Friday, July 27, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 8/6

The fight over fish oil.
"The omega-3s helped rebuild the damaged gray and white matter of his brain," says Dr. Bailes, who now takes his own medicine, swallowing a fish-oil supplement each morning. On his orders, McCloy, still recuperating at home, continues to take fish oil daily. "I would say he should be on it for a lifetime," says Dr. Bailes. "But then, I think everybody should."

You can't keep a good Alaskan off the beaches. My son Morgan.

Eye doctors prescribe it for everyone with macular degeneration too. At this rate we should at least get the oil out of the 3 billion pounds of fish that fishermen dump over the side off U.S. shores every year. Check here whether you should take cod liver oil or fish oil. What is our national policy on all this anyway?

When fish stocks dwindle.
"Like many coastal communities, Kitkatla lost its main source of employment and revenue when fish stocks dwindled in the eighties." Reporters say this in the same breath as "it was a cold winter" or "the northern lights were sure bright last night." Like the fish stocks just do that by themselves. I've bitten my tongue for too long as East Coast reporters bemoan the "lack of fish." Just say it, fishermen caught them all. Of course the various governments allowed it. Canada is no different than the U.S., just a little ahead on the fishing-'em-out curve.

Politics trump Science in this Administration
"Repeated troubling reports that political considerations are trumping scientific facts in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act ... constitute just one area in a long line of problems plaguing the Interior Department that deserve scrutiny by the Congress." And Dick Cheney declined to attend the Klamath fish kill hearings for which he is largely blamed. Watch video testimony of an Oregon Congressman who sugar-coats the king salmon die-off.

Another interesting Google Earth exercise is to look at the Oregon-California border area in question, where there used to be so much waterfowl habitat. It's all farm land now. I lived on the Pacific Flyway in Southeast Alaska for many years, and just like people grieve the absence of blue whales, I grieve the loss of the massive clouds of ducks and geese.

Here's a simple idea: Let's stop paying people to overfish
The University of British Columbia calculates that countries kick in $20 to $30 billion a year to support overfishing. Now one third of all the commercial fish have gone the way of the buffalo. Bottom trawling is implicated largely. These statistics mirror Oregon's study showing that bottom trawling causes the total loss of 30% of the species complex in the area.

Photos from the "Esperanzna" voyage to see if the trawlers left anything around the Pribilofs.
Hi, here's a couple shots of subs in the water and a ROV
about to go in. We were in the Prib canyon Tues, Wed and Thurs,
and I just got back to the isle early this morning. At
500-800 meters I expected a lot of stuff down below, but it
seemed sparse, some rat fish, perch, halibut, eels, starfish,
sponges, black cod, but nothing in mass numbers. There is a
lot of other video that I haven't seen yet though. There was
coral and also some other things that could not be
identified yet, but I'm sure after some studying they will come up
with a name or even new names. There were 3 mega trawlers
that steamed past us going NW to the Zemchug. There was
also a longliner that claimed he was doing Halibut
surveys....but in 700 meters and for 2 days with no gear down? Seems
awful strange to me.
The Esperanza should be steaming towards the Zemchug as I
type and I remain hopeful they find a plethora of coral and
new species.


Andrew Malavansky
St. George Island Alaska

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/30

Sea Change or Pocket Change?
The Marine Conservation Alliance just has to keep trying to put a good face on the buffalo hunting of it's members. This time they dragged into the fray a midwater trawl organization and the Institute for Social and Economic Manipulation, I mean, Research.

TROLLERS lives are getting still lonlier, thanks to the TRAWLERS who are catching and dumping their kings.

I give Sarah Palin another month or so to catch on to ISER. They aren't horrible, but just don't hit the nail on the head.

But I wanted to comment on this new publicity stunt of Dave Benton's MCA. Remember, these are the same folks that bring you cod ends of trawl nets half full of halibut and king salmon by-catch that they throw over the side dead. Eventually a crewman or skipper will try to absolve his conscience and turn in photos of the carnage. As it is, the MCA members, who also run the North Pacific Council, say it's just hearsay. The average OBSERVED chinook catch in the GOA has been 17,643 kings(2000-2004), but there has only been about 3.5% observer coverage!!!! There are some official statistics like 87,000 king salmon killed in the pollock A and B seasons in one year in the Bering Sea, which has higher observer coverage. It's just as bad in the whiting fishery off Oregon and Washington. Real smart, Ted and Don.

