Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sept. Fisheries Memo

Seems the oldest son of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia started a marine conservation foundation. They sure have good equipment. (Dirk Pitt would have been jealous, for you Clive Cussler books fans.) But the video statement of the Executive Director struck me as a good goal for all of us, especially those on the U.S. federal fisheries management councils.

Yours truly getting some exercise at the headwaters of the Rogue River, Crater Lake.

The new Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2006 makes it clear that "science" is the control rod in this process. This is what Capt. Renaud, USN (Ret.), is talking about in the video. Look at the reefs they have been studying and listen to his words, then contrast that with a "canyon buster" trawl pulverizing the whole scene and catching anything swimming, in giant swaths. This is the exemplary management the fishing companies and Sen. Ted Stevens, that run the NPFMC, are referring to? Incredible!

Look at what New Zealand is saying about discovering their marine biodiversity, not pulverizing it. That we need to see what lives down there first. That's contrasted with Ted Stevens and Co.'s plans to expand bottom trawling in the Gulf of Alaska out to where the Pacific ocean perch are. Most on the NPFM Council are convinced that certain types of vessels need to trawl everything because it's "more efficient." What has that to do with science?

Science would dictate that deep-sea capable schooners like the old halibut schooners sit out there and use pots on those newly restored stocks of Pacific ocean perch, not bottom trawlers. Not possible to get the quota that way? Remember when two big Japanese-financed schooners took the entire Gulf of Alaska black cod quota in a month or so, before the traditional fleet could get out on the grounds in the spring? Remember the Alamo, I mean the dorys.

So Sen. Stevens wears Incredible Hulk ties? Well, the latest incredible factoid about him is his telling a television reporter that he didn't hear any derogatory comments on his trip to Kodiak recently. Where, in fact, he was heckled for over a minute from a distance of 25 feet by a crowd of fishermen that have finally had it with his trading fish, and their jobs, for campaign contributions.

Election campaigns are the demon seed for ecological catastrophe, and Capt. Renaud refers to the environment being ALL our responsibility. On a recent trip to Oregon's coast I was reminded that we didn't inherit very good genes for preserving intact habitat, seeing all the former good salmon streams and rivers, and reading an article about the encroachment of the Western juniper. It's good habitat that science says is necessary for the wellbeing of mankind, right?

So why can't anyone stop wholesale environmental degradation like bottom trawling? And midwater by-catch of so many valuable species, such as king salmon, or bait fish such as squid. I keep hearing how king salmon is a cultural icon out West here. But nobody wants to, or more likely, can, take on the U.S. Senators behind the destruction. Remember the election campaigns?

There's probably only one Senator I would bank on now and that's Senator Coburn of Oklahoma, the "pork-buster-in-chief." But then Sen. McCain tried admirably to stop Sen. Ted Stevens and his "midnight rider" from taking the crab away from the fishermen and giving it to the big shore plants in Dutch Harbor. And don't forget that Oregon's Sen. Gordon Smith stood there and watched while the water was turned off to the Klamath River in 2002, killing the baby salmon first, then the adults when they came into the river that year. The result was the coup de' grais to the West coast troll fishery and all the incomes dependent on that fishery in the communities.

And what's with Congresswoman Hooley of Oregon going on a "revitalization road trip" along the Willamette River, with the only things on her itinerary being bridges and riverside development. If Congress' definition of "revitalization of rivers" and "science based fishing" is just helping a few folks pay for their next round of TV commercials, then we'd all like to know about it. But would we believe them if they explained it anyway, with about a 15% approval rating for Congress?

My guess is that we'll be hearing more from environmental voters as more people catch the words of Captain Philip Renaud, the former Oceanographer for the U.S. Navy. One lobbyist in Juneau, AK has thought to lobby under the "Environmental Voter" banner already. And he doesn't represent the Middleton Island Trawl Fishermen's Association, or some such with another hat on, like most all lobbyists.

So, there's our marching orders: be an environmental voter, then hold our elected representatives and bureaucrats responsible for our own environment before sermonizing on other countries' abuse of land and marine environments. We wouldn't need offshore fish farms if we got rid of the bottom trawls and fixed our streams and rivers. But just think of the political contributions that could be garnered from permitting the first industrial scale off-shore fish farms. You know it will be the first permitees that capture the lion's share of the U.S. market for such fish.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Monday Fisheries Headlines 8/13

Sign reported(?) on door of Calhoun Street fisheries building in Juneau: BEAT IT, WE'RE CLOSED! Do we dare hope? One of the "proprietors" was recently charged by the State Troopers with having an unlicensed crewman on his boat.

Launching a robot from the "Esperanza" to take videos of areas of the Bering Sea where trawlers have been.

Groundswell Fisheries Movement is starting to take an active look at the new Farm Bill. Fishermen are now considered peers of farmers and could stand to gain much if the stars in this Bill line up for them. (This is a hint to Alaska's Congressional delegation. Their recent actions now allow a fisherman to process up to 10,000 lbs of catch a week without major red tape.) I wonder if the Petersburg Economic Development Department will recognize these fishermen as processors now that the Feds do.

