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.