Wednesday, October 31, 2007

November Fisheries Memo

The mother of all end runs in Eastern Canada would have the processors and big boat owners give the boot to all the small fishing operations. In the U.S. they call it "rationalization," which of course is only rational to the big processors and big boat owners.

Even the old "halibut schooner" design is capable of selectively taking all the cod, halibut and POP in the Gulf of Alaska with longlines and pots.

"The trust agreement issue is just one skirmish in a more far-reaching conflict between two visions for the future of the fishery in Canada. One vision – the one currently set out in DFO policy – foresees an industry based on somewhat smaller but more economically self-sufficient fleets, owned and operated by highly skilled professional fish harvesters, and producing high-quality, high-value seafood products for world markets."

Modeling to find critical habitat on the ocean bottom.

"Using oceanographic data, they created models to identify areas where the conditions were right for deep-water kelp forests. As reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their model accurately identified known forests and predicted the existence of more than 9,000 square miles of additional ones." What are we waiting for in pinpointing the sea-whip and coral forests off Alaska's coasts where juvenile fish of all kinds find refuge to grow up?

2008 Request for Proposals: North Pacific Research Board

Just don't propose to sort out the massive by-catch of king salmon problem. Or the rock-fish, or the chum salmon, or the herring, or the squid, or the halibut, etc. The fishers aren't talking, not even if you sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Sometimes I think the odd grants they give out are smokescreens to the huge problems, like the massive baby halibut killing by the cod trawlers. Sustainable cod fishing? You must be joking.

It's estimated that if these baby halibut grew up, there would be another 80 to 120 million pounds of halibut for the catching. That's an economic hit to the U.S. of approximately $6.5 billion a year, every year, given a retail price of $12.95 a lb. At present the charter fleet gets about 9 million lbs and the commercial fleet maybe 55 million lbs., depending on the year. 13 million lbs a year are REPORTED being "dumped" by IPHC. Makes the destruction of 5 million lbs. of king salmon each year by the trawlers seem like chicken feed. You know that when there is dead silence on this subject, something big is going on. Who is on the International Pacific Halibut Commission anyway?

A first step would be for these guys to rule that trawlers "declare" all immature halibut caught and killed. Then of course they wouldn't declare anything, like the trawler in Maine who didn't declare any of his main catch, much less the bycatch. Then you put closed circuit TV cameras on board, like the 4.3 million CCTV cameras in Britain. Many of these are monitored and speakers boom out warnings on offenses like, "Pick up that trash you dropped."

I can see the same system in action on board a vessel, with the observers in an office in Anchorage, "No mooning of federal observers allowed, pull up your pants immediately." The point isn't the wording of that, but to just lighten up about the whole issue of video monitoring of the work deck of trawlers. Of course, as the power politics approach to fisheries management slowly gives way to scientific management, large volume live-capture pots will be used to selectively harvest target species and trawls will be relegated to the Holocaust Museum of Ecology, along with gold mining, dynamite and DDT.

Check out the fisticuffs on the Highliner Blog:
There was a post by an attorney to silence one of the pariahs of fishermen's organizations that former Administrations listened to. The problem is that dollar-connected folk have made their way to Juneau and it way went to their heads. Especially as they can get quoted in the big newspapers. In papers that will put editorial notes like this after writer contributions:
"the writer faces trial next week on federal corruption charges related to his legislative work on oil taxes." How politically correct we are!

Oh, that Ed Murrow was still around to orchestrate the news. Questioning the messenger without intelligent discussion of the message is just plain juvenile, not to mention being really snarky. Pariahs of Alaska fisheries politics are falling silent one at a time as Corrupt Bastards Club members head for stints in the slammer, it's the pirhanas that are the tough ones to get rid of.

To Privatize or not to Privatize, that is the question:
Stockton, California tried to privatize it's water utility, but had to go back to being municipally run. The water company killed the fish, charged more for the water, and the water was less pure.

The point is to relate this to how we are doing in privatizing the harvesting of the U.S. marine fish resources. The Act of Congress that set marine privatization in motion was designed to do just that, without the public noticing how they were losing their ownership rights. In practice, the harvest of marine resources operates like the Stockton water company. The science of by-catch is swept under the rug, the damage to the environment is regarded as a non-issue, and on and on.

The main issue for the ecology of the Exclusive Economic Zone, from 3 to 200 miles offshore, is the WAY it is managed. The greed of the few "who can" will always prevail over the interests of the many if given a chance, and under the Magnuson-Stevens Act they certainly have had a chance. Honest people will need to not only undo the privatization that has occured, but to re-invent the whole process so it can't happen again.

