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."