Friday, May 20, 2016

Destroying The Halibut Resource One Drag At A Time

Halibut, lots of halibut, are clearly visible on this dragger's deck and sorting table.

NMFS is no friend of the fisheries resources (like the Forest Service) that they are tasked with protecting, but their website is a source of shocking information regarding the Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) of Halibut.

Figures are in metric tons of halibut.
One metric ton equals 1000 kilograms or roughly 2200 pounds.  

So the Deep Water Species Complex trawlers caught and killed (80% mortality) 272 X 2200 = 598,000 X .8 = 478,720 pounds of halibut wasted.  Ex-vessel value at $6 a pound = $2,872,320 in the last six weeks.

The Shallow Water Species Complex trawlers caught and killed (80% mortality) 112 X 2200 = 246,400 = X .8 = 197,120 pounds of halibut wasted. Ex-vessel value at $6 a pound = $1,182,720 in the last six weeks.

The draggers will argue they are so important to the community that they must continue to fish. (We have heard them say the sooner halibut, crab and salmon are gone, the sooner they will be able to fish without restraint.) The target species are very low value fish.

If truck drivers were to run over pedestrians while pursuing their ways to work, we would remove the offending drivers.  Why not remove the dirty skippers from the fleet?  Surely some skippers can fish more cleanly than others. The draggers claim that is true, anyway. Let's not give the resources away to the dirtiest operators as is planned.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is considering alternatives to control the race for fish and better manage the drag fleet in the Gulf of Alaska.  Alternative 2 gives away the groundfish of the Gulf to the draggers based on historical catch.  Alternative 3 would distribute the historical  bycatch.  The dirty skippers would get shut down by their excessive bycatch.  The clean skippers would be rewarded with the right to fish longer.  The rewards would go to the good stewards of the resource and the bums would go out the door.  Why the push-back from the draggers?  Are they afraid they can't fish clean?

To this date 747 metric tons of halibut PSC is taken.  At 80% percent mortality, that's 1,314,720 pounds of halibut.  Small fish, probably, so that's the future being wiped out.  For the commercial, subsistence, and sports fishers a terrible tragedy.  For the draggers, a cost of doing business that they don't have to pay.  $7,888,320 commercial ex-vessel value lost. Allowed to mature, at minimum commercial size, closer to $80 million lost. Why must we sacrifice our fishery (sport, subsistence, and commercial) for theirs?

Keep yer flippers wet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dirty Dozen Trawlers on Halibut (So Far) 2016

All data is from Vessel Specific Bycatch Rates /NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office

For example, for every 100,000 pounds of shallow water flats, 36,000 pounds of halibut were destroyed and wasted by the trawler Laura.

 Mar del Norte was featured in the last post.  Think of that when you respond to:

Keep yer flippers wet.

Deckload of Halibut PSC Caught and Unobserved

Waste on a Grand Scale

Just when the Kodiak trawl fleet is announcing their "celebration of groundfish," dock talk includes the story of an unobserved deckload of halibut PSC by the Mar del Norte.  Estimates are as high as 80,000 pounds of wasted halibut.

Where are the cameras?  Observers are too few and far between to make a difference in the ongoing destruction of our public resources by sloppy and careless operators.  VMS tracks tell the tale.  When observed, trawlers fish somewhere clean; without an observer, trawlers go to the Sand Box or some other rich place and wreak havoc.

As Scott Houcoma, skipper of the Pacific Storm explains in his NPFMC testimony at the February Portland meeting:

“The bycatch numbers are wrong. We don’t do enough survey work and there is way more halibut out there than anybody is acknowledging.
“We see ‘em everyday.  And this elephant in the room---the 100% …observer program…that might be workable if we started with the right amount of numbers, but we don’t have the right numbers of halibut out there.

“It is way more than you guys are talking about here.  We can’t take 100% observer coverage when there is so much more halibut than you are already talking about.  It isn’t going to work.” 02/02/2016 C-2 Public Testimony, recorder time 9:10:59 

In other words, Capt. Houcoma is admitting before the Council that 100% observed trawling would shut down the industry due to the high rates of halibut bycatch.  It is only through gaming the observer system that they can continue to trawl on and waste the halibut resource.

Nice for the community.  Let's celebrate.

Keep yer flippers wet.