The latest news stories across the state of Oregon from the digital home of the Oregon coastal cities, OregonBeachMagazine.com
Friday, January 20, 2023
Oregon Beach Weather
Third Dead Whale In A Week Washes Up On Oregon Coast
A baby gray whale washed up on the northern Oregon coast on Wednesday, making it the third dead whale to beach on the state’s coastline over the past week.
The 12-foot-long calf washed ashore at Fort Stevens State Park, only 100 yards (91 meters) from the site where a dead sperm whale beached over the weekend.
The baby whale appeared to be a stillborn, Michael Milstein, spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries agency, told news outlets. There were no indications that it was struck by a ship or that it died from human interaction.
Federal biologists determined that the 40-foot sperm whale that washed ashore nearby died after a ship hit it. The whale had a large gash on its side.
Westerly winds and currents may have caused the two whales to wash ashore near each other, Allyssa Casteel, who is on staff at Seaside Aquarium, told the news outlet. Gray whales are currently migrating south for the winter to their birthing and breeding grounds near Baja California.
The whales at Fort Stevens are not the only cetaceans currently decomposing on Oregon’s beaches.
On Jan. 11, a gray whale washed up on the state’s central coast near Reedsport, Jim Rice, program manager for the NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network, who examined the male, said it appeared the creature had been killed by orcas, who have been known to prey on gray whales.
An increase in the number of gray whales stranding on the west coast, from Mexico to Alaska, prompted the NOAA in 2019 to announce an “Unusual Mortality Event.” Such events are declared when animals strand unexpectedly or when there is a “significant die-off” of a population that demands an immediate response.
The ongoing NOAA investigation has identified several reasons behind the gray whale population decline, including ecological changes in the Arctic affecting the seafloor and animals the whales feed on each summer.
The gray whale population has declined by 38% from its peak in 2015 and 2016, the NOAA found, partly stemming from low birth numbers in recent years.
Oregon’s Dungeness Crab Fishermen Suffering From Short Season And Rough Weather And Low Prices
If you buy a fresh Oregon Dungeness crab from the market this weekend, you’ll pay around $7.95 a pound – half what it cost you at this time last year.
But because of the dynamics of the industry – and the law of supply and demand – the crabber who has hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in a boat and spent 36 hours tossed around at sea this week is being paid half — $2-3 a pound — of what he earned last year.
The owners and operators of Oregon’s 320-boat Dungeness fleet — just like their farming counterparts — are at the mercy of the sea and the market, which can range from boom to gloom depending on a number of factors. After a boom in Dungeness prices last year, this year it’s mostly gloom for the fleet because of the season’s late start and unsold, frozen crab from 2020-21.
Oregon’s most valuable commercial fishery officially opened Sunday. But stormy weather kept a lot of the fleet in port until mid-week. They’re just now delivering the bounty from pots that had been sitting on the ocean bottom for days.
“It’s largely weather, but if the price was $5 a pound you’d see a lot more boats out there,” said one industry expert who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “But at $2 a pound, a lot may say ‘I’m not risking my crew for that’.”
Issues this year were set up last season, when commercial crabbing opened Dec. 1 – the first time in eight years it started on the earliest possible date. That opener came just in time for the holidays when consumers still had stimulus money and were ready to throw off pandemic restrictions.
The average price per pound in December 2021 was $4.91, rose to $5.98 in January 2022 and reached $7.58 in April. The average for the season, which can stretch to August, was $5.33 per pound, according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
That led to 15.3 million pounds of Dungeness crab being caught in December and January – nearly 90 percent of the 2021-2022 season’s total harvest.
This month the opening price for crab destined for the “live” and the whole, cooked market is $3 to $3.25 per pound. The price of crab that Oregon processors will freeze for shipping or store for the future is $2.25 per pound.
Those are half the prices of last January.
While the Oregon Dungeness season can officially begin Dec. 1, state biologists sample crab weekly along the coast to monitor the amount of meat in each and to test for levels of domoic acid in their guts. If tests show low levels of meat or high levels of acid, then the season is delayed – sometimes coast wide or sometimes just in specific areas.
This season the coast-wide harvest was first delayed from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, then again to Dec. 31, and a third time to Jan. 15 – but only from Manzanita in the north to Coos Bay in the south.
The north coast season opens Feb. 1; ODFW expects to know Friday when the south coast season might begin.
The delays this year led to the formation of a group of smaller boat owners who said state regulators could have opened specific areas of the ocean to crabbing in early December – in time to meet holiday demand. The group, which hopes to form a nonprofit organization to advocate for small- and mid-sized crabbers, also criticized the makeup of an ODFW Dungeness advisory committee that it believes is dominated by processors who have an interest in keeping prices low.
The publication of the letter led to an unusual rebuttal from the ODFW and Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, which defended testing procedures and the late start as necessary to maintain high quality.
Industry observers, crabbers and processors say it was the early start and heavy demand in 2021-22 that led to the record-high prices. “Last year’s price raised a lot of eyebrows,” the industry expert said.
