Friday, November 30, 2007

December Fisheries Memo

Aquaculture strategizing by European Union
They feel that they hatch the technology and other countries benefit from it mostly. (They forget that it was Dr. Donaldson of the University of Washington who jump-started salmonid farming to begin with back in the 1960's.)

This plant in Petersburg, AK(center) was my "base of operations" from 1966 through 1978. It was also where I hung up a lot of my game, repaired my skiffs, and learned to fish for "dollies" and hunt crows.

DNA "Fin-printing" project for salmon launched
This project could show what commercial salmon fishermen or Indians are getting short-changed by the trawlers salmon by-catch.
The result (of Federal fisheries management) is "the piracy of the 21st century. Grab what you can and take off." Remember, Federal Fishery Management Council members can just ignore the scientists and vote depending on which side of the bed they woke up on. Other wild cards: they use non-fishermen to find and count fish, (the Dept. of Agriculture doesn't use fishermen to count trees.) they don't take into account that fish migrate, and they don't take into account long cycle water temperature changes.

The New Bedford Business Alliance announces a call to the industry to have Congress hold hearings on the National Marine Fisheries Service.
(This site contains an on-line petition as of Dec. 1)
A petition had been gaining serious traction Back East, then the head of NMFS resigned. Rats jumping off the ship? Just think how much bigger the longline, gillnet and troll fleets in the Pacific would be if trawl by-catch were eliminated and the estimated 6,000,000 pounds of king salmon and the extra 100,000,000 pounds of halibut showed up at the docks every year.

These are the numbers that Sen. Ted Stevens and his symbiotic NMFS have been holding back from the City Managers and Mayors in Alaska. And in the face of pollock and Pacific cod stocks declining in Alaska, this may be a lot of communities' and fishermen's last chance to call for transparency, and SANITY. Maybe the root problem is that NMFS burns up their budget on mundane and arcane details and doesn't have the funds (or will) to tackle the big problems.

If the "owners of government" want to speak up in a petition, it's going to be hard for Congress to tell them to get lost like Sen. Ted Stevens does when the average fishing delegation flys back to D.C. to see him.

Industry Market Research Report (Australia) is what we need for Congress to understand the fishing business. And make them read it, not like Hillary does.
I don't think Alaska's ports really bought into the "God bless us and nobody else" platform of "rationalization." Government leaders just got hoodwinked into it by some folks pretending to represent the industry. We now know that it shrinks the industry and causes divisions in the communities. As an example, some fishermen leaders in Alaska are promoting a smaller salmon seine fleet because they only get 35 cents a pound for chum salmon there, then sneak off and seine for them in Puget Sound, WA for 85 cents a pound with no explanation!

Here's a telling letter on how special interests and your average fish manager gangs up on the boat harbor. (Government folks buy into "privatization" of the fish because it simply makes their jobs easier.)

"Good morning John,
I agree that Brother Grimm was an odd choice. (A consultant from Colorado, that was brought(bought) to speak on limited access privileges.) That presentation was arranged by Environmental Defense - they are big LAPP proponents - you might want to check out their website.
I think you're right about the environmental gains not holding water. A friend who has a brother in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico told me because her brother didn't qualify for a red snapper share, he now has to throw overboard the snapper he catches while fishing for grouper. Our fisheries here are mostly multi-species too, so the same thing is likely to happen here.
During the presentation by Brother Grimm, (a fisherman) said, "My family owns 10 boats and I don't agree with LAPPs." A survey by our state fisheries agency found no difference between support of LAPPs between "big fishermen" and "little fishermen" - that was interesting to me.
I've wondered about Environmental Defense applauding the safety benefits too. For one thing, our fish are migratory so fishermen have to fish when the fish are here. For another, even without processor quotas, some fisheries run on volume and the fish houses call the shots as far as wanting fish or not. And, as you mentioned, prices are better at different times. (Referring to being forced to fish in stormy weather.)
One state employee whispered to me while the presentation was going on, "The problem is that NC (North Carolina) commercial fisheries have never been about economic efficiency but have always been about community wealth." This weekend provided an example of what we stand to lose here - at 3 am Saturday a fisherman called 911 and ended up in the hospital with serious heart problems. By 7 am this morning all the fishermen on the island committed to giving him 2 percent of their pay until he gets back on his feet.
As always, your insight is greatly appreciated,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mid-November Fisheries Memo

Inuit put the kibosh on uranium mines in headwaters of five salmon rivers:
“No one in the world today can prove to us that there is a safe way to dispose of uranium tailings,” said Anderson. “The two uranium deposits are in a watershed area that flows into five major salmon rivers in Nunatsiavut.

