Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year and Rumor Has It...

 The danger of rumors is, of course, they may be false or purposely used as disinformation to manipulate various groups. In keeping with Wiglaf's policy of NOT promoting untruths, we withdraw this PVOA/FVOA rumor.   However, the bottom line remains, dragger bycatch of halibut is intolerable, unconscionable, and unsustainable.  To hammer on and kill the halibut ($6 per pound) while pursuing worthless flounders (.04 per pound) for the relatively valuable (.24 to .35 per pound) 20% bycatch of cod, which shouldn't be allowed anyway, but is, in hopes of "developing a flatfish fishery," remains bullshit.  Whoever said the Russian oligarchs were so corrupt has never looked at Alaskan fishery politics...the last stronghold of real pirates.

Keep yer flippers wet.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Stikine, Taku king forecasts too low for gillnet opening

According to KFSK-FM (Petersburg), there again won't be a commercial king salmon gillnetting season for the Stikine and Taku rivers next May. Alaska Fish and Game has released its pre-season forecasts for the rivers, and the predicted returns won't be high enough to support a commercial harvest. The forecasts are large enough, however, for liberalized sport fishing limits (to be announced in spring). One department official says the expected low returns are likely the result of large escapements in previous years producing crowded stream conditions for young salmon, but that the trend is looking up. Listen to much, much more at APRN.
Thanks to Alaska Dispatch for the "heads up."

So while Kodiak Draggers' reported king salmon catch goes ballistic, fisheries around Alaska close for lack of fish.  Who'd a thought?  But Southeast Alaskans pretend that what happens in the Gulf of Alaska doesn't affect them.  Unconstrained halibut and king salmon bycatch is part of the reason why their halibut catch has been in such dramatic decline, yet they fail to engage in the politics of bycatch control because trawling is essentially closed in SE.  We can only hope they wake up.  Ecology means we are all part of one thing, afterall.

Make your New Year's resolution to write a letter, make a call, or attend the North Pacific Fisheries Managment Council  in Seattle January 31 through February 8, 2011 or the Alaska Board of Fish in Kodiak January 11 through 14 and tell our managers to stop the excessive and uncontrolled bycatch of our precious fisheries resources by unrestrained and unobserved draggers. Letters to the BOF deadline is tomorrow, the 28th.

Keep your flippers thawed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anonymous comment:

Those "ping pong paddle" size halibut are soon to be commercially viable. They have survived to a size where they are subject to little natural predation. The draggers are their biggest predator.

As Wiglaf points out, the idiot from the rebadged AK draggers Assoc is confessing that their bycatch, measured in tons, is actually many times worse.

What is the value of all those halibut, salmon, crab and don't forget all the wasted small cod and pollock to all fishermen, processing workers and everyone who depends on local landing tax revenue?

Back in '97 the Canucks showed the NPFMC how to drastically reduce bycatch AND catch all your trawl allowable catches. The NPFMC wasn't and isn't interested.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NPFMC Considers Chinook Bycatch Options and Peeks at Halibut PSC

In the meeting that is currently underway in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has voted to move expeditiously to control Chinook bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska.  Chair Eric Olson framed the crux of the problem as he compared bycatch rates of Chinook in the Bering Sea to those in the GOA, where they are "many orders of magnitude higher."

Council voted to, among other things, to have staff report on a suite of regulatory options to include:
  • full retention of salmon by draggers so a true accounting becomes possible
  • hard caps on Chinook bycatch,
  • observer coverage on Super 8s (under 60 ft vessels)
  • mandatory salmon bycatch control cooperatives
It was clear in testimony that Chinook populations are in trouble and trawler bycatch is egregious.  The same old apologists dragged their feet and attempted to slow action on Chinook, but they did not come out and block Council action.  Final motion passed without opposition. Cora Campbell made the motion.

Groundfish report:

Interestingly, Duncan Fields was the only member of the NPFMC who objected to the extremely high rates of halibut PSC allowed in the GOA groundfish specifications for this next year.  Although it sometimes appears the Council is responsive to the resource, only money moves the majority.  With halibut collapsing, Cora Campbell voted with all others on the Council to approve GOA groundfish specs including 2000 metric tons of halibut waste.  Only Fields stood firm against this.

Speaking of halibut:

Bob Krueger, president of the Whitefish Trawlers Association, in his testimony, blames halibut fishermen and the IPHC for the draggers waste of 4.4 million pounds of halibut.  Pretzel logic?  He also stated that draggers kill mostly 'ping pong paddle' size halibut, which are too weak to out swim the trawls, and not commercially valuable fish anyway.  Go figure.  Like killing off the nurseries is not as bad as killing off the adults?  Destroying fish before they reach spawning age is not a sound idea, Bob.   If they are only one pounders, we calculate that the trawlers are really wasting at least ten times that much incredible 44 million pounds of 32 inch halibut, if they were to mature to minimum legal size!

