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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Wiglaf for posting this. Been awhile.

Cody Hockema said...

Most of the fish on that deck are large arrowtooth. They are easily mistaken for halibut when seen from far away. There are some halibut there, but some by catch is to be expected when harvesting every other type of fish in the habitat. How come this article isn't citing the longline bycatch numbers? That fishery was shut down due to large bycatch numbers as well. The halibut resource is thriving, and it's starting to become a nuisance to other fisheries more than ever before. The halbut fleet has had no trouble securing their quotas this year. Halibut numbers are increasing. Three years ago, trawlers didn't have much trouble avoiding them. This year, they simply can't be avoided. There are large halibut populations ranging from 20 fathoms to 300 fathoms, especially in heavily trawled areas where the arrowtooth, flathead, Rex and other competing species are caught. This mortality rate is also false, it's more like 60%. And those that do die are cycled right back into the food chain. Nets never come up full of dead rotten fish, something eats it and nothing goes to "waste" in the ocean. Just because it's not going into a halibut quota owner's pocket, doesn't mean it's a waste. Heavily traveled areas have the highest concentration of halibut. If the competing species for halibut, crab and salmon aren't caught, you'll see a decrease in those species. Pollock, cod and arrowtooth are hurting the halbut, crab and salmon fisheries. If these species aren't controlled with the help of trawlers, these species populations will decline.

Anonymous said...

You can tell a lot of those are Giant arrow tooth because the boys are letting them into the tank. Look at the big'ins at the end of the belt. I can tell most are arrow tooth.