Friday, March 25, 2011

Bycatch Blues Redux

"This is the same general area where the joint ventures back in the 1980s killed off thousands of sealions, mostly females and junveniles. Too much money interferred with controls, like now with king salmon."

From the Tholepin blog. Thousands of king salmon being killed and dumped again in the pollock trawl fishery behind Kodiak Island. One load of 150,000 lbs of eulachon and squid, what the king salmon are feeding on. And the devastation goes on and on. You gotta read this stuff unless you have no stake in the fisheries, or don't like to eat fish, or care about the economy, taxes, jobs or want to get your head out of the sand.

Observed 30 plus percent bycatch of halibut by one trawler. You'd think the like-to-eat-what-you-catch sector, or the Southeast Alaska longliners would be jumping up and down. Politics ya think? Look at the comment by the East coaster in Kodiak about trawling being resorted to after other methods are no longer productive enough. Then everything gets beat down so bad they have to run out 200 miles.

Except in Alaska where they went right into trawling after the foreign fleets were pushed back. Except in Southeast where they recognized right away that trawling would cripple the other fleets and outlawed the practice all the way up the Gulf of Alaska to Kayak Island. Well, the trawl lobby is just too powerful to stop, but you can demand they leave the whole ecosystem somewhat intact.

There is all this talk of which part of the food chain they target: fishing up the food chain or down it. What? In Alaska they catch the whole food chain in one pass because it's all mixed together like it is in fairly healthy ecosystems. But it's getting unhealthy fast. The halibut quotas have been halved and you can hardly find a king salmon in the mighty Yukon River anymore. Welcome to Waterworld where the might makes right, not the other way around.

We still like to believe that our 'more right' system of government has made America great. But when you consider the treatment of the First Nations, and the buffalo they relied on, and the forests, passenger pigeons and fish stocks, it doesn't look like such a good system. I'm not even counting the Federal Reserve, which isn't federal at all. We're mostly a nation of slackers in our personal responsibilities to help uphold democracy, so that it devolves into plutocracy. It's amazing that it hasn't happened sooner. It was a good try though.

One more pot-shot at the draggers though. I saw some frozen arrowtooth flounder fillets for sale recently at Win-Co, so I figured I'd try 'em out. I knew they were going bad before they could even get them to the dock in Kodiak because of some weird chemical reaction unique to them. The Fish Tech center in Kodiak has been working like mad for decades trying to figure that one out. So in the oven it went, with all the caution I could muster. And like I suspected it came out mushier(by far) than a stewed tomato.

The reason I mention it here is that this inedible fish has a directed fishery for it, and guess what, the trawlers get to keep bycatch. How convenient. Not halibut though, they get to be discarded with no penalties or limit. Too bad the Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper doesn't take letters to the editor on anything more controversial than jaywalking, as of two years ago.