothing we love so much as a project," she said. 

And the ATL's renovation has been that. Cox said that, over the course of five years of working with the city, the pipes, electricity, sound, lighting and kitchen, among other things, have all been updated and brought to code and ADA standards. Given the investment, as well as the business, equipment and liquor license, Cox said with a deep breath, "We feel good about the price. The hardest part of this decision is that we have so many loyal customers and the community has been awesome … it's bittersweet."

Don't panic over where to get your B-movie and pizza fix just yet. Until a buyer steps up, Cox said, it's business as usual. 
McKinlay and Neff in the Minor lobby during renovations. - FILE
  • File
  • McKinlay and Neff in the Minor lobby during renovations.

Meanwhile, a crumpled popcorn bag's throw away, the Minor Theater is on the cusp of opening its doors again. Business partners Josh Neff and Merrick McKinlay have set the date for a Sept. 16 red carpet premiere. (See the Journal's cover story on the purchase and renovation here.) 

After going back and forth with the city over whether the business should be considered a theater or a lounge, like the ATL, Neff and McKinlay have managed to secure permission for their set-up, including an expanded concessions stand stocked with Slice of Humboldt Pie, Smug's, beer and wine. Add to that an ADA-compliant automatic door and an upgraded fire safety system that includes alarms for each theater. 

Neff and McKinlay are finalizing the schedule for opening night and weekend but, so far, it's set to play like a local film fest with short films from the likes of Steven Vander Meer and Violet Crabtree, with locally filmed 1970s schlock homage The Love Witch scheduled later in the fall. 

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Renner's New Owner: No Changes on Horizon

Posted By on Sun, Aug 14, 2016 at 5:43 PM

Renner and its 13 stations from Klamath to Piercy are coming under new ownership. - FILE
  • File
  • Renner and its 13 stations from Klamath to Piercy are coming under new ownership.
Renner Petroleum, one of Humboldt’s bright, homegrown success stories, is being sold to Stockton’s Valley Pacific Petroleum Services, Inc.

Valley Pacific President and CEO Norman Crum said he doesn’t expect the sale to have much of a local impact. “They’ve got a very nice, clean operation running,” Crum said, noting the company’s solid safety record and high morale among employees. “We don’t really want to change anything at this point. If anything, we may have some of our people from Stockton come up to Eureka to see how they’re doing things up here because Renner Petroleum has a very good way.”

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Dredge Report

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 11:59 AM

A stitched-together panorama of the Bayport. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • A stitched-together panorama of the Bayport.
The Journal tagged along with North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation District earlier this week on a visit to the dredge Bayport, which is clearing winter storm shoaling that made Humboldt Bay's entrance super dangerous and prevented several cargo ships from docking this spring.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Korbel Mill Sold

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 12:40 PM

FROM THE CALIFORNIA REDWOOD CO. WEBSITE
  • FROM THE CALIFORNIA REDWOOD CO. WEBSITE
The Korbel Mill, which has been for sale for almost two years and closed down last February, recently sold to the Trinity River Timber Company.

Green Diamond Resource Company, which owned the sawmill, announced the sale — which includes the fixed mill assets, a lease of the property and associated log and lumber yards and a log supply agreement with Green Diamond timberlands — in a press release today.

Continue reading »

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Selling out to Big Soda

Posted By on Sat, May 7, 2016 at 9:36 AM

GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
It was with incredulity that Journal staffers gazed on a slender green can of caffeinated pop dressed up in gaudy packaging that arrived last week.

There, in front of us, was a piece of bona fide swag. A well constructed box with a green ribbon pull, embossed lettering, and printed with a somewhat ominous countdown: 93 days, 15 hours, 47 minutes. It’s unclear what was supposed to happen three months from the box’s arrival; it’s clearly a summer product, but summer was more like 60 days away when the box arrived, and how could the energy drink’s marketers possibly know the minute it would show up at NCJ HQ?

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