You can write all the problem solving reports like this you want, but it still boils down to the fact that the Magnuson-Stevens Act still allows the big trawl companies and their allies to make the laws. Chief among these allies is Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, who are under criminal investigation. The reauthorized MSA is really under a black cloud now that it's author is being implicated as a crook. The rampant greed and corruption in the Alaska seafood industry has been common knowledge from the first signing of the MSA in 1976.

I won't discuss this report line item by line item. It's great stuff if it were being practiced. There is no guarantee, and no evident will on the part of the NPFMC, that it ever will. All these principles were being forwarded by Larry Merculief, a Pribilof islander and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development, in the early '90s. The NPFMC still allowed so much trawling around the Pribilof Islands that the new $85 million harbors were rendered moot for use by a local fleet. There weren't any fish left for man nor sea-bird, nor marine mammal.

Again, this report is a good argument for conservation, but won't go anywhere, under the MSA. News laws will be needed. If the NPFMC had an ounce of thought for conservation they wouldn't be calling a give-away of national marine treasures to a few already very wealthy individuals "market-based." The quota system they want for the Gulf of Alaska, like what they did for the Bering Sea, will destroy billions of dollars of marketable seafood.

Two similar stories came in this week, one true, and the other made up, I think.
"John, I will tell you a true story about a Cordovan who has lived in Mexico for over twenty years. He is on the coast where
the Mexicans in this little village would go to the beach and line up and hold a small beach seine out from the beach in a straight line.
They would maybe get enough fish to partly fill a pick up truck.
He watched this operation and told them. Don’t hold it out in a straight line, put a hook at the end of it and you will get more fish. So they did this and caught enough fish to fill three pick up trucks. The next day they were mad as hell at Gene Mc Bride
(you might know him) They had taken the catch to town
and over loaded the market, could not even sell most of the catch and ruined the price they were getting."

Here's the parable:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long" answered the Mexican.
"Why then didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was adequate to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs... I enjoy a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can HELP you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then SELL the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your OWN plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your HUGE enterprise!"
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards! That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really! And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and playing your guitar and enjoying life with your friends."

The moral of the story? Sen. Ted Stevens got a law passed called the Magnuson-Stevens Act that is designed to weed out the lifestyle fishermen in favor of the high octane fisherman, who may be driven to extremes by a chemical imbalance for all anyone knows. Sen. Stevens has even said, at one meeting at least, that the fishery(ies?) need to get down to "the real bread-winners." These are the high-voltage, take no prisoners guys that never see their families, break fisheries laws when possible, kill and dump over the side mass quantities of by-catch species of fish, hire lobbyists to make fisheries laws to favor them only, fly Congressmen to fishing lodges, etc.

It's sugar coated by calling it "market-based," and it comes in the form of Limited Access Programs/Individual Fishing Quotas. The guys that have the upper hand in fisheries currently without IFQs, have the money to grease the skids. They have the "fishing history" to get even more money with the free gift of large annual allotments, to make the IFQ fight with the little guys a barracuda/sardine contest.

Martin Luther King had a lot to say about the large numbers of people that won't speak up for what is right. Reporters don't get involved because they don't understand all this, so the public knows nothing of the life and death struggle between the "wants-everyone's-shares" and the "have-all-they-wants." Who do you think shows up at the remote federal fisheries management meetings, the former or the latter? And make no mistake, environmentalist- sounding organizations get bought just like politicians. Check it out.

So, if you buy into privatizing the fisheries with IFQs, heed the old Chinese Proverb, "Be careful what you wish for." Eventually there will be exactly three fishing companies in every "rationalized" fishery. That's the type of "market-based" fishery that is prescribed by MSA. And those companies will be so big they sure aren't going to "deliver" to ye old fishing village.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/23

Imports Fuel Push for U.S. Ocean Fish Farms. What I know about fish farming you could scratch on the back of a dime, even though my dad's secretary prophesied that I'd go on to run a fish farm. She was doing the high school class prophecies in Petersburg back in '67 and knew dad was helping develop a fish feed pellet for Dr. Donaldson at the U. of Washington.

The lighthouse at the entrance to Coos Bay, Oregon. Great camping right nearby at Sunset Bay State Park.

As far as I know this was ground zero for the whole salmon farming movement. Or, I should say trout farming, since that is what an Atlantic salmon really is. The pellets I threw into Chris Dahl's homemade lake at his house in Seattle in '68, were to feed a ravenous school of brook trout, or some such species.

