Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Failure of Restructured Observer Program

The restructuring of the observer program went into effect in 2013 and resulted in the entire groundfish fleet (trawlers, longliners, pot boats) being required at least in part to carry observers.  While this may seem a good thing, it reduced the amount of coverage for trawlers to between 13 and 15 percent down from roughly 30 percent.  Trawlers, due to their large volume catches, have the greatest impact on bycatch species, including PSC (prohibited species catch) of halibut, Chinook, and crab.  NMFS seemed pleased that they found that longliners had a bycatch rate above what they had expected, (remember that the survival rate of bycatch for longliners is around 89% and the survival rate for trawlers is around 25%, according to NMFS.)

One vessel, the CP (catcher/processor) Golden Fleece lost its special exemption to the 100% observer coverage for CPs with the restructured observer progam. (See Old and New 50 CFR below). We have argued that when trawlers are observed, their behavior changes; they hide their bycatch by fishing cleaner grounds and making other changes in order to appear to be clean fishing.  If indeed,  the CP Golden Fleece had now to fish 100% observed, her recorded bycatch should change too.  Golden Fleece would be forced to fish as usual without an opportunity to hide her bycatch.  Using NMFS data let's take a look.

Chinook salmon numbers in blue, the observer numbers in red.

Conclusion.  Allowing trawlers to game when to fish clean, obscures the true impact of their fishing on the resources in the GOA.  When the restructured observer program reduced the percentage of observed trawling, it mostly likely allowed the trawlers to hide their actual bycatch. Therefore, NMFS has colluded to hide the impact of trawling on the GOA, while emphasizing the bycatch of other gear groups.


Old 50 CFR 679.50:

(ii) Amendment 80 vessels in the GOA. Except for the F/V GOLDEN FLEECE (USCG Documentation Number 609951), all Amendment 80 vessels, except when directed fishing for scallops using dredge gear, in the GOA must have onboard at least one NMFS-certified observer for each day that the vessel is used to harvest, receive, or process groundfish in the GOA management areas or adjacent waters open by the State of Alaska for which it adopts a Federal fishing season.

New 50 CFR 679.50:

(2) Groundfish and halibut fishery full observer coverage category—(i) Vessel classes in the full coverage category.The following classes of vessels are in the full observer coverage category when harvesting halibut or when harvesting, receiving, or processing groundfish in a federally managed or parallel groundfish fishery, as defined at §679.2:

(A) Catcher/processors;

The Golden Fleece Hits the Halibut Hard Too.

The graph representing the Golden Fleece's increase in halibut PSC bycatch when fully observed is not as dramatic as it is with King Salmon, but probably deserves airing.  Not quite double the increase, but still telling.

Obviously halibut bycatch was on the upswing in 2012, but when you remove the blinders of selected observation there is a 61% increase in halibut PSC bycatch over 2012, and 900% over their reported  bycatch of halibut in 2011.  Remember, the Golden Fleece has a hold capacity of at least 200,000 pounds, so we are talking roughly 4000 pounds of halibut per trip.  She made 26 trips to the end of September.  100,000 pounds of halibut?

Who is getting fleeced here?

Keep yer flippers wet.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dirty Peggy Jo's Brazen Behavior at Trident Dock

The Peggy Jo has for a number of years been a scandalously dirty trawler.  During a cod season a few years back she was responsible for shutting down the cod season by ignoring the warnings of other trawlers and hitting the halibut very hard with full observer coverage.  Later she was rumored to purposely make dirty drags just to get in her licks in on those who crowed so much about bycatch. That guy runs another local trawler today.  So it goes. Without full observer coverage, the level of waste of valuable resources can only be imagined.  The public outcry would cause endless trouble for the bottom line of these dirty players if the truth were known. So it is that there is little photographic or video evidence available to the public.  Cameras are simply not allowed aboard these boats.  Crew are paid well enough that few will cross the line and turn 'state's evidence' against these boats.  But then who would they turn it in to?  NMFS knows perfectly well what is going on and prefers to see commerce over conservation.

The dock talk goes on and guys continually quit crewing on draggers because they can't stand the waste. Here is just a tiny example, brazenly feeding sea lions at the Trident dock with PSC (Prohibited Species Catch) halibut. When the feds were called about this, the responding agent purportedly laughed and said, "Trawlers really hate those halibut."  No shit, Sherlock.  And king salmon, and crab, and the list goes on.

Note:  We have slowed the video down to 12% so you can see clearly what is going on, and edited out some slow spots. Filmed on October 23, 2013.  Source withheld by request.
Where is the equity in the justice system?  Can you envision the judge's outrage in court at your wanton waste? What is that conviction going to cost you, your guide's license?  Getting busted for one fish over the line, Sweet Jesus!  Feeding sea lions?  There is simply no justice here.  Where ever trawlers unload, there are often piles of halibut under the docks unless, like this smart boy, he throws them into the jaws of waiting sea lions.

Get in the loop:

But keep yer flippers wet.