Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dr. Jane Resigns

December 12, 2012
Dear NOAA Family,
I write to let you know that I have decided to return to my family and academia at the end of February. I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished in the last four years and know full well that we have been able to do so much only because of your impressive talent and dedication. It has been a special privilege to serve as Administrator and work with all of you.
As many of you know, my home and family are on the West Coast. I’m deeply grateful for the support and love of my family, but as wonderful as Skype is for staying in touch, it is not a viable long-term arrangement!
As I reflect on my time with you, I’m delighted with all we’ve been able to do — big and small. The list is far too long for complete enumeration here, but I’ve listed 20 of our top achievements below. I invite you to share with me your top-tier list, as well as any especially memorable moments or photographs from the work we have done together.
We’ve tackled some big challenges together. Our notable progress includes (in no particular order!):
1.    Ending over-fishing, rebuilding depleted stocks, and returning fishing to profitability;
2.    Strengthening the Nation’s environmental satellite infrastructure because it underpins national security, economic activity and public safety by providing data essential to our short- and long-term weather forecasts;
3.    Delivering life-saving weather forecasts and warnings and strengthening our ability to do so in the future through Weather-Ready Nation, dual-pol upgrades, investments in high performance computing, research, and weather satellites;
4.    Helping create the first National Ocean Policy that recognizes the value of a healthy marine environment, emphasizes collaboration between regions and the federal government and coordination across federal agencies to achieve healthy oceans, coasts and Great Lakes;
5.    Leveling the playing field for our fishermen by reforming international fishery management organizations with the adoption of management measures in line with scientific advice and with strengthened compliance and enforcement tools, and by reducing “pirate fishing” (illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing);
6.    Creating a new generation of climate services to promote public understanding, support mitigation and adaptation efforts, enable smart planning, and promote regional climate partnerships;
7.    Investing in coastal communities and their future resilience through more strategic and better integrated conservation and restoration;
8.    Better serving recreational anglers and boaters by convening a saltwater sport fishing summit, developing a recreational fishing action agenda and ensuring follow through on key commitments;
9.    Strengthening science with our first Scientific Integrity Policy, doubling the number of senior scientific positions, establishing a new Council of Fellows, reinstating the Chief Scientist position, supporting AAAS and Sea Grant Fellows and promoting climate, fishery, ocean acidification, weather and ecosystem science;
10. Responding effectively as “one-NOAA” to disasters such as Deepwater Horizon, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/radiation/marine debris catastrophe, Hurricanes Irene, Isaac and Sandy, including helping open ports and waterways, survey coasts, and rebuild and restore communities and coastlines to enhance resilience in the future;
11. Bringing experience, scientific and legal expertise to bear on the federal response to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe (as detailed in two papers in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), jumpstarting Gulf restoration efforts through partnerships and the Trustee Council, and assessing the full impact of the disaster on natural resources with the goal of holding responsible parties accountable and restoring Gulf ecosystems, communities and economy to health;
12. Championing NOAA’s lean, but effective, education program that plays a unique role in providing atmospheric and oceanographic education to young and old and making NOAA-related sciences more accessible to underrepresented groups;
13. Creating NOAA’s first Aquaculture Policy and a National Shellfish Initiative and using science to ameliorate short-term impacts of ocean acidification on shellfish;
14. Setting a stronger course for endangered species conservation in places like California’s Central Valley and the Columbia River and in the ocean, e.g., for coral conservation.
15. Streamlining regulations to save taxpayers time and money and improve efficiency, for example in fisheries regulations and shellfish aquaculture permitting;
16. Increasing effectiveness and decreasing costs of corporate services such as acquisitions and IT, for example by migrating our communication systems to the cloud to enhance functionality, strengthen security and reduce costs
17. Developing and implementing a “One-NOAA” Arctic Vision and Strategy and Task Force to address environmental, social, economic and safety issues emerging in the fragile Arctic region, including mapping to support new safety, a precautionary fishery management plan, launching the Arctic ERMA tool, and innovative research and data partnerships to improve science-based decision-making;
18. Strengthening NOAA’s fishery enforcement program by implementing policy, oversight, personnel and procedural changes to increase effectiveness and transparency;
19. Embracing social media, effective communications and communications training to share NOAA science, information and decisions with our diverse constituents, stakeholders and partners — including creation of NOAA’s and my Facebook pages, multiple NOAA Twitter accounts, and use of crowd-sourcing to digitize old weather records; and
20. Ensuring all our policies, regulations and statements are consistent with the law and legal best practices.
All this and more for less than a nickel a day from each tax payer — now that’s a bargain!
Much of this progress required integration of efforts across line and staff offices and with a wide variety of partners and stakeholders. Our One-NOAA approach has proven its power time and again.
I am well aware of how much work lies ahead. But because I have experienced your impressive talent and your deep-felt dedication to our mission, I am confident that you will continue to tackle problems and devise creative solutions.
I’m proud to have been part of your mission. And I am grateful to Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and her capable staff and numerous members of Congress for their staunch support for our mission. I appreciate the President’s confidence in me and the invitation to be part of his science team and serve at the helm of the Nation’s spectacular ocean, climate, weather and coastal agency.
But most of all, I appreciate the opportunity to work with all of you. I will miss you, but know you will continue devoting your energy and talent to fulfill our mission. I wish you all a joyous and peaceful holiday season and New Year.
Dr. Jane”

 Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Remember When...