RFID still brings more questions than answers for inbound logistics There are a variety of models that are emerging to resolve questions such as who pays for the Radio Frequency ID tags. There are some RFID pilot projects for inbound supply taking place that supply chain and logistics professionals should be keeping track of. RFID has gained a much stronger foothold in manufacturing for tracking works-in-progress, for several reasons. First of all, the investment made is returned within the four walls—it's not being diluted or shared with suppliers or customers. Secondly, the return is tracked more easily because the RFID tags can be applied to bins or pallets that don't leave the plant floor.

Hearing on Dick Cheney's Role in Klamath Fish Kill Set for July 31 in D.C.
Dan Bacher reports that, "As reported in the Washington Post article, “Leaving No Tracks,” by Jo Becker and Barton Gellman on June 27, Cheney's intervention in the development of a 10-year water plan for the Klamath River resulted in a September 2002 die-off of an estimated 68,000 to 80,000 adult salmon in the lower Klamath - the largest fish kill in U.S. history." For several years, Karl Rove was being fingered as the culprit in this fiasco. Maybe he's off the hook as the fall guy, maybe not. If every year the economic damage from run failure is $60 million, what is a generation of a dead run worth, or several generations?

In these hearings, they might as well look back up the migration route to the rest of the king salmon carnage this Administration is perpetuating on the American people. The "dumping" of hundreds of thousands of king salmon every year under the Magnuson-Stevens Act didn't start with Bush, but continues full bore that's for sure. The value of these is another $60 million a year at least, not including the multiplier effect. But I forgot, Washington D.C. operates in the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Who cares about chump change when you got Rep. Senators to support, eh Dick? The one in Oregon cost the Klamath it's king salmon, and the ones in Alaska cost the whole Pacific Rim lots, lots more king salmon, every year. Let's do a little more math. How much has it cost America to wipe out the Rogue River king salmon for example?(Just one of hundreds of dead salmon streams, albiet, a large one, including Alaska streams.) A news article from 1902 warned of the demise of the Rogue king run because of the Hume family cannery at the mouth. The original run of maybe a conservative one million kings a year is, for the sake of math, all gone. A few thousand come back every year now is all. Dams have just prevented the run building back up.

So, for a hundred years, Southern Oregon has been deprived of maybe a half billion dollars to it's economy every year, just to make one man rich for a few decades in the 1800s. In earlier years all the numbers are smaller, but the effect on the economy relative. This insanity continues to this day and supports the notion that the homo sapein brain doesn't evolve much, if any.

Assessing the risks posed by marine aggregate extraction If you type Central Point into Google Earth, and look a few miles north to where Bear Creek enters the Rogue River, you'll see where they used to get gravel right out of the river and creek beds. On the Klamath, a monstrous gold dredge used to sit in the middle of the river and dredge away. This isn't kosher anymore, but it still happens in salt water and other sensitive places. Several Southern Oregon gravel companies have been trying to get permits lately in some fishy places. The above referenced article provides a framework for assessing those risks.

Picking a mean pin bone
This pin-bone removal machine of the University of Alaska's has a lot of potential to get a lot of small processors into supplying high priced salmon fillets. If the U of A can keep control of the licensing process, the machine will get better, the cost will stay down, and every interested processor will be supplied on time. And it sure wasn't Tony Knowles that started the race for the best pin-bone removal machine, it was Ray Wadsworth.

Flying fish find fast route to high-end plates in Lower 48
I don't know what Deanna means by "silver fish over six pounds" getting the premium treatment. Maybe she means "silvers," which are the larger coho salmon, or she might mean very large, ocean run pink salmon, of which there aren't many six pounders. In any event, it sounds like everyone is happy and that's all that matters. Hats off to the setnetters for working together. There are some that say fishermen working together is an oxymoron.

The Olga/Moser Bay fishermen again demonstrate that it's not about fishermen leaders, but individual efforts. It's about fishermen combining their talents in a commercial venture. The politics will fall into line with commercial fishermen's success. Notice I didn't say, "people-that-prey-on-fishermen"'s success.

These Kodiak fishermen discovered the formula that I saw in the Kibbutzim in Israel, that was developed over the last 100 years. It's called self-reliance for the sake of survival.

