Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mid-December Fisheries Memo

News of the New Bedford Petition has been appearing in a number of news outlets.

Island Free Press
Commercial Fishing News
National Fisherman
Kodiak Daily Mirror

Port Alexander, Alaska. Notice the haze from the surf out at Cape Ommaney, the bottom tip of Baranof Island. The sport fishing here is a closely guarded secret. Oops.

Maybe the thousands of fishermen on the East coast and growing numbers on the Pacific coast, that have signed the petition, in hard copy and on-line, have struck a nerve. The Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Bill Hogarth just quit. U.S. fishermen are proposing to take NMFS to Congress, unlike the Canadian halibut fishermen who are taking their Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans to a court of law.

"John, Am anxious to see if King runs rebound, Chigniks' run was acceptable but not great. Many places had none at all. Seems obvious that the harder they fish for less pollack the more kings they will intercept." I hear this a lot these days. People worrying that as the trawlers scratch harder for pollock, they are filtering much more of the ocean and hence catching more and more king and chum salmon and squid. These species all live together, and that seems something that the National Marine Fisheries Service tends to ignore; catching the whole food chain in one sweep and keeping just some of it. My take is that the U.S. public doesn't care anymore if the trawl sector and the government wrings it's hands and keeps saying, "We just can't seem to stop."

I also think waterfront businesses, in addition to fishermen, are going to weigh in on the shenanigans this time. And if CNN coming to Alaska to report on the corruption is any indication, the local papers will come out of hiding too.

Heck, the whole makeup of what fish are down there has changed due to global warming. And certain fishermen are still allowed to destroy the bottom habitat, making it impossible to rebuild the stocks of many species as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
Ignoring these elephants in the room is what is griping everyone. But as fishermen gain their voice through this petition, there is some real odd rustling in the bushes.

It boils down to dirty fishermen and dirty fisheries managers versus the clean fishermen and clean fisheries managers/scientists. And it's going to take Congress to sort it out, and if they won't the courts will have to, because time is running out on the fish stocks, ask any fleet of boats chronically tied up to the dock.

On all fisheries management plans, the NMFS should be required, like publicly held companies do in a prospectus, to state, "Consequently, actual results may vary materially from those described in (our) Forward-looking statements." In both cases "forward looking statements" simply mean jerking your chain.

By-catch reduced to 50 lbs per boat per day
"The by-catch allowance for commercial vessels harvesting summer flounder in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Maryland's coastal bays and landing those flounder in Maryland is reduced to 50 pounds per vessel per day." No wonder the fish companies that make up the North Pacific Council don't want observers on trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska. There is only 13% observer coverage. These trawlers have taken up to 64,000 lbs of salmon by-catch per boat, and destroyed them, in a day.

The by-catch of halibut is even worse, if anyone cares. Both coasts' observer programs are similar. When observers are on board, the skippers make "observer tows," that is, they fish in low by-catch areas. Then at night, or without observers, fish in the high by-catch areas and nobody knows what they catch. Maybe the integrity of our food supply warrants Homeland Security types, instead of interns, as observers. Jim Huckabee was talking about enough food just today in Iowa.

Reduce Fish Catch Now For Bigger Net Profits Later
A new and compelling argument for reducing fish harvests - the profit motive - could persuade world fishers to endure the short-term pain of lower catches for the long-term gain of higher returns for their labor, according to authors of a ground-breaking study on fisheries over-exploitation. I hyper-linked an article earlier that said that maximum sustained yield was too much to take from anadromous fish populations, because not enough biological material was left for the ecosystem's needs to support the runs. A vicious cycle of decline that has characterized U.S. fisheries.

The Letter Department:

"Maybe wearing fishermen down until they're too tired to mobilize was part of government's plan all along. The bureaucracies have been very skilled at snaring fishermen in complex discussions leading to decisions on very specific management actions that are largely not comprehensible to the general public and that leave most fishermen unable to think outside of that box. The Stratton Report issued way back in 1969 identified practioners more interested in a way of life than in economic efficiency as a roadblock in government's vision for fisheries. If managers recognize withdrawals on the wealth of communities at all, it's only to say those withdrawals are a necessary consequence of resource conservation.

(That letter echos all who say that when the Bush Administration talks lower costs to the consumer, you need to read that "lost jobs." It cost the Alaska king crab industry 1500 jobs. Nobody in Alaska with their head in clear air views the feds "economic efficiency" as anything more than a resource grab by big multi-national corporations and big boat/fleet operators.)

"FYI - in just the past twenty-four hours, from Alaska there were about ten signers of the petition online - nice going John. Oddly, however, and within the same timeframe, most press articles on the petition have been suddenly subverted, ergo much harder to find unless very explicit words are typed into search engines. It would take knowledge and a concerted effort, but the net can be compromised that way, and the suddenness indicates that it very well may have been intentional. If so, it tells me that the petition is that strong, cannot be countered, hence only technically blocked. Welcome to the new age."