“I used to leave the dock to go out for $10K of pollock, and come back with $50K of black cod, $8K of p. cod, and kill off another $100K of halibut and crab each trip, along with enough king salmon to BBQ for the family for the summer – but then they started 100% observer coverage.”

Painting credit: Pablo Picasso

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Push to Delay King Salmon Bycatch Limit Fails!

Effort to delay NPFMC action by the drag industry on king salmon bycatch has failed.  The good steward of America's fisheries health, Glen Merrill of NMFS (National Marine Trawl Service) spoke for delaying Council action until other means were found to control king salmon bycatch. He was joined by Craig Cross of Aleutian Spray Fisheries and John Hendershedt of Fisheries Leadership & Sustainability Forum (ironic) and Bill Tweit of the WDF&W.  The motion failed.

Much of the dialog was a pissing match between the catcher vessels and the catcher processors. The State of Alaska argued for a greater allocation to the CVs and the Seattle interests argued for their CPs.

Overall health concerns for the king salmon stocks demanded more immediate action.  No cap size or preliminary alternatives were selected but the Council voted unanimously to move ahead with final action on king salmon bycatch restrictions at the April meeting. 

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Make a Difference, Write or Call

For Wiglaf, a good day, lots of visitors.  41,066 visits and 65,761 pages viewed.  If every one of you who is a 'friendly' of these issues, would write a letter or an email to your governor, senators and representatives, we could change the direction of fisheries management.  Then tell every ally you can to do the same.  Change comes through effort, your effort, our effort.

Maintain the surge.
And keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Halibut Quota Slashed, Draggers Kill Future

“The Kodiak area king crab quota for the Southern District of Area K of 10,000,000 pounds should be harvested by Friday, September 8, 1972. As of September 1 7.6 million pounds have been harvested from the Southern district. The majority of the fleet is on the crab grounds now and we expect to have over 9,000,000 pounds harvested by September 4, thus necessitating a Friday closure to stay within the quota established by the Board of Fish and Game.”
The king and Tanner crab are essentially gone from the Gulf of Alaska, thank draggers.

The Chinook salmon are endangered, with the Western Gulf Chinook dragger cap exceeded by 50%.

As the halibut abundance collapses, the draggers continue to kill off the halibut, mostly unobserved, at the rate no doubt far exceeding 4,400,000 pounds annually in the Gulf of Alaska.
Draggers get more room to remain unobserved with the New Restructured Unobserver Program. 

Put one more nail in the coffin of the Gulf of Alaska with the news that halibut quota is recommended to be slashed to:
  • -03% in 2C
  • -22% in 3A
  • -46% in 3B
  • -46% in 4A
  • -67% in 4B
  • -66% in 4CDE
This makes the 15% phased-in halibut bycatch reduction passed in June 2012 the joke that it really has been all along. 

Finally, NMFS regional administrator Jim Balsiger says something to the effect that we "need to think outside the box" with regard to trawl bycatch and that he questions why only fixed gear groups get to harvest halibut.  WTF.  Reward the thieves?

So the draggers who continue to decimate the Gulf of Alaska get to have it all?

Preposterous.  And our politicians and bureaucrats and fisheries managers just wring their hands. It is time for the public to weigh in on this and stop the destruction of the Gulf of Alaska by the drag fleet.

How can roughly 45 owners and their hand full of processor allies be allowed to kill off the Gulf of Alaska for us all?

The actual numbers recommended for cuts to halibut quota will be announced at the IPHC meeting in January. These are the Conference Board recommendations.  Read more.

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Many Chinook Did You Kill Today?

Dirtiest Kodiak draggers as of today on Chinook in the Gulf of Alaska:

From NMFS website data.

Notice the repeat offenders?  Notice NPT which means bottom draggers, are responsible for a high percentage of Chinook catch.  Notice the PTR, the supposedly pelagic trawls are fishing bottom pollock.  As fished, such designations are meaningless.  NPFMC is set to give these dirty operators the majority share of bottomfish as IFQ in the Gulf.  Currently at least four of the draggers are being purchased by processors, as Trident and Icicle.  The real power behind the give away of the Gulf of Alaska resources and wasteful bycatch is the processors. 