Bill looks to preserve fishing heritage
The idea is to preserve access to the waterfront by the public to preserve the maritime heritage of the community. "But the proposal could cost some coastal communities money because it includes deep property tax discounts for working waterfronts used by commercial fishermen."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/16

Alaska fisheries academia catches a case of value added fever about once every 25 years or so. The last time the state was flush with oil revenues from a new oil pipeline, so they built the Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak.

The one pound steel can of salmon is now a tapered two piece can. Still steel and the same smell when you open the can. How's that for progress?

Nice gesture, but the meat and potatoes work was being(or not being) done in the back rooms of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. A cozy club of big processors who were comfortable with the existing products, chief among them was and still is, the one pound steel can of salmon. Never mind that it takes a jack-hammer to open one and then the smell will knock you over.

When I started wearing suits to work in the fishing business, I looked into, for instance, why Alaskans weren't allowed to use a Norwegian seaming machine that would do 26 types of aluminum rip-top cans. After being told to "keep your nose out of it, sonny" by the Executive Director of the National Canners Institute in Seattle, Roger DeCamp, I smelled a rat big-time. I finally realized that there was no technological barrier to getting canned salmon to consumers in a form they wanted, it was a political barrier, that exists to this day.

Now, there is a competition to win the Directorship of FITC, so value-adding verbage is cropping up. Give the new Director a month on the job and he'll discover that the Risk Management guy at U. of A. in Fairbanks will tell him that certifying any new canning processes is too risky for state government. While all other canning sectors in the world are making consumer friendly products!

Also keep an eye on the new retort compatible plastics, some of which are compatible with microwave retorting. There is an effort to develop a commercial microwave oven and pouches as we speak. Look for the big packers to get the inside track on that though. Or call the FITC in Kodiak to get the latest. Don't wait to hear about it in the press. There really is a lot a "value-added Director" could do for the seafood industry in Alaska if he had the support of the Governor, which I think he might for once.

Here's an article about restraint in commercial fishing in the Arctic. Trouble is, I got sick within the first minute reading about how the Seattle and Tokyo trawlers and crab fishermen are so sustainably fishing up there in Alaskan waters. This is one of those authors whose job it is to defend the big companies who have managed to corral 95% of the profits from marketing the resource and who don't want their little scam illuminated. Ask this guy about the hundreds of thousands of king salmon and maybe millions of other salmon that the trawlers in his "Alliance" throw over dead every year.

And here's an article on a nasty predator of good eating seafood that just creates more hand wringing than action. When you read this article on the hog-nose ray back East, just insert Alaska spiny dog-fish for ray. It's the same issue as in Alaska, where the dog-fish shark is proliferating and eating everything down there: salmon, king crab, you name it. And the Alaska Department of Fish and Game wrings it's hands over the slow reproductive rate of the critter, while it multiplies like crazy. Is there a correlation to the sacred cows of India?

You'll hear from these fisheries managers, "we just don't know how many of them there are." A conversation I had with fisherfolk in North Carolina recently jumps to mind. The National Marine Fisheries Service scientists said the weak-fish population was in serious decline. The fishermen said there were more than ever. Then a year or so later NMFS said, OK, there's lots of weak-fish. Then the fishermen saw a decline, and Nymfs says no, there are lots, our data says so. Year or two old data, that is. Finally Nymfs says OK, the weak-fish are down. And on and on it goes to this day.

Conclusion? The National Marine Fisheries Service has been watching over fish stocks in the U.S. for 200 years and most commercial stocks are a shadow of their former glory. Politics and fish just don't mix. When you have someone spouting "the health of the coastal communities" just figure on boats going out of business. It's like saying "I'm for apple pie and motherhood." Great, they just use it to cushion the fallout from higher sales taxes and higher health insurance costs.

I shouldn't be so cynical today. I read in the local paper that a third dam on the Rogue River, that has no useful purpose, is being discussed for removal soon. The fourth one, the Lost Creek Dam, is way back in the hills, is big, and is useful as all get-out, whatever that means. So my son and I hiked to the top of Table Rock Mountain today to survey the countryside and ponder a free flowing Rogue once again. A great notion; one where fingerling salmon and steelhead would flush straight to the ocean. They should look at the studies being done for the Kenai River in Alaska on how beneficial sport fishing is to the regional economy. I suspect there would be barrels of dynamite under all three dams within a week of getting that report.

