Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bottom trawling: Always a good choice. Not

All you have to do in these days is say, "efficiency is better for fisheries" and ya got their attention. Just like the Atlantic salmon folks say their product is "organic." And then there's, "Always a good choice" when you're buying a six-pack of Samuel Adams. Then you mix and match terms and thrown in "rationalization' and ya have Fisheries Management 101.

I always wondered what kind of salt-water fish might be under this waterfall in Cascade Bay on Baranof Island.

The point is that you got fishermen in the South Atlantic fishing black sea bass, a rockfish-like fish, with pots. Then you have the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council saying you need "canyon buster" trawls to smoothe out the ocean floor and catch the same kind of fish, Pacific ocean perch. That's really generalized, but you get the idea. It's just that the big money boys, the "billion dollar boys" like Ted Stevens calls them, want to use aircraft carriers to harvest them in one swipe before anyone else can get a crack at them.

I remember a Japanese technician telling me about being on a trawler off Africa going after octopus. They would use this incredibly heavy duty chain mesh trawl and drag up the whole bottom practically. They would dump a small mountain of boulders on deck and then after a few minutes all these octopi would come crawling out and turn the deck red with their numbers. Great way to get octopus, but raises heck with the forest down there.

I gotta hand it to the NPFMC, they didn't pass a law to get out of closing trawling the coral forests in the Aleutians. Must not have been much down there to give up.(Any more, you pretty much have to sue them to get them to do anything right.) Remember, these federal fisheries management councils are not elected.(That's the problem.) They are hand picked, by you guessed it, the biggest players in the fishing business. And what do they like to do most? Catch lots of fish. That doesn't include letting anybody else catch them, even if they can stop short of overharvesting them, but that could change.

The South Atlantic Council may only have a 58% success rate in keeping fish stocks healthy, but the North Pacific Council has fished the tar out of 12% of their stocks. And look how much they get ballyhooed as to how great a job they are doing. A veritable "Age of Reason" like the one they had in France. Although the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had a lot to do with it.

Well, the real point is about using pots for bottom dwelling fish species. There are a zillion kinds of fish traps that keep the catch alive until you can inspect them; see if you got the right ones, if they are the right size, etc. And the traps/pots can be strung on a longline. They can catch all the fish you can imagine. One time a Japanese financed king crab boat geared up to longline blackcod pots in the Gulf of Alaska. It caught almost the entire quota for the whole fleet before the weather got good enough for the Alaskan traditional fleet. They outlaw pots, but allow trawls? Then they have this huge bycatch problem that threatens the whole ecosystem?

"The amendment also changes the fishing year to June 1-May 31 and requires at least a 2 inch mesh for the back panel of sea bass pots and removal of all black sea bass pots from the water once the quota is met."

That sounds good to me. Why can't fishermen use the same strategy in Alaska? A point of order today, I won't be able to print the e-mail I got in defense of the Thorstensens from a fisherman. The fisherman slid into the fishing business way too easily with Icicle management's help. I did, however, check around and couldn't find anything to support my notion that Icicle Seafoods paid anyone in stock for fish. I'll let everything else stand. After all, the founder of Icicle implied just last summer that it was cheating to build another cold storage for fishermen in Petersburg with grant funds. "I just want to make sure the playing field is level."

He's the one who refused to buy gillnet herring from some fishermen this spring, so they were stuck without a market. (In fact, one of those fishermen helped us pioneer the fishery to begin with.) When I was buying gillnet herring in the infancy of the fishery, I bought from everyone, without a thought as to who was loyal to who. Some of those guys I think got permits based on those deliveries. The Thorstensens have made millions off of the aforementioned. If you aren't for the fishermen, you're against them. I have to hand it to the "defender of the Viking Ship Logo" though, he bailed out of Bristol Bay because he didn't like being around the ramming on the Egegik line.

Back to fisheries management, Congress could have "instructed" (lol) the North Pacific Council to study other fishing methods as well. God forbid that Alaskans would have a chance to gear up their boats to have a crack at the Pacific Ocean Perch. Not to mention use a method to catch them so they could discard the black cod, halibut and scores of other species of slow growing fish alive, and not tear up the ecology of the bottom as well. It's no wonder the public is working through environmental groups to buy out the trawlers in California. The fishery managers (the billion dollar boys and federal recipients of their largess) can't restrain themselves to do what has to be done.

One more point of order. The federal fisheries spin doctors are calling turning off the water to the Klamath river and killing off the big king salmon run just "water policy." Just to get a Republican Senator in Oregon elected. Then it became, "some people don't agree with our water policy." Pretty soon the spin doctors will be blaming the wiping out of the troll fleet on Bigfoot. Then, that it never even happened. Just as long as they don't have to admit their wrong doing, that's why NMFS doesn't want to help the trollers and the communities in Oregon and Calif. When you start down the "means justifies the ends" slippery slide, you don't know where it will end. Voters, pay attention. "Rationalization," "water policy," I'd like some readers to add to the list.