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NMFS Fails to Provide a Workable Monitoring System

So that fishermen and others, policy makers and interested citizens, may have the opportunity to review and reflect upon these important matters, here is the sign-on letter that will shortly begin circulating throughout Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.  Composed by a coalition of concerned fishermen, it seeks to expose and redress failures in the 'Restructured Observer System."  Please take the time to read and add your name and voice to the sign-on letter when it comes around.  Changes to the way the Gulf of Alaska is managed must occur before its productivity and sustainability are forever damaged/destroyed.  The current system is badly broken.  NMFS continues to be derelict in its duty to protect our resources. 

Feel free to print this letter and add a place for signatures and send it off to your representatives or the ones listed on the letterhead.  W.

November 12, 2012

To:        Governor Sean Parnell
              Senator Lisa Murkowski
             Senator Mark Begich
              Congressman Don Young

Subject: Restructured North Pacific Observer Program and 2013 Deployment Plan

Dear Alaska Leaders,

 In 2010 the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) approved restructuring the North Pacific Observer Program.  A final rule to implement the program is scheduled for early December publication.  The undersigned members of the fishing industry cannot support this program that doubles costs, reduces coverage in high volume fisheries with substantial Chinook and halibut bycatch, and fails to provide a workable monitoring system for small vessels.

We are willing to pay our fair share of observer coverage costs and recognize that at-sea data is needed for conservation and management of the resource.  We are concerned about salmon and halibut bycatch and believe fisheries with high bycatch must be the priority for observer coverage.  We believe at-sea data can be collected from Alaska’s previously unobserved, community based vessels without causing fleet consolidation, job loss, or disruption of business operations.  We have identified electronic monitoring as the tool that works for the small, fixed gear boats.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has consistently ignored the concerns of fishermen most affected by the program.  NMFS is ready to implement a plan that reduces coverage in high volume fisheries with substantial Chinook and halibut bycatch, doubles the cost of an observer day relative to current levels, assigns over half the observed trips to vessels that account for less than 12% of the catch, and places the largest economic burden on the 1,300 small boats that operate out of Alaska’s coastal communities. 

NMFS has provided insufficient opportunity for public comment on the 2013 observer deployment plan, no specificity and therefore no opportunity for comment on deployment logistics for small boats, and little to no analysis of logistical costs imposed on individual fishing businesses.

The undersigned individuals cannot support full implementation of the restructured observer program as proposed for 2013.  We request your assistance in holding NMFS accountable for addressing stakeholder concerns prior to implementation of the restructured program or, at minimum, prior to deployment of observers on the small fixed gear vessels assigned to the “vessel selected pool.”  Our concerns are detailed in the attached document. 

Thank you for your support of Alaska’s coastal fishermen.
(Sign up section deleted...)