The breakdown of support on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for crew and skipper shares of king crab quotas: The bottom line is that at the moment the umbrella drink sippers are winning out over the guys that risk their lives to bring you Alaska king and snow crab. The quota owners vs the guys that get wet, cold and tired. The big boys cut out the real fishermen in the Council process because they could, thanks to Uncle Ted. But the game isn't over until the crewmen sing, if they can.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/9

The fight for the Klamath River king salmon is symptomatic of the public's attempt to re-establish the concept of "common" ownership, as in "We the People....." The West has switched from hired guns to hired lawyers, so it boils down to who has the best lawyers. If Warren Buffet's lawyers win, the third largest salmon run in the West dies out. If the people win, the salmon live. Simple math.

My "beach count" on St. Paul Island, albeit in the winter, was floating processors - 1, fur seals - 0.

This statement is a sad testimony to the state of U.S. commercial fisheries management: "Consumer groups say its worth paying more for seafood that says "from Alaska" or "farm raised in USA." Or shop a local seafood merchant who personally can vouch for his fish’s origin." This is really saying that there are no more good quantities of wild fish anywhere in U.S. waters except Alaska, Canada included. The U.S. West Coast and British Columbia used to have mass quantities of salmon, much more than Alaska. There used to be lots of other species too, that you could catch in abundance. The runs are so depleted now they are not worth mentioning by food experts. And the NEW version of the federal fishing regulations is STILL production oriented.

Watch for this reporter in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Think about this comment by Sen. Ted Stevens about the salmon runs in Alaska: “without these projects, the salmon population in Alaska runs the risk of depletion.”
Since the Magnuson-Stevens Act won't stop the overfishing of salmon by the trawl fleets, Sen. Stevens helped increase restoration funding. Looks good on paper, but increasing the cash flow of bureaucrats isn't what the Latgawa Indians were looking for. "...includes $90 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. That’s up from the $66 million provided in the current fiscal year to the National Marine Fisheries Service for salmon protection and conservation efforts."

Greenpeace tours Alaska on mission to protect marine resources
Greenpeace has determined to prove bottom trawling's harm to the food chain's ability to sustain itself. (Thank goodness somebody finally has.) They have a manned submersible to go down in the great canyons of the Bering Sea to bring up evidence of the damage to the ecology of the bottom. A key premise in the need for conservation zones around coastal communities. Right now commercial fishermen can fish right up to the docks in most of Alaska, leaving little for personal use by man or mammal.

Here's a letter by a coastal resident on the effects of trawling around his community, and the disregard given it by federal scientists, and of course the U.S. public who don't even know they own a large herd of pelagic seals. And the regulators counting on it.
"John, Yes, I tried the argument of female northern fur seals from here having to
travel away from their pups for 7-14 days in search of food for milk production.
Many don't return and many pups starve, interestingly Bogoslov Island near Dutch now
has a booming population of NFS and the average time away from a pup is only 3 days
and no trawling occurs there but you couldn't make some of these fishery regulators
understand the correlation."

"I just heard from a FWS(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) person that Kittiwakes
nesting on St. Paul have crashed. Murres are also doing horrible as they are doing
on both isles, I could go on forever here but you get the point. I like the heritage
zone concept George has proposed thru Greenpeace and support it, I hope it flies."

More salmon slaughter news:
  • A salmon tender passing Uyak Bay yesterday noticed a trawler(s) in there where they were told to keep out since it is loaded with salmon and they already wiped out the snow crab there.
  • Another report of a trawler bringing up a cod end half full of (dead)salmon.
  • The Oregon trollers routinely ask the bottom trawlers how their by-catch of king salmon is in the spring to judge the run strength.
  • Barrels of salted salmon fillets seen on a major processing plant dock in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor being readied for the owner's private stock.
  • Environmental groups rally 'round dam removal, but ignore that without stopping by-catch of salmon, any larger runs will just mean more king salmon to intercept.
  • Here's a generic article on the extent of by-catch all over. The feds guard the salmon by-catch numbers at Fort Knox I think.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 7/2

Even though the Bridges to Nowhere elicited public disgust at the Republicans, and Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young in particular, it doesn't hold a candle to the greed built into Stevens' patented buffalo hunting machine he calls the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

Trawl by-catch of salmon in the Pacific is thrown back dead.

Today I'm just talking about the wanton waste of millions of pounds of king salmon and other salmon by the trawlers, not the other 3 billion lbs of fish thrown over the side dead every year off U.S. shores.