But Pacific Seafood kept buying at the high prices for its large frozen market, then got caught with inventory during the summer when consumers suddenly stopped spending as they began to worry about high inflation and prospects of a recession.
“And then it just came to came to a halt,” Dan Obradovich, Pacific Seafood’s Dungeness crab manager told the industry publication SeafoodSource in November. “Once we work through that bubble of inventory then I feel like things will get back to normalcy. It’s going to take a little while, but definitely that that adjustment in price was painful for a lot of people. The prices are going to have to adjust. But I don’t see the market getting back to where it was a year ago, just because I don’t see that kind of demand happening.”
Crabbers generally do not come together to negotiate prices with processors. They tried several times over the last six years, then broke apart when some crabbers left port to set and pull pots. The fleet is too varied and each operator has their own issues and goals to easily organize.
Oregon law allows associations to try to organize crabbers at each of the coast’s major ports, but they need 51 percent of the permit holders to sign on in order to represent the entire group. Processors can also organize into a bargaining group, but also need cooperation from processors who handled 51 percent of the harvest.
There has not been enough participation from either side the last three years to have the Oregon Department of Agriculture help with price negotiations.
The organization in Newport – called the Newport Crab Marketing Association – currently has about 20 members.
On Jan. 12 Pacific Seafood sent a letter to Oregon crabbers notifying them it would pay $3 a pound for the first 400,000 pounds of live crab and $2.25 for cooked quality crab. It gave crabbers wanting to sell to them 48 hours to sign on. Prices are similar for the handful of other commercial processors along the coast.
Once the season is under way, Pacific Seafood said, its managers at each processing plant had authority to adjust prices based on quality, ability to sell to live or frozen markets, the harvest volume and operating costs.
Many consumers consider Dungeness a luxury purchase, especially when prices go over $10 a pound. So the low prices this year may help keep demand up – even if the holidays are over.
OREGON SHORES CONSERVATION COALITION Events for Final King Tides of Season – Presentation 1/20 at Tolovana Hall in Cannon Beach
CoastWatch Program Manager Jesse Jones will be joined by two representatives from The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) for this final king tides event of the season, kicking off the last set of king tides, January 20-22.
Jesse will share information about the science behind these annual tides; show where photos have been taken around the Cannon Beach community and point out where photos are still needed. Sea Level Rise Adaptation Fellow, Carl Hendrickson, will share his work related to advancing local planning in Clatsop County in response to sea level rise. Coastal Outreach Fellow, Elissa Connolly-Randazzo, will share her projects that will educate communities about the ecology and history of Oregon’s beaches and dunes.
This event will take place at Cannon Beach’s Tolovana Hall (3779 S Hemlock St., Tolovana Park), this Friday, Jan 20, at 5:30 pm.
The final round of this winter’s King Tides Project takes place Jan. 20-22, 2023, with the third set of high tides on which this citizen science effort will focus this winter.
Through the King Tides Project, volunteer photographers document the reach of the winter’s highest tides. Go here to learn more.
High tide on Jan. 20 will come at about 10 a.m., depending on your specific location on the coast. The idea is to take photos as close to the moment of the highest reach of the tide as possible.
For more information about this event or about the King Tides Project, contact Jesse Jones, CoastWatch’s volunteer coordinator, (503) 989-7244, email@example.com.
FOR MORE INFO: https://oregonshores.org/
Oregon’s Nonfarm Payroll Employment Rises by 6,100 in December
In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 6,100 jobs in December, following a gain of 8,200 jobs in November. The gains in December were largest in manufacturing (+2,400 jobs), construction (+1,300), and professional and business services (+1,100). The largest decline in December was in other services, which cut 500 jobs.
Oregon’s private sector added 5,600 jobs in December, reaching another all-time high of 1,694,200. This was 22,500 jobs, or 1.3%, above the pre-recession peak in February 2020.
Construction continued its rapid expansion in December. The industry added 10,200 jobs in 2022, for an annual growth rate of 9.1%. Gains were widespread throughout the industry, with all published components growing between 5.9% and 14.9% over that 12-month period. Building equipment contractors (+3,700 jobs, or 11.5%) and building finishing contractors (+2,200 jobs, or 14.9%) grew at the fastest rate.
Leisure and hospitality is still substantially below its pre-pandemic peak. But its revised gain of 1,500 jobs in November, coupled with its gain of 600 in December, kept the industry on its recent upward trajectory. Over the past 12 months it added 16,900 jobs, accounting for a quarter of Oregon’s private- sector job gains during that time.
Oregon’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in December, from 4.3%, as revised, in November. The unemployment rate increased 1.0 percentage point over the past five months from its recent low of 3.5% in May, June, and July. The last time Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.5% or more was in September 2021, when it was 4.5%. In contrast, the U.S. unemployment rate remained below 4% during the last three months of 2022, and it edged down from 3.6% in November to 3.5% in December.
Putting Oregon’s 4.5% December unemployment rate in a broader context: It has been relatively rare, historically, for Oregon’s unemployment rate to be below 4.5%. This occurred during the 14 months prior to December, when the rate averaged 3.9%. Also, from 2017 through 2019 the rate averaged
3.9%. But prior to late 2016, Oregon’s rate never dropped below 4.5% in any month dating back 40 years — from 1976, when comparable records began, to October 2016.