Concerns with the Restructured Observer Program and 2013 Deployment Plan
A final rule to restructure the North Pacific Observer Program is scheduled for early December publication with implementation in January 2013.  The 2013 Observer Deployment Plan was revealed in October 2012 after observer contracts had been signed, allowing only minimal opportunity for public comment and only minor revisions.  Deployment details for small vessels still have not been revealed, effectively preempting public comment.  Despite active and informed participation by Alaska’s coastal fishermen, the restructured program in general and the 2013 Deployment Plan in particular fail to meet resource objectives, control costs, or minimize impacts to Alaska’s small fishing businesses. 
Throughout the two-year process to restructure the North Pacific Observer Program, fishermen have consistently advocated for:
·         Establishing observer coverage levels on a fishery specific basis with emphasis on high impact bycatch fisheries;
·         Incorporating deployment strategies that maximize cost effectiveness;
·         Providing small vessels with electronic monitoring as an alternative to human observers concurrent with program implementation.
The Council has heard these concerns and often endorsed them.  In October 2012 the Council recommended the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) amend the 2013 Deployment Plan to prioritize coverage in bycatch limited fisheries and to do so by reducing observer assignments in the “vessel selected pool.”  The Council also requested NMFS provide a cost accounting report and a strategic plan for implementing electronic monitoring, but did not tie these requests to the 2013 Deployment Plan.  Throughout the restructuring process, the Council has deferred to NMFS to address concerns raised by stakeholders instead of engaging in the normal process of identifying alternatives and incorporating stakeholder input to develop workable solutions.   The result of this unusual process is that NMFS has not been held accountable for addressing concerns prior to implementation.
 While we support the Council’s October 2012 recommendations, we need assurance that observer coverage will be re-prioritized to high bycatch fisheries, that program costs will be controlled, and that observers will not be deployed on small vessels until deployment details are revealed, analyzed and resolved, and electronic monitoring is available as an alternative to human observers. 
More specifically, our concerns with the 2013 deployment plan are the following:
1.       Equal probability of deployment—the deployment plan assigns all fishing trips with an equal probability of observer coverage—whether the trip is taken by an 80 foot vessel that harvests hundreds of thousands of pounds or a 42 foot boat harvesting 500 pounds.  As a result, over 50% of the observed trips will be assigned to small fixed gear vessels that account for less than 12% of the groundfish and halibut harvested off Alaska.  Shifting deployment to small fixed gear boats reduces coverage on high volume and high bycatch fisheries—most notably Gulf pollock fisheries that account for Chinook bycatch.  The Council’s recommendation to “prioritize” coverage of PSC limited fisheries restates objectives NMFS has ignored to date.  While we support the Council’s recommendation, NMFS’ response to the recommendation remains unknown—yet NMFS intends to implement the program in two months. 
2.       Failure to contain costs— In October 2012 fishermen learned that the deployment plan increases the cost of an observer day from the current $467 to approximately $1,000.  The deployment plan emphasizes a random deployment approach to obtain unbiased data and does not sufficiently consider alternative stratified sampling approaches that could provide unbiased data in a more cost effective manner. Doubling the costs halves the number of observer days and undermines bycatch management objectives that are vitally important to Alaska’s fisheries.  The Council has requested a detailed cost accounting but has taken no action to control observer coverage costs in 2013. 
3.       No alternative to human observers for the small boat fleet—Stakeholder testimony and Council motions for the past two years, including the Council’s May 2011 comment on the proposed rule, requested an alternative to human observers for the small boat fleet.  Electronic Monitoring (EM) was identified in EA/RIR as the alternative that minimizes impacts to the small boat fleet.  In Alaska, EM project collaborators specifically designed a pilot program in partnership with NMFS to evaluate EM in the halibut and sablefish fisheries to ensure EM would be operational in 2013.  Yet the restructured observer program fails to provide this alternative and makes no commitment to ever providing an alternative to human observers. NMFS has not devoted the necessary resources to provide a viable alternative to human observers despite three years of notice and good faith industry cooperation.  
4.       Definition of a fishing “trip”--The definition of a fishing trip still allows “gaming” of the system.  Cod vessels that deliver to tenders will be able to complete an entire season before ending a “trip,” since trip is defined as a shore-side delivery.  As a result, vessels not selected for observer coverage on their first trip can deliver off-shore to tenders until the season ends and thereby avoid coverage for the entire season.  The definition also still lacks quantity of gear set or fish harvested, which allows a vessel to fish for one day in a non-productive area, satisfy the observer “trip” requirement, drop off the observer and then join the rest of the fleet to fish in areas with higher catch and, of more concern, bycatch.
5.       “Vessel selected” boats have 100% coverage for two or three months-- Stakeholders have repeatedly commented that the proposed requirement for boats in the “vessel selected” pool to carry observers for all trips during a three months period is overly burdensome and inequitable, particularly when compared to "trip selected" vessels that have a 13% probability of being selected one trip at a time.  The Council’s recommendation to reduce the requirement to two months still assigns the most burdensome observer requirements to the smallest fixed gear boats.  Until electronic monitoring is available as an alternative to human observers, observers should be assigned to small boats on a trip by trip basis.  
6.       No Logistical details for the “vessel selected” pool---Logistical deployment details for the “vessel selected” pool still have not been revealed, hence the industry has not been able to evaluate or comment on these critical and potentially costly provisions.  Potential costs include room and board for an observer between trips and insurance to protect against liability.  These costs have never been analyzed.  While logistical details are specified for vessels in the “trip selected pool” (over 57.5 feet), the deployment plan directs fishermen in the “vessel selected pool” to work with the observer contractor to resolve logistics.  The selected observer contractor is based on the East Coast and has no prior experience in Alaska.
Again, we cannot support deployment of observers in the vessel selected pool until these concerns have been addressed by NMFS.  We are willing to pay the observer fee in 2013 and we are willing to work with the agency to resolve the concerns identified above. 
Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Draggers and the Salmon Crisis

Although these things have been said here in these pages before, this opinion piece is a nice recap of our deepest concerns.  Thanks to the Peninsula Clarion for this.

Salmon crisis or NPFMC crisis?

