Monday, June 21, 2010

Gaming Reminder: Sleight of Hand, Blinded Eye

For some of you in the know, this reminder is unnecessary, but we have to make it for the sake of honesty. Information concerning bycatch and especially PSC (Prohibited Species Catch) of halibut, crab, and king salmon is only a best guess by the agencies. They do not include in their equation of estimation a gaming factor, but the factor exists and for some candid observers here, suspicion is that the estimated PSC catch is at least twice and perhaps four times as high as is reported. This is widely believed to be the reason for declining catches of affected species.

Advocacy groups, like the Marine Fish Conservation Network, report that 30% of the Gulf of Alaska trawl effort is observed, but they don't count gaming. The MFCN is well meaning but terribly naive. In the simplest scenario, for instance, a trawler will pick up their observer in the evening of day one, make a tow before midnight, make another after midnight, return the observer to the dock and count those two tows as two days of their required coverage. Then they have four days to fish as dirty as they please, without further concern. Most trawler skippers will tell you that such tows are done expressly for the observer, not for fish. Those wastes of time and energy are the cost of doing their dirty business. They are careful to make those tows especially clean. These tows are then extrapolated by the agencies to show the bycatch. Obviously, from such data, they show very little about what is really going on. This is why the trawl industry and their hired PR folks work hard to keep anything like video or still pictures off the internet and certainly out of our hands. Trawler crews who take pictures on deck risk dismissal, black listing, physical threats, and destruction of their cameras. This is not news in the fishing fleet here, simply the way things are done.

Think about it. This is criminal behavior. When observations come to light, it is by mistake. When pictures show up on Tholepin, it is a piercing of the careful mask of propriety the trawler industry works so hard to maintain. That the Marine Stewardship Council certifies filthy flats as sustainable is an abrogation of the public trust. These are the games people play. (Joe South, 1969, The Games People Play, trawler theme song).

Keep yer flippers wet.

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