Murdock Trust Announces Grants to Oregon Nonprofits
Today, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust published its Fall 2022 Grants Report. The report announces:
- 82 total grants to Pacific Northwest nonprofits totaling $28.6 million.
- This includes more than $9.3 million through 33 grants to nonprofits serving the Oregon community.
- The report can be found here. A full list of grantees can be found here.
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust is a private, nonprofit foundation that has invested more than $1.3 billion in nonprofits serving the Pacific Northwest since 1975. For details, please visit our website murdocktrust.org.
FBI Portland Division Offering $25,000 Reward for Information in Several Arson Investigations
PORTLAND, OREGON – FBI Portland is seeking the public’s help to identify the individual(s) responsible for arsons at three separate reproductive health centers.
As part of a national effort to bring awareness to a series of attacks and threats targeting reproductive health service facilities across the country, the FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for these crimes.
Between 4:00 p.m. on July 4, 2022, and 8:00 a.m. on July 6, 2022, an arson attack and vandalism took place at the front entrance of the Mother and Child Education Center located at 1515 NE 41st Ave, Portland, Oregon. The words, “IF ABORTION AINT SAFE NEITHER RU JR” and “JANES RVVGG” were spray painted on the front of the property.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., on June 10, 2022, Gresham Police responded to an alarm at the Gresham Pregnancy Resource Center located at 104 NW 11th Street. Once on scene, law enforcement personnel found a fire inside the building. Investigators believe several Molotov cocktails were thrown through a kitchen window in order to ignite the fire. Investigators found several large bottles in the kitchen with fire accelerant confirmed on the floor.
At approximately 10:38 p.m., on Sunday, May 8, 2022, the Keizer Police Department received 911 calls reporting someone throwing multiple Molotov cocktails at the Oregon Right to Life building located at 4335 River Road North. From nearby security footage, investigators determined the suspect retrieved an item from the trunk of their vehicle and walked towards the building. A glow could be seen on the security footage that was determined to be flames from the Molotov cocktail thrown at the building. Shortly after, the individual was observed running back to the vehicle. Investigators believe the suspect may have been driving a white sedan, possibly a 2017-2018 Hyundai Elantra.
“The FBI, and our partners, will aggressively pursue those who threaten to use, or do in fact use, violence to intimidate or influence – or to retaliate against an outcome that differs from their preferred position,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Portland Field Office. “Vandalism, arson, and threats of violence such as these should not, and cannot, be acceptable in our shared community. We are, therefore, asking the public to take a look at these photos and videos and if you recognize anything that could be helpful to our investigation, please reach out.”
These criminal acts are a violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 844(i), Destruction by Means of a Fire or Explosive, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, and potentially, a violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 248(a)(3), Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), contact their local FBI office, or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. You may remain anonymous.
You can view seeking information posters for other arsons and potential FACE Act violations here.
Arizona Woman Caught Trafficking Fentanyl and Heroin on Interstate 5 Charged in Federal Court
PORTLAND, Ore.—An Arizona woman is facing federal charges after she was caught trafficking approximately 45,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and several additional pounds of bulk heroin on Interstate 5 near Salem, Oregon.
Nancy Garcia, 47, of Yuma County, Arizona, has been charged by criminal complaint with possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin.
According to court documents, on January 16, 2023, an Oregon State Police (OSP) trooper initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle being driven by Garcia northbound on Interstate 5 near Salem. The trooper identified Garcia as the sole occupant of the vehicle and observed that she was traveling with a statue of Santa Muerte, a saint-like figure some individuals believe offers protection in drug trafficking.
Garcia first told the trooper she was traveling to Seattle, but later said she was traveling to and planning to spend a week in Portland. The trooper lawfully searched Garcia’s vehicle and found more than 10 pounds of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and five and half pounds of bulk heroin in a bag on the floor behind the driver’s seat. The trooper placed Garcia under arrest and transported the drugs to a law enforcement lab for further evaluation.
On January 18, 2023, Garcia made her first appearance in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You. She was ordered detained pending further court proceedings.
This case is being investigated jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and OSP. It is being prosecuted by Paul T. Maloney, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
A criminal complaint is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
ODOT Begins Work On New EV Fast Charging Stations – Seeks Public Opinion
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced that they’re partnering up with private companies to begin work on new EV fast charging stations along Interstate 5, U.S. Highway 97, and Interstate 205.
The new charging stations are funded thanks to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. $7.5-billion in funds has been secured for EV charging infrastructure across the U.S., with more than $7-billion going towards ‘critical minerals supply chains that are necessary for batteries, components, materials, and recycling.
NEVI will provide $5-billion in funding to states in order to build charging stations along highway corridors.
ODOT says that the stations will be no farther than 50 miles apart from each other, and, if possible, within one mile of an exit.
ODOT is asking residents who live along those corridors to check out their online open house and take a survey so they can gather data on local factors to consider.