Reconciliation, in order to implement true and good fisheries management for the North Pacific, doesn't happen automatically, like a bank reconciliation does. It's like the civil rights movement in the South; the representatives of the true and the good will have to just keep on keeping on until enough folks with conscience show up. I have a suspicion that this will all be on LINK TV before too long.

A letter in the Juneau Empire recently was saying the same thing about the Alaska Board of Fish, ie., under their jurisdiction, most of the remaining herring stocks in S.E. Alaska have failed. Sometimes there would be up to three roe herring seiners on the Board at once.

My father saw the problems with herring seining for the lucrative roe coming a mile away. After all, the Enge family seiner was built before WWI to seine herring for the reduction plant in Killisnoo. That's why I think he put the bug in my brother's ear to pioneer the roe herring gillnetting business; that gillnetting them would let the smaller year classes slip through the net and protect the stocks. And like they say, the rest is history.

I still chuckle at the folks, who don't know better, say these kind of statements are inflamatory and subversive and other names I won't mention. They weren't around to see this kind of thinking create the selective fisheries, including crab and finfishing with pots and gillnetting for herring we now have. Now, attorneys, the FBI, and new faces on the NPFMC, are leveling the playing field, so the tide really is turning a little I think. With that vote against the Seattle contingent on the North Pacific Council in October, I dare say that I glimpse the furvor of "taking Alaska back for Alaskans" that occurred prior to 1959.

I had tunnel vision when I was a troller too, and didn't make the connection to the king stocks falling as the trawl fleet mushroomed after the "200 mile limit law." Just like the Oregon troller, who is now helping plant shade trees on Oregon rivers after the loggers cut right down to the water's edge. This guy fished in the summer off-shore for kings and coho, then in the winter has been working for the logging companies. He said that as a Cat operator, "the best way to get around in the woods with a bulldozer was to drive up the creeks." If the incredulity of this escapes you, stay tuned.

North Pacific Council reporting devolves into a game of "gotcha":
I'm trying to keep generic about my industry commentaries, but it's especially hard when the discussion gets so off track. This article didn't address any stand for any principle in particular, so what was the point? (see John Finley's rebuttal) Let's let the "gotcha" folks, like Wesley Clark vs Rush Lindbaugh, on the "unpatriotic soldiers" comment, do their playing around for listeners attention. The survival of the North Pacific ecosystems and the communities is too important to bicker over semantics.

Is what frosts me is the automatic "bristling" (let's see a "gotcha" on that description) by the Council members as Greenpeace presented proof that the canyons of the Bering Sea appear to be "critical fish habitat."(Oh, no they aren't, yes they ARE, etc.) We all know the federal fishery management Councils are appointed from "industry" which has the job of maximizing production, even from a "critical habitat."

I'm reminded of the Japanese egg technician that described being on a trawler off Africa going for octopus. They would use a totally chain trawl and drag up a deckload of boulders, then in fifteen minutes the deck would turn red with squirming octopus trying to get away. Even now, when trawlers of all stripes are allowed, by the none-the-wiser citizenry and politicians, they will take out the bottom too. Always have, always will. Greenpeace didn't just come along and make this up. Remember, they have pictures.

One last story I promise. Having to take pictures when the government isn't doing it's job in protecting the environment isn't new in Alaska. I was just out of college in the early 70s when my Dad and his good buddy Earl "Mile High" Walker took a helicopter to Prince of Whales Island to photograph the logged off riparian zones of the salmon streams . Then they displayed the eight by ten glossys in a store-front window on main street Petersburg. And remember when the late Ted Evans hired a Lear jet to fly him out to the international "Doughnut hole" to photograph Russian trawlers illegally fishing?

I'm telling ya, all this squandering of halibut and king salmon in the Gulf of Alaska may seem politically correct, because the U.S. Senators from Alaska(who are under criminal investigation) have sanctioned it. It has also been well camouflaged, but lots of people are laughing, and crying. The value of the lost fish is many times more than the value of the Pacific cod these few trawlers catch. There is no conscionable way anyone in their right mind could label the P. cod fishery "sustainable." And that doesn't touch the subject of damage to the ecology of the bottom that all species need intact. As of December 2006, the havoc that bottom trawling wreaks on the bottom and on non-target species is against the law, look it up.

The "Young Guns" in Juneau might not know all this, but the Republican Alaska delegation to Congress sure does; they just hope they and their aparatchiks can keep bullying dissenting voices. Republicans will need to fix these wasteful and destructive practices, of which I just touch on in this piece, in order to regain the public's trust. Remember when Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens tried to put brakes on Internet free speech? That was the Republican way to fix things. The only hope for the Republican Party is to let these loose cannons go over the side to make way for real Republicans. The Democrats would never think of letting our food supply go to waste, would they?