Wednesday, March 28, 2007

M/V Eastern Wind

With this title you might think I'm referring to Congressional ethics seeping into our Western institutions. Such is not the case, here anyway. Actually it refers to a vessel I took a picture of at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle that I thought was a trawler when looking through my pics of boats. I even used it on previous occasions to illustrate how big the trawlers are in the North Pacific Ocean. Turns out this vessel never was a trawler. It is a freight boat and is currently stuck in the Bering Sea ice pack per this news snippet today:

"Two ships, the 356-foot crab processor Independence and a freighter called the Eastern Wind, also are hung in the ice, Pitzman said. (In addition to the two crab boats.)

The crab boats deliver their catches to the Independence for processing. The ship is owned by Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp. and can carry a crew of 235, although it wasn't known Wednesday how many people were aboard."

Of course you can't tell it's a trawler from this view unless you knew the boat or could remember what the stern looked like, which I couldn't. Lots of trawlers up there are bigger than this ship.The big ones, that pull nets with openings the size of football fields, can't fit in the float system I was standing on when I took the picture.

I like to use material from folks that have "been there-done that" so I don't feel like I'm talking to myself so much. Here's one account of the M/V Eastern Wind. It's easy to get into the whole boat culture thing when in the seafood industry, but I'd also like to salt my articles with letters about old-timers in the industry. I wonder if pioneers of the industry would rather have their exploits written about or how they "Crossed the Bar," as they say in Oregon.

Maybe I got on the subject of wanting stuff on the old-timers from an experience with an aging relative and former LA Rhinos team captain over Christmas. I said a few words to him and he spread his long football-playing arms, palms up, and seemingly gazed into heaven. He died smiling the next day and trying to get me to talk to his roommate at the VA hospital in Loma Linda, CA. Anyway, send some favorite stories too and I'll share 'em with the folks if I can get 'em in.

"Mr. Enge,

That’s no trawler on your ‘blog – the Eastern Wind was built as a freight tramper for Arctic Alaska to add to its fleet to show off how well vertically-integrated the firm was so as to pretty itself up for the ill-fated Tyson buyout. If memory serves, although the appearance helped charm Don Tyson enough to open his wallet, the boat never really penciled out and kicked around Ballard looking for a home for years. I think Coastal Transportation operated it for a while, but found it too small to fit its needs. I have no idea where it is now, but seriously doubt anyone would press it into service as a trawler in these days of license limitation and vessel buyback programs – there are much better pieces of steel to run.

I should add that my correction is based on dock talk from years kicking around the Ballard waterfront. I was not involved with the Eastern Wind or its management. While I believe my characterization of the Arctic Alaska/Tyson history as accurate, I cannot substantiate it. Nonetheless, a review of the NMFS Federal Fisheries Permit list reveals that the vessel is owned by Trident Seafoods Corporation. Trident became a successor to many of the boats in the Tyson fleet, including several trawlers. However, the vessel is licensed as a fisheries support vessel, and is not licensed for any directed fishing."

The point of my talking about trawlers all the time is that nobody knows what they are catching out there. Just what kind of fish are in the boxes they bring in, not what they throw back. We would probably be sickened by the tens of millions of pounds of high value fish they throw back dead. That's why Canada requires 100% video monitoring or observers on all trawlers there. I think I heard that the observer coverage is less than 3% in the Gulf of Alaska.

The new administration in Alaska is right to ask the North Pacific Council to stop it's privatizing of the Gulf. The Council hasn't been displaying the restraint necessary to prove that the ecosystem is all that important to them. Those big bottom trawlers can do a lot of damage in a hurry trying to fill their holds with allowed species of fish, even when a big percentage of the catch is prohibited. You can't be fish managers if you don't know what is being caught.