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.
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.