Sunday, April 15, 2007

North Pacific Research Board grant program

A growing cadre of fishermen, wondering if there could be a fishery on spiny dogfish, got me poking around for research on the critter. Turns out there is an on-going dogfish research project, funded by these folks, scheduled to wrap up in June.

The ice here in the Homer boat basin wasn't as bad as it was in March when they were trying to have a king salmon derby.

The research to date shows they are the biggest bio-mass of marine animals in Alaska. That they live to 90 years old and don't reach sexual maturity until about 12 years old. Sound familiar? The problem is they are a danged nuisance. They eat everything they can get their hands on. I have this visual of the king crab hatchery project letting a million baby king crab loose around Kodiak, to try re-establish that stock, and the dogfish chomping them all like sandpaper covered pac-men.

I suppose they have thought of that already and have some clever way to avoid that scenario. I'm just not a fan of dogfish since the time they plugged my gillnet off Birch Point by Bellingham, WA. Someone was buying them at the time in Seattle, but I wasn't about to run them all the way to Seattle. They've plugged gillnets in Snow Pass by Wrangell in S.E. Alaska too. And now they are piling into the bays on Kodiak Island. Are they on a northern march?

The source of funding for this spiny dogfish project and 138 others also piqued my interest enough to learn more about it. It makes a good read. They have $9 - $12 million to spend every year on projects. Last year was their biggest year and they spent only $6 + million. Anyone can apply for funding for a project, even someone from Tierra Del Fuego.

I remember seeing an underwater video of a clam dredge running along the bottom in the Bering Sea. It was a flat lifeless-looking muddy bottom, but in it's wake was a smorgasboard of things that hordes of fish and crab were piling on like lumberjacks on pancakes. There's a lot of cool projects to do still and I think John Gitkoff of Juneau was prescient when he built a couple of submarines. That's just like John.

Anyway, the whole research-the-heck-out-of-everything came from the finding that the Dinkum Sands "island," 12 miles off Prudhoe Bay, wasn't really an island. It involved the Supreme Court, Alaska's delegation to Washington and John McCain. It's all on the web-site link above.

There is an effort to computer simulate the interrelationships of all the marine organisms in the Gulf of Alaska. It's due for completion in 2008. Another good reason Governor Sarah Palin requested the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to delay handing out GOA rockfish to their waiting "clients." Maybe by then someone will figure out why it took 40 years for Pacific Ocean perch stocks to rebound after the Japanese fished on them.

I get to guess like heck while I'm not being paid, so my guess is that the Japanese whacked everything, including the bottom itself. Everything is connected down there in a zillion ways. Check it out dog: "Developing Scientific Research that Supports an Ecosystem Approach to Management: Mashed Potatoes or Seafood Bouillabaisse?" by Mike Sigler . 17 April, 11:00am, Traynor Seminar Rm, Bldg. 4, Sand Point Campus, Seattle. American boats would be bottom trawling in the same fashion, just maybe not so bonsai-like. Whoa there silver!

If you're a real research nut, here's a link to the Federal fisheries research facility in Kodiak. They have cool pics of lots of marine mammals and fish. One federal researcher I heard testify at the NPFMC meeting in Portland this winter had such a grip on the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem, they should just have her manage the fisheries. Instead she has to explain her's, and her dozens of colleagues' work, to lobbyists who make the rules.