Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Central Gulf, An Issue Overview for Non-Fishers

The Central Gulf of Alaska
The richest area of the Gulf of Alaska, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, is the central gulf, composed of the near shore, the continental shelf, and the continental shelf edge waters between 159 W and 140 W longitude. Huge flats areas, mountainous pinnacles, and muddy gullies offer an incredible diversity of sea life. Most trawling occurs in waters well under 500 fathoms. This Google Earth view shows the continental shelf and the deep offshore abyssal waters. Jurisdictions include state waters (out to three miles) and federal waters out to 200 miles.
The state waters are mostly managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and federal waters by the National Marine Fisheries Service through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Halibut are managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Comments about management should be addressed to your state senator, or representative as well as the governor's office, and the commissioner of Fish and Game. Comments about federal management should be addressed to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and copied to your US Senators and Representative Don Young. Don't expect much from the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council unless they are flooded with comments. They are not a democratic council and mostly follow the directives of their interest conflicted Members. Petitions and letter writing campaigns have greater effect than individual letters. Organizations also have greater effect, based on member numbers. Start your movement today. You might consider:

Bear in mind the following:
  • The Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) of halibut for trawlers in the Central Gulf is 2000 metric tons (4.4 million pounds). All of these fish are killed, thrown overboard and wasted. Because less than 30% of the trawler tows are observed, and these observations are often manipulated by the trawlers, the actual PSC is believed by most non-trawler fishermen to be far higher.
  • This PSC doesn't change with the abundance of halibut. Now that halibut abundance has gone down for several years in a row, effectively the trawler fleet is killing and wasting a much larger share of the halibut.
  • The trawler fleet wants to negotiate a larger PSC so they can catch more flounders (flats), since they reach their halibut PSC cap without catching all the flats they might otherwise be allowed. They call this stranded quota. The actual value of the flats is very low, but trawlers are allowed to keep targeted incidentally caught codfish which pays for the trips. So they want to waste more halibut to waste more flats so they can catch a little cod. Does this make sense to you?

If you are not a commercial fisherman and this all seems complex, remember, this is the simplified version. This all becomes more and more complex the more you learn and the NMFS and the trawler industry intends it to be too daunting to understand. The less the public knows, the more trawlers and their friends can get away with. The trawler fleet actually hires their own analysts to feed both NMFS and the public data and information most carefully spun to their distinct advantage. How else would they be able to continue to waste Alaska resources with such apparent nonchalance?

Missing data. Where is the data you ask? Missing or carefully manipulated. Because observer data is fragmentory, it used to both support trawler arguments before the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council , and dismissed as insufficient when used to criticised the trawler industry. When fewer than three vessels are involved in any area, the claim of proprietary privacy is made and the federal or state government can not by statute release the data. We need more data, no doubt, and to this end 100% observer coverage must be instituted to see what really goes on with our resources.

Begin your education at:


  • 100 % observer coverage on all trawlers in the Central Gulf.
  • Individual trawler bycatch caps on all PSC (halibut, king salmon, and crab).
  • PSC cap of halibut at 2000 metric tons must be linked to the highest abundance of halibut, and scaled back according to current abundance.
  • No increase of PSC. Enough wanton waste already.
  • Demand cleaner fishing practices by all gear types, no more free pass.

Keep yer flippers wet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent work Wiggy!! New site at should get interesting!!