Some people are claiming that Alaska is experiencing some kind of salmon crisis but is that what is really happening? If there were a real salmon crisis most would expect the blame to be directed towards either a freshwater or saltwater source problem. Freshwater fishermen would claim the problem to be in the saltwater and saltwater fishermen claim it to be in the freshwater. Some even see it as all sides just catching to many fish.
In general most of our local salmon fisheries have been fishing the same way since about 1980 but there has been a substantial increase in one type of fishery. That fishery is our Commercial Pollock Fishery. This trawler fishery targets pollock and it catches a lot of them but it also accidentally kills about 3.4 king salmon per metric ton of pollock. It is a proven fact that just our legal commercial trawlers take over a million tons of pollock each year. Just doing some basic math shows a possible 3.4 million king salmon being killed and dumped by this fishery each year but the NPFMC has set annual trawler by-catch kill caps on king salmon at 25,000 in the Gulf of Alaska and 60,000 in the Bering Sea.
While these commercial trawlers were by-catching salmon, they were also by-catching and tossing overboard dead smaller bait fish which salmon feed on; thus also reducing the prey our salmon have access to. Tremendous schools of herring, cod, rockfish, sand fish, hooligan, candle fish, smelt, stickleback, wolf fish and squid have been permanently wiped out with bait fish by-catch dumping. This environmental destruction then forces our salmon to forage longer to meet their daily and future calorie intake needs. As trawlers kill and dump this salmon prey back into the ocean, they dramatically increase a salmon’s chances of never achieving sufficient fat reserves to make it back to their native freshwater rivers and streams.
The result of all this trawlers fisheries abuse are dwindling fish stocks across the board because of the enormous amount of fish being trashed in the North Pacific Ocean. Fish are basically being killed faster than they can reproduce and just like Wall Street finally collapsed itself with poor oversight and mismanagement, our pollock fishery is also headed towards that same fate. If the North Pacific Fishery Management Council does not take decisive action to reduce pollock catch levels, this fishery must also collapse because of its own mismanagement. Of the four Alaska pollock stocks, two are currently shut down to commercial fishing and a third is just a fraction of what it used to be. In spite of all the warning signs, which include five years in a row of low juvenile survivorship, this industry has continued to target pollock spawners by taking huge numbers of pregnant females just before they release their eggs.
The NPFMC has no idea how many salmon are out there cruising the North Pacific or how many are being trashed as a direct result of its trawler fisheries but it has arbitrarily set salmon by-catch limits anyway at 25,000 per year in the Gulf of Alaska and 60,000 per year in the Bering Sea. How does any fisheries management body set by-catch limits if it has no idea how many fish they are dealing with? With this kind of mis-management it is possible to set by-catch limits equal to total reproduction limits without knowing it, thus resulting in total resource collapse. Setting caps on salmon by-catch is not a management plan, it is only a plan for fisheries disaster.
Do we have a salmon crisis? I believe most can see that the facts point to us actually having a fisheries management crisis. The true problem is that the NPFMC allows its members to have direct financial conflicts of interests. This membership defect reaches to the very core of the Council’s ability to correctly act on the public’s behalf to safeguard our fisheries natural resources. Just like on Wall Street, profit driven Council members are an over-riding consideration within this issue. This is not a salmon crisis, it is a NPFMC membership crisis and if it continues, it will eventually collapse all of our fisheries interests.
Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PSC Drag Removals Eliminate Stocks, Endanger Future

Since the NPFMC voted for Tanner crab savings areas to be expanded two years ago south of Kodiak's Kiliuda Bay to protect mounding female Tanner crab,  the NMFS has doggedly dragged their feet in implementing these closures to draggers without 100% observer coverage, saying that the new observer program would provide the protection.  The new observer program, however, not only precludes 100% observer coverage for special areas, but further degrades the poor coverage we now have over these dirty fisheries to an unacceptable 13% percent and bills most of the cost to the halibut longline fisheries whose stocks are declining in size and number, very likely due at least in part to wholesale wastage by the draggers as glimpsed by the previous article in this blog.

A widely repeated refrain by draggers is "if we remove them, they will no longer be a bycatch problem."  This cynical attitude fits perfectly with what we know about the disrespect draggers show for fixed gear, the gaming of observed tows, the collusion and conspiracy over tactics applied to the NPFMC and local governments.  There is far too much money at stake for ethics to take an upper hand here.  Influence over NMFS back in DC is no doubt part of this conspiracy to boost dragging over all other fisheries, at least in Alaska.  Money does indeed talk.  Now the draggers are asking the NPFMC to give them ownership of the Gulf so they can control their bycatch.  "Hey, I'll rob you unless you give me your money."

Trawling has eliminated the king crab around Kodiak Island, has severely damaged Tanner crab (to the point there is likely to be no fishery this year), halibut populations are in steep decline and now king salmon have failed to show up in their natal streams. The following argument, from Deckboss's comments section sums up the logic of the drag industry and the major processors who support them.
AnonymousAnonymous said...
If ADFG scientists were able to fix this problem, it would not have happened in the first place. It is “political science” that has taken down this resource. Solid fisheries science will bring it back, but unless ADFG is allowed to utilize honest fisheries science, it will get worse until lawsuits are filed and Chinook in many systems are listed as Endangered Species which will remove control of management from an inept management of politicians telling ADFG what to do, to the hands of a Federal judge.

When ADFG was announced to be leading the charge to recover the Chinook salmon, the fix was in trouble, since the Chinook declined under their watch, and the chances of ADFG fixing it are between slim and none.  So now it is going to work?