We're talking about how the man, Sen. Ted Stevens, engineered an Act of Congress to not only exclusively benefit a few large fish company owners, but to leave the entire public wondering where their salmon went. A contributor was bemoaning that a top Alaska fish manager had defended the trawlers in Alaska in regards intercepting salmon from runs in the Lower 48. Even though Alaska trawlers have been known to bring up a deck-load of salmon by mistake and quickly throw them back dead. Literally millions of them every year, including lots of king salmon. One trawl skipper said salmon dove to go into the trawl opening when he lowered the net. Try to find anything about salmon on the National Marine Fisheries Service "By-catch page."

You'll find that Sen. Stevens and the NMFS are joined at the hip. Now add the Washington State trawlers to the mix. The king salmon by-catch in the Pacific has been a closely guarded secret for years. The back-lash for Coastal Congressmen could be great. Here's how the e-mail exchange went:

Greetings, (from me)

How are we going to get good information on what trawlers catch anyway? The Independent Catcher Boats are real sensitive about their by-catch. We need a mole on board one of these boats. Someone in the Gulf of Alaska, one in the Bering Sea and one on the Oregon Coast.

I'm getting that the fuss over herring in Maine is about by-catch of blue-fin tuna, even though nobody will say that in public, just e-mails I get. Heck, one 800 lb blue-fin, squirreled away in the hold could be divvied up into sushi and retail for maybe $50,000 or more. A nice big king salmon in the right market will fetch $1,000 now.

One, I think observer data is being "sanitized" by NMFS. Two, the observer logs may not be showing large by-catches due to manipulations by skippers and fish companies(reported drugs to observers who like to party, etc) Three, I don't doubt your report that Doug Mecum and others in State government are hiding the fact that the huge king salmon by-catch in the trawl fleet impacts the Lower 48 greatly.

A couple of years ago they had 30,000 kings up the Rogue River. (These are bigger kings than on the Columbia.) The last couple of years the run has been about 6,000 fish. Nothing down here accounts for the difference that I know of. And of course the Columbia always struggles along. If the by-catch was only Alaska fish, the runs up there would be devastated. I hear the Stikine king season was way down from last year too.

This is all real general, but I think there is enough of a premise here to warrant an expose on the by-catch issue. Mainers are taking matters into their own hands and intend to observe the herring trawlers themselves, since the Fishery Management Council won't. Maybe it's time folks do the same for the North Pacific fleet. Naturally that's real problematic. Anyone want to kick in for a Predator drone with a gigapixel resolution digital camera?

I remember flying in a Cherokee six coming back from Ivanoff Bay at 10,000 feet, just as calm as can be, and it blowing a good 50 on the water. I also keep getting a visual of the inside of a Russian factory trawler in the 60's era, when they would dump everything down a hole in the deck, sea lions and all. Picture a old Siberian woman on the sorting belt when a bull sea lion comes down the belt. She dispatches it with a AK-47 and pushes it off into the chute going to the slaughter house. Next, picture a long line of Russians at a Moscow meat market being handed packages of sea lion meat labeled Kazakhstan Kow.

Not sure what the point of that was, except this whole by-catch thing is stranger than fiction. The Catcher Boats "waste" 18 million pounds of squid and laugh it off as just another day in the "Calamari Triangle" as they call it. A deck load of king salmon on a trawler never hitting the news. Juvenile halibut not being reported at all. (probably many times more individuals than the official allowed by-catch of halibut)

And I won't go into the destruction to the bottom habitat for the juveniles of practically everything out there from bottom trawling. It's just like running a bull-dozer down the Rogue River after the king salmon have spawned. If the news services had reporters that understood biology just an iota, and had come from places at least within 500 miles of the coast, they might "get it." This isn't a good time to bring up this subject, with all the Stevenses family issues in the news, and hopefully even more so. But food for thought for the future.



"You only have half the story -- the REST OF THE STORY:"

"Alaska trawlers have sucker punched the Makah tribal fleet by offering boats, midwater trawlers, to supply the "mother" ship. Makah's location on the Olympic Peninsula is crucial to any fish destined for the Puget Sound AND the Columbia River. In effect, the Makah tribal fishermen are taking their share, the Puget Sound tribes' share and the Coastal tribes' share, ie Quileute, Hoh and Quinault tribes -- to say nothing of the Columbia River interior tribes such as the Yakama, Wenatchee, et al!"