"Agenda Item D-1(b) GOA Halibut PSC Limits
Council Motion
In recent years, the directed halibut catch limits in the GOA regulatory areas 2C, 3A and 3B have declined steadily, and the recommended catch limits for 2011 are almost 30% lower than in 2010. Growth rates of halibut remain very low and size at age has been declining; much of the total biomass is made up of smaller fish that are more vulnerable than larger fish to trawl gear. In addition, evidence of west to east migration of halibut within a coast wide stock may have implications for the impacts of halibut bycatch on stock assessment, and directed fishing opportunities. These factors raise concerns about the current halibut PSC limits in the GOA, and the effect this bycatch has on the directed fishing opportunities, as well as the productivity of the stock.
At this time the Council has not selected a specific process for considering changes to the GOA halibut PSC limits. Although the Council believes that an evaluation of the current halibut PSC limits is warranted, additional information about the condition of halibut stocks, the effects of bycatch reduction, and other fishery factors is necessary. Therefore, the Council directs staff to provide information on the following topics:
1. The effect of reducing bycatch limits in the GOA on the exploitable biomass available to the directed fisheries, over an appropriate time period; this includes the effects of migration on downstream users. (i.e. what is the effect of a 100mt reduction in bycatch over a 5 year period?).
2. The recent changes in IPHC stock assessment methods, harvest policies, and catch limit setting on directed halibut fisheries.
3. Changes to Federal fishery management programs and halibut PSC apportionments that begin in 2012 that are relevant to the use of halibut PSC.
4. Possible causes of low growth rates and the effects on future exploitable biomass and spawning biomass.
The Council further requests the IPHC to provide the appropriate scientific expertise and information to assist the Council."

At first blush, we thought the Council had made progress on these two issues of wanton waste of fisheries resources, but in retrospect, this is a weak and ineffectual response.  The Council works at glacial speed, so interested parties need to keep the pressure up for at least two more meetings before we might see any progress on Chinook and halibut prohibited species catch and the resultant damage to these important resources that affect so many peoples lives.  Uncle Ted used to say this was the best fisheries council in the USA.  So sad.  Please call your representative, your senator, your governor, whomever you determine can give feedback to the council about the horrible waste that is going on in the gulf to support these few draggers at the expense of the rest of us.

In any case, keep yer flippers wet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Alaska Governor Parnell Promises to Reduce Bycatch

JUNEAU, Alaska - Jan. 20 - Following is the prepared text of Gov. Sean Parnell’s (R) 2010 state of the state address:

"Now to fishing. Alaskans are proud of our fishing traditions and heritage. Control of our seafood resources was one of the original drivers behind Alaska’s push for statehood. Today, we budget for better scientific data and work to reduce bycatch to ensure continued abundance for all Alaskans. "

Now is the time to call Govenor Parnell and tell him you are counting on him to be true to his promises. Chinook, halibut, crab. Seriously. Here is his number: 907 465 3500. Just do it.

It will make a difference.

Keep yer flippers wet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Canadian Dragger Youtubes Worth Watching

These Canadian YouTube videos have application to US fisheries as well. Basically the same political influence in Canada apply as in the US and Alaska; big money against good sense.

"Trawlers continue to destroy the world's ocean and fishes while those responsible become multi-millionaires. Too bad such horrible marine environmental crimes still continue while those responsible get richer and richer. Thanks Martin Willison for your efforts to stop this terrible madness."

Thanks to Reel Knotty for posting on website, where I borrowed this.

Keep yer flippers wet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mismanaged PSC Destroys Legal Halibut Quota

International Pacific Halibut Commission reports staff recommended cuts of 47% in Southeast Alaska's area 2B, 28% in area 3A, and 24% in 3B.

As we earlier predicted, the unwillingness of the NPFMC to rein in the Gulf of Alaska trawlers has led to the devastation of the legal halibut longline quota. The kill 'em off strategy of the GOA trawl fleet is being effective. If the legal quotas on PSC species (crab, salmon, halibut) can be driven down far enough, there won't be any viable opposition left to the complete dominance of the trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska. Once these most valuable species are removed, less than forty drag boats will own the Gulf of Alaska and the other thousands of fishermen can apply for food stamps or for a job at Walmart. Meanwhile the spineless North Pacific Fisheries Mismanagement Council makes shallow and ineffective regulations too little and too late to save the larger and economically more important fleet and thereby spells doom to coastal communities bordering the Gulf. There is the smell of bankruptcy in the wind. First crab, then king salmon and now halibut.

Three things are leading us to the end of halibut as a healthy species:
  1. Unknown and uncounted mortality. Poorly covered and heavily gamed trawler observations leave a huge data gap in numbers of tons of halibut that are destroyed each year by trawling. Halibut PSC is out of control. The NPFMC continues to delay movement at the cost of the resource...which is not new. As the Kodiak fleet of trawlers ups their horsepower, the numbers of large halibut killed continues to rise. Forget the official numbers, they are and have been adjusted to a comfortable level, or are just plain wrong.
  2. Crucification of halibut by codfishing longliners. Hook strippers or crucifiers maim and kill uncounted numbers of halibut every cod season when they rip out the hook, tearing off much of the halibut's jaw; sometimes the whole face. Delusional thinking is not confined to trawlers in regard to ethics and conservation of fish species. Ethical fishing, unfortunately, like a lot of things in life, is based on economics. "How much will it cost me to be ethical? If it is too much, I can't afford to be ethical." We hear this argument openly used in one form or another at every NPFMC and Alaska Board of Fish meeting, where it nearly always wins! If we are to have healthy fisheries in the future, ethical conservation behavior must be priority ONE.
  3. Destruction of the large breeder fish. Killing the big halibut MOTHER fish is destroying the most capable breeders, with the healthiest eggs. Never mind what the IPHC says, they will eventually admit it's true. The very large halibut spawn more healthy eggs that result in more live larvae in the water with greater survivability and yet are the target of both sport and commercial fishermen; trophy or cash, the mistake remains a crucial problem for a healthy halibut resource.

Keep yer flippers wet.