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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.