Here's good reason for fishing village business owners to pay attention to federal fisheries management.
Maine now has restrictions on taking marine related property out of service for marine use and that means the owners can't make a killing selling it to whoever has the most money anymore. For good reason. But there is the problem that the federal fisheries management councils don't operate efficiently like a corporation. Not even like the Military. More like the Clan of the Cave Bear. I didn't read the book, it just sounded primitive is all. So maybe the owners of the property around boat harbors should do what they should have all along, that is, weigh in on policies like "rationalization" which shrink the fleet and favor mega-vessels who can deliver a long ways away.

This article is a good account of what it looks like if you walk around the harbor, but the important underlying causes are never mentioned. Again we see reporters just saying "decline of the fishing industry," like it's something that falls out of the sky. It's funny sometimes seeing some people in the industry confusing "trollers" with "trawlers," which is so common with politicians and other landlubbers. The effect on communities of key people keeping their heads in the sand practically makes me cry.

The Discovery Channel wants us to learn about the importance of a healthy marine environment.
A special called Deep Blue is premiering this week. It's about the deep oceans. I have a hard time seeing the "big picture" in these specials because of the emphasis on visual effects and simplistic dialogue geared for the young. You won't see underwater footage of a mega-trawler scooping up fish, and the bottom too, in one of their films, which has much more influence on the ecosystem than everything else combined.

Greenpeace is getting footage of what it looks like AFTER the trawlers have gone through an area. Maybe if they can photograph the trawler up ahead of them, then jump to a live feed from the bathysphere and then to an area not touched by a bottom trawl, we'd see what is really going on. Remember, Oregon studies show that 30% of the species complex is wiped out from bottom trawling. Great way to leave the continental shelf for our kids and grand-kids.

Logging takes new form.
I don't usually delve into other industries, but this article sounded like some folks in British Columbia are making sense, and there was a big article on the Tongass in S.E. Alaska in the July issue of National Geographic. The Tongass issue is becoming one of "how much say does the public have in ecosystem preservation?" This has a bearing on "how much say does the public have on marine ecosystem preservation?" Since most all of the U.S. public lives in big cities, does it matter if a few Congressmen let a few big companies make a pile of money screwing up the "out-of-sight" parts of America?

Given the way Congress has it fixed, the taxpayer could just pay every timber worker in S.E. Alaska $142,000 a year to stay home. The big advantage is that the very complex old-growth ecosystem would be saved. Everything else in the equation would be equal. I did a report on this with my son on old growth forests in Oregon and it was a real eye-opener. I grew up in the Tongass not having an opinion one way or the other on cutting the old growth. But I couldn't go back and hunt in areas that they logged, that was for sure.

The stuff is hitting the fan for fisheries managers to consider the crewmen.
Greetings Miss Crome,(the fisheries advisor to the Governor of Alaska)

I've attached the endorsement letter for the Governor, the
proposal for the Bering Sea Crab Crewmen's Cooperative, and
the Fishheads
February 2007 testimony to the NPFMC.

The Crewman's Association is sponsoring the BSCCC
reallocation proposal; we
have submitted our proposal as a basis for future FMP
changes for all US
fisheries, as crewmen are the true laborers/harvesters in
the commercial
fishing industry. I have not attached the 30 pages of
National Standards
which we will use as basis for judicial review and for the
Congress to
review crab rationalization.

I will refer you to page 17 of 30, National Standard #4
section C (3)
Factors in making allocations

(i) Fairness and equity. (A) An allocation of fishing
privileges should be
rationally connected to the achievement of OY or with the
furtherance of a
legitimate FMP objective. Inherent in an allocation is the
advantaging of
one group to the detriment of another. THE MOTIVE FOR
IN THE FISHERY. On the other hand, there is a rational
connection between
an objective of harvesting shrimp at their maximum size and
closing a
nursery area to trawling.

(iii) Avoidance of excessive shares. An allocation scheme
must be designed
to deter any person or other entity from acquiring an
excessive share of
fishing privileges, and to avoid creating conditions
fostering inordinate
control, by buyer or sellers, that would not otherwise

We will have a complete packet ready for future legal
review. We have made
contact with Congress and submitted the same documents.
We'll be sending a
delegation to D.C. this Fall to work on new legislation to
amend crab
rationalization for the crewmen of the BS/AI crab

We appreciate that you will be conferring with Commissioner
Lloyd and then
provide Governor Palin with all of these documents.

We look forward to a timely response from your office, as
well as the
Governor's endorsement of our proposal.

Shawn C. Dochtermann
Crewmen's Association
Kodiak, AK
Well, the response was not exactly timely as I understand from further copies of correspondence. But then we didn't even know who this woman was when she was appointed. We don't hold that against the Governor, but there is some expectation of response through the usual channels of governance, not through some council.