The Endangered Species Act is designed to remove control from State and local agencies which have failed to save a species for along term of time. Alaska’s Chinook salmon qualify.

What would cause the State to ignore their own Chinook resources and their existence threatened?

Money. Trawl money.

While the trawl industry is quick to point out declining Chinook bycatch due alone to their efforts. ADFG will not point out that most of this decrease in trawl by catch is due to declining abundance. If the Chinook become extinct the trawl industry will hail their by catch of zero, as a success.

More escapement is the only answer that will work, and in local State waters, all commercial, most sports, and most subsistence shut down, there is nowhere else to turn for more escapement than the trawl industry. The trawl industry is not willing to sacrifice.

It is too bad, because the trawl industry has been over harvesting Chinooks for years, and only lately under pressure being brought under regulation. Notice how all their Chinook caps are based on historical harvest and do not take into account in any way the needs of the natal stream. This is not science, it is politics.

The trawl industry is making good faith efforts now, but this was not what the trawl industry had been doing for the last three decades. If they had started sooner, Chinook salmon stocks would be without question in better shape. The trawl industry is going to fight to keep what it thinks is “theirs”.

ANILCA, Equal Protection Clause, and the Endangered Species Act will be the only solutions for any Chinook users except the trawl industry. Only a courtroom where lobbyists and politicians are normally prohibited from testifying will solve this Chinook problem and save the species. Anything else is just a delaying tactic.

It is sad to say, but the only thing that will arrest this long term decline in Chinook salmon and quite possibly their very existence will be attorneys and judges.

State fisheries will bear 100% of the conservation burden so that a bunch of out of state and multi-national companies can continue to make billions.

PS, it should be noted that there is one group in the trawl industry that has been screaming for lowering by catches of all salmon, halibut, and crab of all salmon, for over a decade now, and that is the Community Development Quota (CDQ) groups. These groups understand the depressing results of bycatches have done to real people in the villages.These CDQ groups also understand who was harvesting salmon for centuries before the non-resident multi-national trawlers ever showed up on the scene.

CDQ groups had voluntarily lowered their salmon, halibut, and crab by catches two decades ago. Too bad the marauding fleet had not followed their leadership, as we would not find ourselves in this Chinook crisis if they had.

October 22, 2012 12:07 PM
Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halibut Declines -Bycatch Continues

As we watch the halibut decline in size and numbers the Kodiak hard on the bottom drag fleet continues to destroy this high value resource:

Many of the low value species targeted by draggers are taking huge amounts of super valuable halibut.  Also note the chronic offenders. Tows refers to the actual number of observed tows.  American No.1 with a 20% bycatch rate for junk fish like arrowtooth is terrible, and the American No.1 has huge capacity.  Survival rate for these halibut is next to zero.


Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Observer Program is DOA


  1. Coverage is halved.

  2. Costs are doubled.

  3. 75% the cost is borne by halibut fishermen.

  4. Dirty draggers get further room to game.

  5. NMFS refuses to address real issues.

  6. East Coasters selected to be observers.

  7. What else do you need to know?

More details and explanations later.  But in general a complete failure.

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Council Recognizes Observer Shortcomings

The NPFMC has at least recognized the shortcomings of the 'new' observer program.  But as we understand it, the contract for the observers has been signed (with an East Coast company having no Alaska experience) and is good for two years.  So don't expect major changes any time soon.  Promises again of electronic monitoring, but we've heard that before.  So the stocks subject to excessive bycatch will continue to take a pounding.

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blame the Crew (But the Owner/Operator Are Responsible)

Received as a comment...

Good job, blame the crew.

Talked to a trawl crew a month ago who had just quit a local drag boat. First tow of the trip (unobserved) had 20,000 of halibut. When they set back to tow the same grounds he asked the captain why they didn't move.

Was told "won't be that much halibut on the next tow in the same spot and less the tow after that."

Yes, blame the crew for the new observer program too. No more coverage for the trawlers but lots for the little boats. That's the ticket.

The same old story.  It's the end of fishing as we've known it if these unobserved draggers are allowed to continue to destroy the Gulf.

Keep yer heads down and yer flippers wet.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Buoy Shooting Validates Longheld Distrust

While it is troubling that two local draggers cooperatively ran down and shot the buoys of another fisherman; there is a deeper issue here, and that is the profound lack of respect Kodiak draggers have for other fishermen and by extension, the resources we all depend upon for our livelihoods.

