Saturday, February 06, 2010

Letters on the missing 100 million lbs of halibut that were 'found.'

Last night at the IPHC party at the Edgewater Hotel, we were told by a halibut processor who attended Steve Hare's presentation to PAG that Steve admitted to them that the 100-million pounds of missing halibut that the IPHC cannot account for these past 4-years was caused by "un-reported GOA trawl bycatch." Steve NEVER told that to us fishermen on the Conference Board, which really stinks. I request 2-minutes tomorrow morning to put this on the record at our Observer Committee meeting at AFSC. Denby, this is grotesque and it suggests that the IPHC process, itself, is warped towards favoritism, which we have NEVER believed before, NOT ONCE. We trust Bruce and Greg. But Steve makes us wonder now. Plus, why wouldn't Jim and Ralphie come clean with us yesterday? Don't they think we can handle it?

Can you please call Steve on the carpet tomorrow and make him explain why he failed to fully-inform us fishermen and the Observer Committee of what he knew about the true status of our halibut stocks. Based just on what the Canadians told us yesterday, they'll insist on being compensated for this and we long-liners don't have the deep pockets to pay them off. I'll bet you they start ogling the trawlers ITQs or that $34-billion in the Alaska Permanent Fund (to get the Council's attention) just to bring this issue to a boil when they address the NPFMC in Portland next month. Trust me, they are really pissed off now and it seems unlikely they'll take it anymore(Remember Peter Finch's 1976 performance in "Network"? Double it!)

Don't mean to ruin your day,


I am the grandson of Luigi Lepore, who grew up in the 1890's commercial fishing in the Bay of Naples. Before he turned 25, he immigrated to America and worked on the railroads of the Northern tier. By the time he turned 30, he'd married an Irish immigrant woman and settled down along the West shore of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island to raise his 2-boys and 4-girls fishing scup, tautog, shrimp, blue fish, hard shell (quohaugs) and soft shell (butter) clams and oysters to support them.

Italian tradition dictates (as does the Yupik's) that the first grandson "belongs" to the grandparents as a form of Social Security (ask the elders in Togiak). This was ordained by God the Father in Luigi's mind, even though his daughter, my mother, never bought into it. Regardless, since I was his "property", he decided that early-morning fishing and preparing the catch for delivery to his customers took precedent over my grammar schooling. Since my mother taught in the same school system that I was frequently truant from, there was often Hell and professional embarrassment to pay. But in the East Coast Italian culture of the 1950's and early 1960's, daughters did not raise their voices to their Fathers in front of anyone else, ever.

But after years of my mother's frustration over Luigi continuously delivering me to grammar school by Noon, instead of 9 AM, Father and daughter went out to the chicken coop behind his green and white garage one Sunday afternoon following lunch and screamed at each other for 10 minutes or so, after which my indentured servitude ended and my daily education began in earnest the next morning.

Here's what I remember most vividly from those early years: "Fish always rots from the head!" As soon as possible, Luigi would cut the head off whatever fish we caught that morning, just like clockwork. We even pulled the heads off the bay shrimp shortly after beach seining them, which was a royal pain in my frozen fingers, since I got stuck with the job normally.

So who cares?

If the "Fish still rots from the head," Steve Hare, or someone else, has to be promoted or fired tomorrow morning if the IPHC and NPFMC and NOAA Fisheries in DC are to sustain ANY fisheries management credibility. Know what I mean? Who's been in charge of reducing bycatch (a strict mandate of MSA 2006) since Steve Hare realized that there's been an extra 100-million pounds of GOA halibut mortality destroyed these pasty four years? Anyone? Or nobody?

More precisely,

1. What did IPHC Commissioner and NOAA Fisheries Director Jim Balsiger know about Steve Hare's revelation and when did he know it?

2. What did IPHC Executive Director Bruce Leaman know about his own employee's revelation and when did he know it? Here's what he wrote to me last month.

3. What did Denby, our Observer Committee Chairman and ADFG Commissioner, know about Steve Hare's revelation and when did he know it?

