Thursday, September 06, 2007

October Fisheries Memo

"I think lobbyists should get a lifetime tag, not fishermen." "In privatization, the good crewmen have all left Kodiak." The Kodiak Fisheries Advisory Committee is taking all this to heart.(maybe)

Greenpeace diving spheres out to look at critical fish habitat for the first time in the Bering Sea.

It used to be a very divisive process, with large trawl owners and large shore-based processors pitted against crewmen, small boat owners and the public. To quote Senator Stevens, I don't want to comment, so as not to give the perception that I'm influencing the outcome. LOL

"Trawlers: wrong gear for rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska." That old salt, John Finley of Kodiak, and I had a discussion about this not long ago. I know how effective finfish pots can be, since I rustled up a design for the first go at using them in Alaska. In Alaska it has been a case of the longliners lobbying to get pots banned from an area because they work so good. Pots will catch more fish than the crew of any boat can handle if the skipper isn't careful. Everything will try go into a pot; halibut will even try to ram themselves through a cod pot tunnel.

As the new version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act kicks in to protect non-target species through science, the fact that pot fishermen can throw non-target fish back alive and trawlers can't, cannot be ignored anymore. There's no hurry to trawl up the masses of Pacific ocean perch, since they live as long as humans. They are just recovering from Japanese trawlers efforts 40 years ago. Is that not a cautionary tale?

"You hear a lot that these areas are just mud and silt, and there's no real need to protect them." "But on every dive we found areas where there's hard bottom, coral, sponges, anemones: things that create habitat for fish." This from the cruise of the Greenpeace vessel "Esperanza" to the huge underwater canyons of the Bering Sea. Is what baffles me is the widespread mentality that fishing in the Bering Sea canyons should continue as usual until solid proof of harm is gathered. How about the other way around; don't fish until bottom trawlers can prove they do no harm. That would have saved the commercial fishing industry on both coasts of the continental U.S. I still marvel at reporters who imply that strict catch limits are the fault of government, like they were going out at night in stealth craft and mopping up the fish.

Fishing Jobs Outlook: U.S. Department of Labor

"Employment of fishers and fishing vessel operators is expected to decline through the year 2014. Fishers and fishing vessel operators depend on the natural ability of fish stocks to replenish themselves through growth and reproduction, as well as on governmental regulation to promote replenishment of fisheries. Many operations are currently at or beyond the maximum sustainable yield, partially because of habitat destruction, and the number of workers who can earn an adequate income from fishing is expected to decline. Many fishers and fishing vessel operators leave the occupation because of the strenuous and hazardous nature of the job and the lack of steady, year-round income."

Quality of Life Report on Fishing: U.K.

This would piss off the Pope of Commercial Fishing in Alaska. "The report proposes that the one million recreational fishermen, who mostly fish within three miles of the shore, should have a greater say in the management of fish stocks." Around the British Isles, the commercial fishing industry had their crack at managing the fish, and guess how many are left. Big commercial fishing centers bigger than Kodiak are practically ghost towns now.

This is what I alluded to last time, "............and a third category of protected area would allow fishing but only by small boats using selective techniques." I remember fishing halibut from a skiff for eleven cents a pound and even at that a lot of people were doing it to supplement their income. Not catching tons on weekends, but using just enough gear to make it worth their while.

I think that a community committee, like a draft board, should give some quota share to obviously professional halibut and black cod crew(and of course, king crab crew) that got nothing the first time around. And make it illegal for a halibut vessel owner to ask a crewman to buy quota shares just to be hired on.

Oh, but I forgot, quality of life issues are for big boat owners and above: fishing companies, processors(large ones only, please), fishery management council members and elected officials. In the seafood industry food chain, not enough falls to the bottom to keep the ports viable in the long run, especially under privatization(rationalization) of the fish. Distant owners of the fish, unlike the historical norm of the guy with a hook and line attached to the fish, care especially little for the habitat their fish, (and everyone else's), need to sustain themselves.

Look at what the European Union is talking about to save their fisheries: "Our future policy will concentrate on four priorities: maximising the economic use of the oceans and seas in a sustainable way; making the most of knowledge and innovation; ensuring a high quality of life in coastal regions; and securing a maritime role for Europe in the world." Trawling up 200,000 plus king salmon(some think it's twice that) and throwing 'em back dead every year in the N. Pacific doesn't exactly match THEIR thinking. Well, Alaska has it covered, they've built 34 hatcheries to create a "ocean ranching" sector that is now one quarter of the whole salmon harvest. Half, if you are just looking at pink salmon.

And, for you economics junkies, here's a report on ferries, that includes a section on fish.

And mine clean-up talk in Oregon. Salmon canning at the mouth of the Rogue River and mining in and around the river pretty much did in the runs. One mine was closed a long time ago but is still biting them in the rear with copper leaching into the Rogue.(They say copper messes with a salmon's homing mechanism.) To top it off, nobody has the guts to make the mid-river fishery a catch and release fishery, for the ones that got by the trawlers in Washington anyway.

Distortion of Bottom Trawling Observer Data: The Sequel
Did you hear about all the dead salmon and rockfish that drifted up on a Washington beach after being dumped over by a trawler this summer? The skipper turned off his "video observer" for the big toss it turns out. There was more confirmation from a former government employee that my 200,000 plus dead and thrown back king salmon from the Alaska trawl fleet is accurate. The harvest this summer in Alaska was about 300,000 fish short of the projected catch.

300,000 fish, times a 17 lb average, gutted, is 4,590,000 lbs headed. Times $12.95 a lb, equals a retail value of $59,440,500. A conservative by-catch of 200,000 kings would be a $40,000,000 loss to the seafood industry along the distribution chain, without a multiplier effect added on.