'Talk's cheap' and its corollary 'actions speak louder than words," are perfectly illustrated by this willfull destruction of another fisherman's property. All the well tuned phrases about advocating for fishermen to work together to assure their economic survival seems to have gone overboard since the draggers are now fairly certain of their share of the Gulf of Alaska fisheries resources through sector splits and the 'tools' they hope to secure through NPFMC action beginning in October.  Now that their slice of the fish pie is assured, and apparently the 'restructured' observer program will not increase the coverage of this the dirtiest and most destructive gear type or put an end to the rampant cheating on bycatch, high grading, PSC overages, and waste by the dragger fleet; draggers now feel they can maliciously and brazenly destroy others' property and livelihoods.  Actions do speak louder than words.

At the Council meeting in Anchorage, we will hear the arguments, the assurances, the promises, the 'boot strap' statistics, and the good and righteous testimony by the advocates of economic growth and stability, all couched in such earnest and heartfelt words, while on the fishing grounds, far from the prying eyes of neutral witnesses, the drag fleet will pursue their destructive behaviors against the resources and now, apparently, other people's gear.

The only assurance that will protect Gulf of Alaska fisheries resources is 24/7 observation of Kodiak's drag fleet.  Nothing less will do, especially when the Council is now going to give the resource to them, lock, stock and smoking barrel.  Add this latest witnessed behavior to a long and tired litany of abuses by the drag fleet, and you have the inevitable destruction of our livelihoods, which the Council steadfastly refuses to recognize. 

Pay to play.  Either afford the 24/7 observer coverage on the draggers which we need to be assured that compliance to law, reason, and civilized behavior are followed, or turn that destructive gear type into one which has healthier long term consequences.  Anything less spells the end of us who depend upon the health of the oceans.

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Breaking News...Local Draggers Gun Down Cod Pot Buoys

Overheard on VHF channel 16...
Seems like the bad old days again when local draggers decimated my brethren sealions with semiautomatic weapons, only this time it was two local Kodiak based draggers (your good neighbors and mine) gunning down the buoys of a couple of local cod pot boats.  Yes indeed, those good intending, clean fishing, contribute to community foodbanking, bycatch avoiding, give us our rightful share of the GOA groundfishing fellas caught red handed cooperatively blasting the buoys of two different Kodiak pot boats.   Anybody out there got further details?   Sector Anchorage, did you copy that?

Just like your good neighbors, "Whitefish Draggers Are There."

The rest of the story is available in the 'comments' section, so read on.

Keep yer head down and yer flippers wet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Spectre of Gulf Ratz Arises Again

Gulf Ratz is on the move again.  As you may be aware, Gulf Ratz, a close, but more invasive political cousin to the common wharf rat,  is being revived under the guise of a tool for the draggers to control their appetite for wasting the resources of the Gulf of Alaska in the form of PSC (Prohibited Species Catch).  No mention of other bycatch.  The NPFMC will be taking this up at its October meeting.  It is widely expected that there will be the usual shrill and carefully planned call by Bonney and Co. for a rationalization program to award ownership of Gulf of Alaska groundfish to the draggers so they will act as better stewards of the resource.  The logic of "If you own it, you will take care of it" as championed by the NMFS (National Marine Trawler Service) and greenwashed environmental groups will rear its ugly head again.  No mention of any further independent observation of bycatch compliance is evident.  The abject failure of observer restructuring is apparently simply going to produce migraine headaches, economic stress, and out and out business failures for smaller operators of other gear types by denying them electronic monitoring options and forcing them to fish as scheduled regardless of weather and perhaps re-employing the Coast Guard once again as a rescue service rather than as a police force.  Amazing how the manipulation by powerful players can twist up well intended suggestions to their self serving best advantage.

Wiglaf is not the only fisherlion concerned:
"Several fishermen expressed concerns that if small boat fleets don’t survive, communities won’t survive. Many are also concerned about how the proposed program would affect the next generation of fishermen. Overall, no one at the meetings said they favor rationalization. But all expressed the need to protect the traditional fleets and the communities. The overall goal of rationalization is to avoid bycatch while still obtaining optimum yield."  Read more from Aleutians East Borough's Fish News.

Of course NMFS loves rationalized fisheries, and south of us, along the west coast of America, the fisheries are rationalized:

"West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares began in 2011 for the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Fishery. Over ten years in the making, it is one of the most transformative strategies in this fishery's management history. NOAA Fisheries, the west coast groundfish fleet, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the west coast states have worked together toward a common goal of healthy, sustainable fisheries and fishing communities. In addition to catch share quotas, the West Coast Groundfish IFQ Fishery includes a vastly improved monitoring system—using 100% observer coverage at sea and 100% monitoring of landings on shore. This refined monitoring system allows the fishery to be managed on an individual vessel basis, rather than via fleet-wide measures.  While the results presented in this report reflect only one year of data, a picture is emerging that is indeed positive for the groundfish resource, the fishermen, and their communities."
All the happy words are there so it must be okay, right?

Keep yer flippers wet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Editorial: Council gets it right on bycatch, more work to do

The Journal of Commerce

“Glacial” is the word most often used to describe the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process, but that’s actually unfair to glaciers.

