Wednesday, December 22, 2010
During the past year around Kodiak bottom trawlers caught over 40,000 chinook salmon as bycatch. Since they were bycatch the salmon were dumped over the side and most of them probably died. What's scary about this is that Chinook or King Salmon are in trouble. King salmon numbers are way down. Some rivers like the Karluk River on Kodiak have even been closed to fishing for the last couple of years. So what's with the trawlers catching a couple million dollars worth of these same fish and dumping them over the side to die?
In the picture above I am holding one of the 3 kings I caught last summer. By law I am only allowed to catch 5 kings a year when fishing on inland rivers, and really that is enough fish to feed my family. But you can bet your last dollar that if I caught 6 kings the troopers would be on me like white on rice. So why aren't the trawlers penalized for catching 40,000 extra kings? I have heard that this fall the trawlers continued to fish in an area of Shelikof Strait where they were catching lots of kings as bycatch. They made multiple trips to this spot even when they knew they would also catch a lot of kings. But why not?- no one is penalizing them for catching too many kings.
Trawlers are required to dump their bycatch over the side so that they cannot make a profit on it. But it is still a wasted resource. 40,000 kings is well over a 1/2 MILLION pounds of fish - more than a couple million dollars worth. That's a lot of wasted fish. I think trawlers should be required to process and bring all that fish back to Kodiak. All the fish should be sold and then ALL the money should be used as a sort of fish tax to pay for observers, salmon research, harbor improvements etc (anything fisheries related except lobbying). Cleaning, processing and filling their holds with all that extra fish would be a penalty of sorts for the trawlers and I bet they'd go out of their way to catch less bycatch. And none of the resource would be wasted either. They should also have to stop fishing when they catch a certain number too, say 20,000 kings.
Anyway, I've been trying to learn about the issue and while cruising the internet I have found a few fisheries related blogs that are worth visiting (all linked on the side of our blog here). I highly recommend checking out the video posted on the Tholepin blog.
Until you watch the video bycatch is just a word. But in the video you get to see a couple hundred dead and dying halibut unceremoniously dumped over the side as bycatch. Skip the first 3 minutes of the video and watch the end where you get to see the dead halibut floating away.
Other good blogs are:
Journalist Wesley Loy's blog 'Deckboss' is a pretty even tempered view of fisheries related issues.
A couple of other blogs are more biased against trawlers but seem to be pretty factual.
What's funny is that I could not find any good factual blogs presenting data in favor of the trawlers. Could someone please tell me their side of the story? Why are they allowed to continue to catch and throw away so much fish? Patrick