Alaska's Rep. Don Young wants to give 400,000 acres of logging rights in the Tongass near here to some Indian loggers. Uh, this wouldn't have anything to do with his low approval rating would it?

It would be really irresponsible to go ahead with that development not fully understanding what could happen should there be an accident.” In Alaska they have a solution: they get the government agencies to explain how smart they are, nevermind that they haven't been able to protect anything yet.

The long-awaited Bromley-Macinko report on fisheries "rationalization."
I have a solution for the conundrum of trying to change the public's perception of "privatization" of public fish resources. Just whitewash it. It's not the central issue anyway.

What part of this sentence doesn't make sense?

"The agreement was created to protect and enhance salmon and steelhead habitat in the river, as well as ensure water continues to be supplied to farmers, power generators and environmentalists."

This rates right up there with the statement "fishing regulations are hurting fishermen." First of all, fishermen hurt themselves by catching all the fish and ruining the fish habitat. Likewise, there isn't a huge water pipeline, going who knows where, labeled "environmentalists." This kind of thing just hurts the discussion.

My father was a fish buyer and plant superintendent in Alaska all his life, yet balked when his company wanted him to try start a commercial harvest of bull kelp in Alaska. He has a fisheries degree and knew you don't just cut down the habitat for small near-shore fish of all kinds and then want to maximize production of adults fish. He knew that if you killed the roots you'd kill the tree. The tree in this case being the fishing industry and hence a lot of livelihoods. That's being an informed and conscientious citizen, and a long-term thinking businessman.

environmental sustainability has to come first because without it you cannot have fishery sustainability or economic stability. Everyone buys into this, it's just that fisheries managers also buy into the rose tinted glasses, short term profits view. And that view skewed further by the target species represented by the loudest mouths in the room. There is then a huge dynamic of what constitutes the "loudest mouths:" companies that can offer jobs to any fisheries manager and fishing magazine editor, and do, industry sector lobbyists (lobbyists may be laying low in Juneau, but they are still thicker 'n sand fleas in a day old halibut on the NPFMC.

Who doesn't want a sound environment? Except those people who never picked up their rooms as kids and later went on to careers in trashing everyone else's backyard. Using the term "environmentalist" just "outs" the user is all, and of course works to separate people, where the opposite should be the goal.

The insidious part of all this is that regular folk feel like they will become stigmatized if they stick up for the wonderful complexity of intact habitat. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that bottom trawling is like clear-cutting the forest to get the deer. And all the baby halibut that trawlers kill would amount to twice the commercial catch if left to grow up. Even governors and congressmen won't come to the aid of society for fear of some stigma. (Remember, officially this isn't happening because the IPHC ruled that nobody has to report the destruction of halibut under legal harvest size.)

While I'm on the subject, another dynamic at work here is that the longliners who are allowed to catch the halibut, and are missing out on a bumper crop, don't want to hold the trawlers to account. The reason is that longline by-catch is horrendous too. The last time I longlined, on the Middle Grounds in Fredrick Sound, we caught one third halibut, one third red snapper, which all died, and one third black cod, which may or may not have died. The shaker halibut may or may not have survived either. How scientific, under the new Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act, is all this you might ask? It's not, so when you hear how well managed the groundfish fisheries are in Alaska, read that as "politics as usual."

Some good trawl videos:
In Spanish
Classic "stop trawling" video
Trying to stop a trawler
Tribal trawler in Washington

I'm not clear on how the warming of the North Pacific affects species, nor do I think anyone else does, but the king crab around Kodiak disappeared and the halibut stocks took off about the time the water started warming up. I heard about the warming in 1990 while doing research on fisheries infrastructure for the State of Alaska. (I was also told by the Army Corps of Engineers, "don't bring that up" when I mentioned sea level change in regards to $85 million in new breakwaters. As the Arctic ice pack melts more people notice that it might not be so far-fetched.)

The point is that it sure looks like the total biomass of halibut is being covered up due to non-documenting of catch, making the directed harvest look normal. Where in fact, the halibut stocks have really taken off and the public isn't getting the truth. Remember when a 21 day trip in the Gulf was the norm? I saw in my Grandfather's log book where he made a "hole trip" once for halibut back in the 20's or 30's, albeit, in the winter. Then by the "derby days" of the late '70s-early '80s, before all this (U.S.) bottom trawling, you could fill a boat in a couple of days.

