Friday, December 18, 2009

The Death Rate for Halibut is Federally Guaranteed

Rearing its ugly head again, is the rampant wanton waste of valuable species like halibut and crab by draggers in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. Not that there isn't PSC in other fisheries, there is, but the admitted level of wasted resources is unacceptably high in the drag fleet. As halibut abundance continues to fall, Kodiak tanner crab stagger to recover, and king crab stands at the threshold of extinction in the Gulf, PSC wanton waste levels remain intolerable. (Perhaps king crab in Kodiak should undergo endangered species listing...that might be a nuclear option on dragging.) It is outrageous that while fishermen who own halibut IFQ continue to see their resource diminish (catastrophically in 2C), the reported PSC wanton waste remains fixed at 2000 metric tons (4.4 million pounds, $13 million 2009 dollars wasted) in the Gulf. While the draggers brag about all the innovative gear they have developed to avoid halibut PSC wanton waste, they are able to pass it around the drag fleet and use it to pursue even dirtier catches, often impacting crab stocks, which are crushed so badly that the observers (if they are present...not!) see only hints of their remains. If a belly dumper earth scraper rolls over you, you won't survive even if you don't end up in the load, eh, Mike? But if the absent observer doesn't see your remains, you ain't dead, are you?

Halibut researchers are looking all over for what is happening to the halibut in the Gulf. Look no further than the Kodiak drag fleet, whose seldom observed tows hammer on the halibut stocks, winnowing out these incredibly valuable fish, and dumping their lifeless carcasses overboard. If you drag catcher processor the Bering Sea, the death rate for halibut is Federally guaranteed!

"Amendment 80 vessels are currently required to place all of the (drag) net's contents into below deck holding tanks without sorting of any of the catch on deck. This requirement is to ensure that the on-board observers have an opportunity to sample all the fish in the catch...The 'no sorting on deck' requirement results in some of the halibut remaining out of the water for several hours before being returned to the sea. As such, halibut discard mortality rates, which are based on viability assessments done by observers in the processing area, currently average 75% across the typical Amendment 80 fishery targets." Bullshit. No halibut, NO HALIBUT, survives out of the water for hours. The more you read the analyses, the more you realise this stuff is soft soaped by NMFS to promote dragging. Foxes guarding chicken coops? No. Wolves!

The study quoted above (Agenda D-2(c), December 2009) admits that 281 tows resulted in 19,649 halibut caught. "For the factory halibut it took on average 186 minutes to return the last halibut the sea." Three hours? Halibut are tough. But three hours is a guaranteed death sentence. Hyenas!

  1. One hundred percent observer coverage for the Gulf. (The killing off the Gulf can no longer be a right. Crying about low profit margins just doesn't ring true while we watch old boats enlarge and new houses build.)
  2. The 2000 metric ton halibut PSC needs to be based on the historically highest year of halibut abundance. Current PSC wanton waste shall be reduced to current abundance levels of halibut. Eventually the 2000 metric ton PSC limit will be phased back and out as gear conversion occurs.
  3. No trawling on or above ADFG designated 'crab bottom.' So called 'pelagic gear' often is not above the bottom, and crab armour is simply not tough enough to survive the crushing. Mud plumes in Deadman's Bay during 'pelagic pollock dragging' tell the tale. Pilots, get out your cameras. But, hell, there's a lot of king crab, just ask Mark.
  4. Fishing observers need to observe fishing...not processing. Get them on deck, with cameras, to OBSERVE the catch. Public reports need to be available. It is a public resource.

It's cold now and the rocks are slippery, the seas are angry and unkind. What's new? 'We're rough, we're tough, we're coarse, what then? We're the salts of the earth, we're fishermen.' Be safe and warm...I got blubber.

Keep yer flippers wet.


Anonymous said...

Great post real informative...Two issues to play close attention to at NPFMC level. Page 9 of December news letter talks of Halibut Deck Sorting EFP(exempted fishing permit). How in the hell do they tweak the numbers to show 30-40 percent less mortality of halibut. Are they holding these halibut and observing them to watch them completely revive? Maybe they can apply the same hocus pocus on crab and get mortality to drop and even multiply.

Second issue to be really aware of, is under Staff Tasking(Page 9-Dec. newsletter). The council directed staff to prepare discussion paper on the process for changing regulations regarding the halibut PSC limits in the GOA and BSAI. Is this a prelude for addittional halibut bycatch so trawl sector may fully utilize these flatfish TAC's? Don't know...but I would watch this one close.

Anonymous said...

December NPFMC newsletter page 9-Halibut Deck Sorting EFP. Trawlers with the help of NMFS are trying to dumb down the halibut mortality rates so they may have more time to fully utilize flatfish TAC in both the GOA/BSAI for Amendment 80 vessels.

Also on page 9 under Staff Tasking you will find the Council has directed staff to prepare discussion paper on the process for changing regulations regarding the halibut PSC limits in the GOA/BSAI.

We should watch these two closely as trawl interests plot their next moves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your good deeds Wiglaf! As a 2nd generation Alaskan fisherman I have both seen and felt the effects of BAD management in OUR Fisheries. Mostly from the drag fleet and the council that OWNS these same fleets, and vote according to their own best interests. WE NEED TO OUTLAW draggers, starting in State Waters. How did S.E. get them out? Where do we start? Petition? Criminal charges?

Anonymous said...

All I want for Christmas is to ban on the bottom trawling in Alaska state waters. A stocking stuffer of meaningful shut down triggers to address bycatch of tanner crab and salmon would be awesome. HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I applaud you on desire to get B.Bay permit. Would be awesome to see another convert coming from the dark side. I can assure you, the Bay fishery has none of the bycatch numbers you experience in trawling. WELCOME