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.


Anonymous said...

Like any drag fag gives a hoot what you say. The truth doesn't matter. We get paid a third of the price for pollock that a Japanese company pays its own fleet in Japan ports. We consider that a success because we have you long liners to beat up on. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

From "Deckboss" blog comments: had to split it in two due to length

Anonymous said...
Last July I got the chance of a lifetime, to kayak the Yukon from Dawson to Galena. I am sixty-eight, and I did not think many more kayak trips are left in my lifetime, so I jumped at the chance when my friends suggested this “boys” trip. Excited to see an area of Alaska I had not seen, but had often heard of.

I had spent 25 years trawling the Bering Sea. 2007 was a horrible year for by-catch, and when I turned 63, I could collect Social Security, and I literally jumped ship and retired. Yes, I had heard of the salmon runs on the Yukon, and the by-catch was always on our mind while fishing the Bering Sea, as our livelihoods were under attack by these villages I would be visiting.

One of my life’s regrets is that I never took the time to visit these villages 25 years ago. What a horrible mistake of mine to judge these people without ever knowing them. I was one of those who spoke without any real understanding. I was only worried about my personal bank account. I never saw this salmon by-catch issue from their eyes.

Like Scrooge, the Yukon just kept pulling me to village after village that was suffering from lack of salmon, the same salmon that I had been kicking into the trash chute for decades quietly so that it was not reported as by-catch. We were treated like guests everywhere we stopped. The disappointment of no salmon was etched on their faces. In speaking with them, it was not just this year’s failure, but the depressing fear that the King salmon were gone forever.

It was a nightmare to see the numerous large communal smokehouses with a couple of lonely salmon in them. Leaving Eagle, a man come up to say good bye to us and handed us three salmon strips for our journey to Galena. The people did not have much, but they would share what they had. Everywhere we went families were working together as a unit. Material things did not seem to matter much. The whole trip was marked by a lack of salmon in every village. I could not believe the amount of salmon these people ate. I never told them I trawled the Bering Sea.

These people haunted me. I spent years kicking prohibited fish overboard so that the observer did not count it. I don’t know what kind of salmon it was, but there was a lot some times. When the salmon were really thick, we had to work hard so that the observers did not record this. If an observer was strict and caught us sneaking fish over the side, we made their lives tough. When we got to town, the head office complained about a specific ball buster observer, and often they would be replaced. The heads of the observer companies and our company often drank together.

Returning home I called the NMFS in Juneau and spoke to a man, and I told him about my trip and what I had done for a living, and how bad I felt about throwing bycatch over the side so that the observer did not count it.

At first he sympathized with the villages and told me that it was too bad these villages are not part of a Community Development Quota system so that they could get some of the money from the Pollock fishery. I asked him why not, and he said that I guess they just got over looked.

I told him that we had under-reported salmon by-catch for decades, and he said that I could not prove this. I told him that I could prove it, if he just looked at the records for this one observer who caught us and we had fired.

Anonymous said...

pt. 2

This man from NMFS warned me that all of the records are confidential and he then asked me if I had signed a confidentiality agreement with the company that I worked for. I told him that I had. He indicated that I could be in a lot of trouble if I violated these confidentiality agreements that I had signed and suggested not to talk about what I had seen.

The man from NMFS then asked me what my name was, and who I worked for.

I hung up the phone. I felt he was threatening me and my retirement for telling the truth.

There are hundreds of us; Fishermen and observers alike. Unseal the records, and allow fishermen to speak without fear of reprisal.

I hope others will speak up.

October 25, 2012 12:00 PM