"Bottom trawlers must be labeled for what they REALLY are: = clear cutting the ocean bottom that disturbs centuries of coral, cod, halibut and other bottom fish rearing areas. BUT, then they change to the mid-water trawls because it's supposed to be benign, BUT then they take migratory species like Chinook (King) salmon, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon incidentally and NEVER report their catch -- much of which is dumped overboard so they don't have to report! WE'RE F....., MAN. Magnuson, Stevens, and now Patty Murray have played into this OUTRAGE!"

"Call your Congressional delegation and raise some serious S...! Somebody should put Bob Thorstensen and his son out of their eternal misery!"

Eternal misery might be what this whole crowd could be facing, with such seared consciences. But that doesn't do any good to the Indians and everyone else standing empty-handed on the banks of salmon rivers all over the West. Taking these trawlers, the National Marine Fisheries Service and other responsible parties to task might be their salvation. Not only is the Buffalo Hunt still going on, trawlers are bulldozing the prairie too when they switch to bottom trawling from mid-water trawling.

"Hi jon, thanks for all you do. We have lots of moles in the trawl fleet. However, most of them want to keep their jobs and anecdotal information is quickly downplayed by industry lobbyists. Even with pictures of trawlers fishing inside the salmon markers in Deadman Bay in August presented to the Council at the April meeting, it seemed the AP and council members chose to ignore it."

"Last winter's Pcod season saw 50/50 halibut bycatch to cod catch on the Portlock Bank, but nobody with an observer fishes there. The talk from local crews sheds light on a general agreement in the trawl fleet to keep away from high bycatch areas and no night fishing for boats with observers on board. Sure sounds like conspiracy to commit fraud to me…"

"I don’t think much bribery of observers takes place, with so little coverage you usually just take one for the team by doing an “observer trip”-one trawl before midnight in a safe area, one after midnight, and drop the guy back off in town so you can go fishing… 30% coverage is supposedly required but due to lack of observers its more like 9-12%.Couple that with intentional observed bycatch avoidance and the bottom drops out of realistic data collection. 100% coverage and 100% retention is the only way to know for sure."

"The under 60 foot exemption doesn’t help. Stories of huge halibut bycatch by the Sand Point pocket draggers in the winter Adak cod fishery made it back to Kodiak, and didn’t sit well with some locals that scratch out there all summer to get Q pounds.(This trawling when the cod come in-shore is a pet project of a newly appointed NPFMC member of all things.) Perhaps a tonnage limit would work better than length…you can pack a hell of a lot of boat into 59 feet these days."

Maybe this is the lunker at the bottom of this 40 fathom line. The federal fisheries managers are tasked to use science more now to manage the nation's fish. The reader quoted below underscores the fact that science is still in the eye of the beholder in fisheries management, and that the new version of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management Act is fatally flawed, just like it's author.


"You may have noticed that Dick Cheney and Carl Rove are under serious scrutiny in Congress about their role in the Klamath River debacle that killed over 70,000 returning Chinook.(And is threatening to do the same this year.) It was laughable that some jerk from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that low water was only part of the cause of dead salmon. The other reason he said was because there were too many returning salmon -- more than any year of the last 50 years. HA! HA! Now salmon abundance is used to justify the LACK of returning Chinook(in future runs). Gawd, I missed my calling -- I should have been a federal fisheries biologist!"

The only premise the USFWS could have is that the salmon breathed too deeply and used up all the oxygen in the River, yeah sure. Instead of the warm low-water flows having less oxygen and gives them gill rot too. So it boils down to "turning a blind eye" by federal fisheries managers in "things fish." I just hope Congress doesn't do the same while they investigate Ted Stevens, or we will have to put a border fence around Washington D.C. instead of on the Southwest Border, like the Sheriff in Arizona suggested.

Prohibited Species By-catch Management Plan: Federal Register, Proposed Rules, April 17, 2007.
There has been a 48,000 chinook salmon cap on the by-catch by pollock trawlers in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Now they propose to exempt the pollock trawlers from that in exchange for gentleman's agreements, or something. Nobody knows how many king salmon are being caught in the Gulf of Alaska, and not in the Washington whiting trawl fishery either. It's like allowing a duck hunter to kill one bald eagle for every three ducks he bags.

The solution? Subpoena crew-men and skippers for Congressional and Court proceedings. Don't expect them to say anything about what they catch voluntarily. So much for the "Council process" under MSA being a public process. Maybe they could testify from behind a curtain, otherwise they would lose their jobs in "Uncle Ted's last buffalo hunt."