Not even time-lapse photography would reveal much movement on reducing halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska until the council’s vote June 8 in Kodiak to cut it by 15 percent starting in 2014.

The only previous cut in trawl halibut bycatch was a 27.4 metric ton reduction for the rockfish program passed in 2010 that represented about 1.4 percent of the 2,000 metric ton, or 4.4 million pound, trawl halibut bycatch allotment in place since 1986.

Rather than compromise on the amount of the reduction, as many expected, the council compromised with the trawl fleet on time by phasing in the maximum cut under consideration over three years.

We applaud the council action as an important first step, and encourage the members to continue pushing toward more meaningful measures to reduce bycatch even further.

The trawl fleet made [a] series of self-defeating arguments against cutting halibut bycatch, taking the position the move was more allocation than conservation, pointing fingers at discards in the commercial halibut fishery, suggesting trawlers are balancing the ecosystem by removing arrowtooth flounder and juvenile halibut, and even attacking the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

A majority of the council — namely, the Alaska delegation — didn’t buy any of that.

For more, follow the link to The Alaska Journal of Commerce.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rollback PSC BY 6% For The Next Ten Years

This is the incremental approach and will give draggers all the time they need to get their house in order.  Most all the valuable species that bottom draggers (NPT-non-pelagic trawlers) catch can be caught by other more selective gear types.  Convert or go out of business.  We cannot afford to lose the ocean's productivity because draggers won't change. Just because they have been doing it wrong for a long time doesn't mean they should be allowed to continue.  Biomass fisheries are unsupportable.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Dragger Halibut Bycatch Reduced By 15%!

AMCC Press Release:  Fishery Managers Lower Halibut Bycatch Limit in Gulf of Alaska

Kodiak, AK- Federal fishery managers took important action today to protect the health of the halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska. Members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) voted to reduce bycatch of halibut in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries by 15%. The bycatch cap of the hook and line fleet was also reduced.

“This action will help protect the health of the halibut population and the jobs of thousands of commercial and charter halibut fishermen in our coastal communities who rely on halibut,“ said Theresa Peterson, fisherman and Kodiak Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Halibut are caught incidentally by the millions in groundfish fisheries, especially trawl fisheries, that are pursuing species such as arrowtooth flounder, yellowfin sole and Pacific cod. The halibut caught are often dead and are required by law to be discarded back into the ocean. The trim in bycatch is taken off the top of the currently allowable cap of about 5 million pounds and will be effective in 2014.

“On behalf of our organization and the over 1500 sport, commercial, subsistence harvesters and other halibut users across Alaska who called for reducing waste, we thank the Council for taking meaningful action to protect our halibut resource “ said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Science by the International Pacific Halibut Commission has shown that reducing bycatch is important to the short and long-term health of the halibut population.  The Council’s action to curtail bycatch will contribute to rebuilding halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska.  

“We applaud the Council for taking this important first step and we look forward to the future action by fishery managers to further limit bycatch for the long-term health of the halibut resource,” said Peterson. 
From Andrew Jensen, of the Alaska Journal of Commerce:

In speaking in support of his motion to address the trawl industry arguments that this debate over bycatch is about allocation and not conservation, Hull pointed to the analysis that stated a bycatch limit is not an allocation.

"Instead," the document stated regarding bycatch limits, "it reflects the maximum removal amount of the designated species that society is prepared to tolerate, before it takes punitive action to curtail further (prohibited species catch) losses. Because PSC must be avoided, to the extent practicable, it cannot be regarded as an asset of fixed quantity, but instead as an upper-bound threshold, the farther below which the total PSC mortality level, the better, all else equal."

Based on the massive volume of public comment and written submissions seeking a bycatch cut, Hull noted, society's willingness to tolerate halibut bycatch in an environment of declining abundance of catchable fish has clearly reached its limit.
From Margaret Bauman of The Cordova Times:

Jonathan Warrenchuk, an ocean scientist with Oceana, a conservation group dedicated to protection of the world’s oceans, said the phased in approach was a bit of a surprise. “It is pretty clear, this is just a Band Aid,” he said. “The halibut resource looks like it is in trouble and managers are making big cuts, but the cuts were needed now. They weren’t even considering a large number to begin with. This is too much of a compromise.”

Still, Warrenchuk calculated that when fully in place in 2016, the action would result in a reduction of over 300 metric tons of halibut annually.

Democracy is not entirely dead at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.  Thank you to everybody who helped.  Many people came to Kodiak at their own considerable expense to testify, and it made a difference.  This should be seen as a good start.  We still need to build momentum to roll back dragger destruction of our Gulf.  Halibut are hardly the only species under duress by careless and wasteful fishing practices.

Keep yer flippers wet.