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
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.
A local rock-perching observer of Gulf of Alaska fisheries who is fed up with the lies and deceptions rampant in Kodiak regarding the world's dirtiest fishing gear type, trawling. Unless bycatch and benthic damage are brought under control, the short term profits of trawling will result in the death of the Goose that lays the golden eggs...the Gulf of Alaska. Join us in our fight to overthrow the corporate oligarchs and democratize Alaska fisheries.