So this is what I recommend: since the longliners are satisfied with their 50 to 60 million lbs a year, when the trawlers get kicked off the halibut and the other 100 million lbs show up, just give it to disaffected fisher-folk like the crab crewmen. Or halibut crewmen who fished all their lives, and spent all their earnings raising families, just to see the "rights" go to many young bucks who were fortunate enough to own a boat during the qualifying years.

If this kind of destruction seems incredible, take a peek at what happened to Florida(which mirrors the destruction of king salmon by U.S. trawlers in the Pacific) when they allowed trawlers in. It's time for the Chief of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska, the Chairman of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to take the "red face" test. (As soon as Google syndicated my by-catch article of Nov. 1, four major media outlets picked up on it. They only reported on the 116,000 king salmon dumped in Bristol Bay and nothing about the Gulf of Alaska or Washington trawl fisheries, though.)

The charter fleet out of the Kenai Peninsula should be somewhat worried about the baby halibut getting hammered on the Banks just below them, where the lunkers they now get come from. Why are these Banks such good P. cod and small halibut grounds? Because of the peculiar current mixing/feed there.

As an example of how thick the "chicken" halibut get on nursery grounds, I've had a whole school of the little guys follow a bait up to my boat. That time I just gaffed in the biggest one: Dick Kuwata had told me earlier that one had jumped into his boat in the same location.(I gotta say I didn't really believe him until it about happened to me.) These grounds had acres of herring showing at times in the summer. Good king salmon fishing there too.

Us summer cold-storage workers, in the late Sixties, would run our skiffs out to troll and set skates of gear on the weekends. (There wasn't a serious effort by townfolk to do this until there was talk of "privatization." Then everyone and his uncle geared up and fished just enough to qualify for salable rights to fish, both trolling for salmon and halibut longlining.)

Fortunately, some savvy Southeast Alaska fish mongers got early experience in the devastation of trawl gear and got trawling banned from the Eastern Gulf, and of course all State waters. I remember my father saying one time that he gave a speech in Anchorage on the commercializing of the EEZ and warned how precarious the fish stocks were with trawling. Some politician thanked him afterward for being so frank. That's why he was never invited to be on the North Pacific Council I suppose.

He had put the first white-fish plant together in Petersburg, the same year NEFCO put one in in Kodiak, with state grants, to see how it would work. The Petersburg guys found that you could fish out the local stocks in nothing flat. I wonder what would have happened to the king salmon, the herring, and the chicken halibut if they had trawled for a few cod on the grounds we used to skiff fish. (Actually Fred Haltiner tried to purse seine for pollock there. They dive too fast.)

This same scenario is presently occurring many places in the Exclusive Economic Zone off the shores of Alaska as we speak! Now lobbyists galore are being hired by bottom trawlers to have flatfish and Pacific cod off Alaska labled as "sustainable." With cod catches dropping every year for the last five years? For you folks who got government jobs with a mission to save our fish and our communities, this message will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck.

Candidates for Fishing Industry Innovation awards:

Riverfront and Waterfront Revitalization Bond initiative.

Small Fisheries Investment.

Point-on Blog about environmental issues from P-I writers

Tribes lawsuit will restore 2,300 miles of salmon spawning
(Maybe since the trawlers in Alaska are so cavalier in intercepting the king salmon and the Alaska Dept. of Transportation is so cavalier about their culverts, the Alaska Natives should get a "Alaska Native Interests Fishing Claims Act.") (That ought to get a rise out of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, otherwise someone might have to sue them about the king salmon and halibut.)

Explosives used to restore wetlands
(Not in regards to the "Dynamite Hole" on Cottonwood Creek of the Umpqua River in OR. More on FishWatch later.)

Got a good idea how to help anadromous salmon and steelhead? Get a grant
(Sorry little halibuts, no grants to help you out.) (Of course the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in federal government. While NOAA gives out grants here, NOAA-NMFS is allowing the adult salmon to be trawled up and thrown back dead, and the EPA is allowing the small salmon in the streams to be poisoned.)

Vision 2020: The Future of U.S. Marine Fisheries
Put in your two bits by contacting the contractor at: It all sound high-falut'n to me, ergo: "..............
that MAFAC will consider in finalizing its report to NOAA Fisheries on the future of US fisheries."

Regional Research and Information Plan
Public participation is needed through the questionaire on West Coast marine issues.

International Children's Painting Contest for Ecology

Quote of the day:
"Once when diving off the west coast I saw the remains left of the sea bed after a trawler had passed over. It was disastrous. It looked as if an earth mover had ploughed its way across, leaving dead fish, smashed shells, churned up plant growth......"