4. What did Eric, our NPFMC Chairman, know about Steve Hare's revelation and when did he know it? Before the Council re-set the 2,000 mt GOA trawl halibut bycatch cap for 2010 at their December Council meeting?

5. What did Doug MeCum, our NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Director, know about Steve Hare's revelation and when did he know it? If never, shouldn't Jane (who's been an Oregonian longer than you have, Billy), our NOAA Director in DC, appoint Sue Salveson to replace Doug immediately? Isn't that only fair given that Steve Hare claims that over 100-million pounds of halibut have been destroyed by Julie's and Al's Kodiak trawlers these past 4-years without a single ticket or $20-fine being written and levied by NOAA Fisheries enforcement agents? Sound as fishy to you as it does to me?

6. What did Chris, our NPFMC Council Executive Director, know about Steve Hare's revelation and when did he know it? No one I've met has been able to bullshit Chris since he took the job. Not me, not no one. Was he blind-sided like the rest of us?

Here's the good news, though. Governor Sean is running for re-election in Alaska's coastal communities this year on a "Minimize Bycatch Now" platform. My guess is that if Kodiak's City Mayor and Borough Mayor and Kodiak fishermen, themselves, ask Governor Sean to convene a special investigation during the campaign to iget to the bottom of Halibut-Trawl-Bycatch-Gate by call Steve Hare to testify under oath as his star witness, we might actually put and end to this federally-sanctioned insanity long before 2013, as the NPFMC and NOAA Fisheries now plan, at the earliest!

My money's on Jane (currently on leave from Oregon State University), though. Once she picks up on Steve Hare's revelation, the you-know-what will hit the you-know-what-else. Wait and see. I'm just glad I'm not the one who'll have to tell her to her face. My guess is that she'll be "disappointed" to say the least, meaning severely pissed-off and mad as Hell at whoever compromised her leadership credibility.

Bob Alverson tells me that Jane doesn't suffer fools and their transparent excuses very well. Good for her! Kodiak trawlers flushing $400-million of un-accounted for GOA halibut bycatch down the drain these past 4-years ain't chump change.

We ought to build a tall, bronze statue of Jeff Passer (NMFS enforcement agent) on the grounds of the IPHC at UW and in front of Fishermen's Hall in Kodiak. Jeff has been completely vindicated by Steve Hare after many years of bureaucratic intimidation and suppression at NPFMC meetings.

Who knows? Maybe, with any luck, the Kodiak trawlers will get a first hand chance to explain themselves to Jane, personally, with Steve Hare and Governor Sean standing right beside her. Think we could sell that show out in the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage or in the Kodiak High School auditorium or in the UW Fisheries School auditorium in Seattle? Bet we could!


Hi Tom
Noooo…we haven’t put any number on what we think the true bycatch might be. Yes we believe it is higher than the cap but I don’t think anyone could say, with any greater credibility than anyone else, that is x million pounds. In the absence of data, no one has a lock on truth. It’s not just the zero observer coverage on <60 footers, it’s the requirement for only 30% coverage (and the games involved with that) on the 60-125 ft boats.

…and I don’t venture to speak for Dr. Jim.. J


The hottest rumor in Ballard this week is that you and our IPHC staff now suspect that there's a very high probability that closer to 8-million pounds of halibut bycatch is actually being killed in the GOA trawl fishery than to the official 4.4-million pound annual cap set by the NPFMC because of the total absence of observer coverage on the under-sixty-foot trawlers.

Do you think that our lead IPHC Commissioner and friend, Jim Balsiger, will put his foot down now before our annual longline TAC shrinks another 10%-20%? None of us in Kodiak, Seattle or Newport believe that Barack, Michelle, Jane, Margaret or Monica would tolerate for a New York minute this type of reckless over-fishing on their watch, especially because thousands of Northwest and Alaska families depend on the GOA longline halibut fishery to pay their monthly bills and send their kids to school. Think we're wrong?