Friday, August 20, 2010

Are Sea Lions the Big Canary of Our Coal Mine?

Like a fox, digging beneath the snow for mice or voles, let's dig around a bit beneath the snow job regarding sea lions in Western Alaska. I guarantee we will find more there than the smooth white surface that appears to be there and how that relates ot the Gulf of Alaska.

  • NOAA/NMFS is being proactive on the sea lion issue. Now let's get real, NOAA/NMFS never have been big greenies in the past. They are like the Minerals Management Service and the oil industry. They have let one helluva lot of bad things go down and have supported the big fishing industry like nobody's business (but their own). So that should be a tip off that something VERY bad is going down and we need to shake off the fog and try to see what that really, too much fish is being taken from Area 543. Period. NOAA/NMFS recommends shutting it down, so the damage must be very bad indeed.
  • Where was NOAA/NMFS when Cod Alley was being trawled to the elimination of king crab in the southern Bering Sea? Why did they let the Kodiak NMFS boss (BO) suppress studies that clearly showed the area was crucial to king crab production. That research, as shocking as it was, is vaild; the best available science. But NOAA/NMFS turned out that research and that researcher in favor of the trawlers. So when NOAA/NMFS calls for a closure, people, the damage is already unconscionable, probably irretrievable, and irreparable.
  • First Lesson: Bottom trawls work best on smooth bottom. Anything else causes damage to these expensive pieces of webwork. Smooth bottom is crab bottom. If you can't trawl on smooth bottom, you can't trawl. Simple math applies. 1 + 1 = 2. Get rid of the crab that supported so many, in order for a few trawlers to support a few: 1.)a few owners who make big bucks, 2.)a few crew who make big bucks, 3.)a few processor corporations who make big bucks, 4.)and a lot of little people who make minimum wage, are supported by the general public through welfare, subsidised housing, and social support networks and by their own back breaking tenacity and labor. Don't blame these people, they are pawns like the rest of us. The City of Kodiak fell for the PR line and built a huge haulout facility for the trawlers which now rides upon the city residents and their wallets. The City of Kodiak Trawler Support Center. Bottom line? Crab had to go. And it went. You are next.
  • Chant jobs, jobs, jobs. Whenever the destruction of our renewable resources becomes an issue, you will invariably hear the chant, "Jobs, jobs, jobs." And if you look carefully it is always peasant jobs. Low paid, minimum wage, public dole supported jobs. Not a job that most of us would look to do. With trawling, you have a very few skilled workers and a lot of bottom of the barrel jobs. With other forms of fishing, the crews are generally more skilled, there are more crew jobs because of efficiency factors that benefit the larger community; such as crabbing, longlining, seining, gillnetting, and jigging. When you have to handle the fish individually, you require more hands and therefore hire more people. Mass caught trawler mush can be machine handled because it is intrinsically of lower quality. The trawlers require their crews primarily to sort out the halibut, king salmon and crab. When the managers of our fisheries opt for trawler caught, they opt for the lowest value for our resources, at the highest resource price.
  • Halibut is next. Gulf of Alaska trawlers claim they are being limited by the halibut cap of 2000 metric tons of halibut wasted bycatch per year which is constraining the wholesale destruction of the cod resource, et al. 4.4 million pounds of halibut is just not enough for the trawlers in the GOA. That's $22,000,000 exvessel value wasted as PSC. Insiders will tell you that the real trawler waste is far higher, since coverage at best is 30% of trawl time and at least some of that is incompetent observers, or lazy observers, or seasick observers who by regulation can only put in a 12 hour day. 100% observer coverage and 100 % retention of all catch is the only answer right now. Data gaps are used by the trawlers to argue for less stringent scrutiny (You can't prove we are criminals!), but that 'nobody is here to see this' is cause for concern about the wastage by those same trawlers. Where the hell is video surveilance?
  • On the horizon? Replacements at the NPFMC threaten to reverse progress made there in the past few meetings regarding tanner crab protection, king salmon bycatch and halibut waste reduction. Mouth pieces for the trawlers and processors have been busy whispering in the Governor's ears, twisting arms, threatening exposures. Let's face it, Sean Parnell has not yet shown the courage to stand up for the State of Alaska's best interests. DL was not in attendance at this sea lion meeting. He was replaced by CC, who is tied directly to Petersburg fishing/processor interests, and has not heretofore shown herself to have our best interests at heart. Generally speaking, SE Alaska doesn't realize the trickle down effect of trawlers destroying the Gulf, so, by and large they don't care about the rest of the state. SE long ago outlawed trawlers. Can't they see we need the same?

So all this without addressing the details of the proposed sea lion closures in area 543? Well, just because the fox hears scratching beneath the snow doesn't mean it is a mouse or vole, it could just be a weasel. The weasels are in the fine print, and between the lines of print, and in the back rooms, and behind closed doors. When NOAA/NMFS calls for closures and industry cries "jobs" you know that something is on the move; that resources are going to suffer, that history will be repeating itself, and that we are about to witness another great compromise.

Read Margaret Bauman reports,

Keep yer flippers damp.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bits and Pieces: Once They're Gone, It Won't Be An Issue

Coming back from a longline trip, Capt. X spotted a trawler with his gear down in a IPHC listed hotspot for juvenile halibut. Capt. X knew the operator of the trawler, so he called him on the VHF. Asked what he was doing dragging in such a place, he replied, "The sooner we clean these f'ing halibut up, the sooner this place won't be off limits."

Capt. Z sets his trawl down hard, real hard, on his way in from unobserved trips regularly. His crew says he has a taste for scallops.

A midwater (pelagic) trawler was in Kiliuda Bay. Capt. Y called him on the VHF to ask why he was leaving. He relied, "I just tore the hell out of my trawl on a crab pot." Midwater crab pots should be illegal?

Why shouldn't regulations make chafing gear illegal on midwater (pelagic) trawls?

Why are the pelagic doors on the F/V Golden Fleece wear polished and why did they go through the expense of having them hardfaced if they aren't digging into the bottom on a regular basis?

(ii) Amendment 80 vessels in the GOA processors. Except for the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE (USCG Documentation Number 609951), all Amendment 80 vessels, except when directed fishing for scallops using dredge gear, in the GOA must have onboard at least one NMFS-certified observer for each day that the vessel is used to harvest, receive, or process groundfish in the GOA management areas or adjacent waters open by the State of Alaska for which it adopts a Federal fishing season. Why? Who arranged that exception, and for how much cash?

Why shouldn't "accidentally" "kissing the bottom" with "pelagic" trawl gear be just as illegal as "accidentally" setting a seine or gillnet over the line?

Why did the USCG have such an issue with using a tape measure to figure Simplified Gross Tonnage? Don't tell me that didn't come from on high. Why?

Why are simple measures to ensure our fishing future so "impossible" for our regulators?

Keep yer flippers wet.